"The greatest gold rarity of the British Empire” realized £480,000 ($753,211 U.S.), including 20 percent buyer’s fee, in a May 19 auction.
The accolade was used by St. James’s Auctions in describing its offering of a 1920-S gold sovereign coins struck at the Sydney Mint, then a branch of London’s Royal Mint.
One of four examples known, the piece was sold in the firm’s May 19 auction of the Park House Collection of gold sovereigns.
Though the 1920-S sovereign is a rarity with significant stature, the sale marked the third example in four years to be offered at auction.
RELATED: read Coin World's earlier coverage of the Park House Collection sale
According to the auction house, the example it sold is the finest known of all extant pieces. The firm calls it a “proof sovereign” and “special strike,” and distinguishes it from other extant examples.
The auction house describes the coin just sold as “obviously specially struck with an unusual degree of sharpness on King George’s portrait,” with “the horse and dragon ... both boldly rendered” on the reverse.
The mintage for 1920 sovereigns is recorded as 360,000 pieces, but researchers believe the count includes 1919-dated pieces.
In 2012 another example of the 1920-S sovereign was sold as part of the Bentley Collection. Steve Hill of A.H. Baldwin & Sons Ltd., which conducted the sale, suggested that the 1920-S coins were made for some “special event.”
One of the four known examples is in a museum and the other two are now in private collections.