An artifact from an effort to issue a gold £5 coin in Industrial Age
Britain highlights St. James’s Auctions’ Sept. 30 sale in London, in
conjunction with the Coinex show.
The 1820 £5 pattern created by famed engraver Benedetto Pistrucci
was never issued, and according to the auction house the piece is one
of the truly rare 19th century English gold coins.
“The appearance of one at auction, in any state of preservation, is
a collecting opportunity,” the firm noted.
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The “major appeal” of this pattern is the presentation of the
largest and sharpest image of the engraver’s motif of Saint George
slaying the mythical dragon ever seen on a coin.
The pattern is exceedingly rare, with very few in private hands,
according to the auction house, explaining its £275,000 ($365,819
The obverse features the laureate head of King George III, for whom
it was issued at the very end of his lengthy reign.
Both sides are boldly signed with Pistrucci’s last name.
Assisting Pistrucci in the difficult and time-consuming engraving
process was William Wellesley Pole, whose tiny initials appear on the
ground-line of the reverse, just at the end of the dragon’s tail.
In 1820, it was near a century since a gold piece of this size and
value had been minted for commerce and almost 50 years since
production of the most recent pattern for a 5-guinea coin.
Demand for high denominations was tempered by increased use of paper
money, and only Proof versions of the £5 coin were issued until the
Victoria Jubilee issues of 1887. Those £5 coins were struck for
circulation in just three years — 1887, 1893 and 1902 — and even then,
relatively few known examples of the three dates show much real wear,
highlighting the impracticality of the denomination for most of the
The gold pattern is presented in a contemporary fitted case.
The coin has hairlines across the fields and a short scuff on the
king’s cheek, but is “otherwise brilliant with reflective fields, the
portrait and St. George motifs in cameo contrast, practically as struck.”
To see all lots in the sale, visit the firm’s website.