World Coins

Silver crown from Biafra stars in Stephen Album sale

A rare modern silver crown from the secessionist state of Biafra in Africa realized $8,812.50, including the 17.5 percent buyer’s fee, in a recent auction.

Coin images courtesy of Stephen Album Rare Coins.

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. 

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