Highest graded example of Three Graces pattern crown in auction
- Published: Sep 14, 2014, 6 AM
The highest graded example of William Wyon’s Three Graces silver crown pattern of 1817 highlights St. James’s Auctions’ Sept. 29 sale in London.
The example was once part of the estate of Allen G. Wyon, a member of the artistic Wyon family of engravers, sculptors and seal makers. The pattern was sold by the family in 1962.
The pattern was issued late during the reign of George III, a decade before William Wyon would rise to the post of chief engraver at the Royal Mint.
The pattern is estimated to realize between £30,000 and £35,000 ($48,999 to $57,166 in U.S. funds). It is “quite possibly William Wyon’s own example of the pattern,” according to the auction house.
The design was created by the then-young engraver during a competition to launch new crown coinage, and is named for the reverse showing three female figures, representing England, Scotland and Ireland. These were the three Kingdoms of Great Britain, as identified by the harp, St. George shield and thistle at their feet.
In the anonymous consignor’s opinion, the subtext of the Three Graces design is meant to convey the feeling that the treaty between the three kingdoms is based on mutual respect and equality, rather than on force.
The obverse carries a high-relief portrait of King George III, which is reminiscent of the finest portraits of emperors produced in ancient Rome and is arguably the finest of him extant in metal, the consignor said.
Wyon’s reverse lost out to a St. George Slaying the Dragon design by Benedetto Pistrucci, but represented the first time the Three Graces (what ancient Greeks called “Charities”) appeared on coins.
The Three Graces pattern “is as much a product of the Industrial Revolution and steam power as it is the creation of the imagination and skill of Wyon,” according to the consignor.
Wyon wasn’t bound to create a low relief design to meet the limitations of manual production, and the coin represents “the happy confluence of technique and artistry along with the burst of optimism and relief which flooded the populace after their triumph over Napoleon,” the consignor said.
The Three Graces pattern is one of about 50 struck.
The piece in the auction is graded Proof 66 Cameo by Numismatic Guaranty Corp.
It most recently was sold in St. James’s auction No. 2 on May 11, 2005, where it realized £18,820 ($35,419 U.S.), including the 17.625 percent buyer’s fee, nearly doubling the estimate.
The consignor said he was a collector of U.S. coins who in the 1980s became “priced out of the market for U.S. high quality historical coinage” and found that high-grade English and Russian coins were “relative bargains.”
“There is so much historical information surrounding the creation of 19th century world coins, for example — war, colonialism, industrial revolution, monarchial pomp and bluster, etc., that our bland seated and Barber designs pale in comparison,” he said.
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