World Coins

Edward VIII fantasy crown set in auction

A set of fantasy crowns, including the three gold pieces shown, that celebrate the brief reign of Britain’s King Edward VIII and have a provenance to a confidant of the king highlights Dix Noonan Webb’s March 21 auction in London.

Images courtesy of Dix Noonan Webb.

An extremely rare set of Edward VIII fantasy crowns presented to a key confidant of the king who guided him through the abdication crisis of 1936 is to be offered in Dix Noonan Webb’s March 21 auction in London.

The six fantasy crowns were produced by London coin dealer Geoffrey Hearn in 1954 to commemorate Edward’s reign. They are contained in a presentation case given to the former king’s private solicitor, Sir George Allen.

The set of crowns — three in gold and three in silver, sharing similar designs referencing Australia, Bermuda and St. George and the dragon — passed from Allen to his longtime secretary and personal assistant, Fairlie Hopkin. The crowns are being auctioned following Hopkin’s death at the age of 99 in April 2015. Housed in a maroon leather case, with gilt lettering, this set has never been on the market before and carries an estimate of £3,000 to £5,000 (about $4,308 to $7,179 in U.S. funds), the auction house said.

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Before Hearn embarked on the project, he doubtless sought permission from Edward, who became Duke of Windsor after he relinquished the throne to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson. To receive approval, Hearn likely first approached Allen, Edward’s private solicitor and confidant even after the abdication. Hearn had presentation cases specially made for only a handful of people. It is believed that only two or three cases were produced, to be given to the former monarch’s closest advisers. 

Although the Hearn coins (designed by George Alfred Holman) were later minted in greater numbers, the ones to be auctioned at Dix Noonan Webb are of the original type with thick planchets, struck by the medalist John Pinches. No more than 100 of each of the three gold coins in the set were produced in this first striking. Later restrikes in the 1960s for coin collectors have thinner planchets.

“The provenance of this set is impeccable, leading directly back to Sir George who was at the heart of the abdication crisis,” says Peter Preston-Morley of Dix Noonan Webb. “It was Sir George who persuaded Edward to address the nation directly, helped with the drafting of the abdication speech and advised on the terms of Parliamentary legislation. He and his loyal secretary Miss Hopkin found themselves playing a discreet but crucial role in a drama that gripped the world.”

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