A rare and little understood silver crown from a breakaway state in
Africa was one of many highlights in Stephen Album Rare Coins’ Auction
No. 27, which was held Jan. 19 to 22.
The 1969 coin is from Biafra, a short-lived entity that fought for
freedom from Nigeria from May 30, 1967, to January 1970. Graded About
Uncirculated 58 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp., the coin realized
$8,812.50, including the 17.5 percent buyer’s fee, against an estimate
of $5,000 to $7,000.
The coin features on its obverse the bust of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu
Ojukwu, who served as chief of staff during Biafra’s brief
independence. A coconut palm tree graces the reverse, which is
inscribed INDEPENDENCE AND LIBERTY.
According to the firm, “Little is known about this seldom
encountered commemorative, probably intended for two years of
independence. ... No specimen has appeared at auction or for sale in
recent years, to the best of our recollection.”
The cataloger for Album suggests that the piece is often attributed
to an Italian firm known as Istituto Numismatico Europeo, “but there
is no evidence to confirm this assumption.”
Uncertain letters, perhaps N.D.R., beneath the trunk of the palm
tree and a possible letter C on the base of the palm may be a Mint
mark and designer’s initials. Regardless, the style and arrangement of
the design are totally different from any of the other issues struck
for Biafra during its ephemeral existence.
A similar coin sold in Stephen Album Rare Coins Auction No. 18, Jan.
16 to 18, 2014, realized a hammer price of $13,000, nearly twice the
$7,000 hammer price for this example.