World Coins

Gold medal that honors historic battle headlines sale

Spink issued this gold medal in 1966 to mark the 900th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings. The medal is a highlight from the Davissons Ltd. auction ending Feb. 22.

Medal images courtesy of Davissons Ltd.

The course of British history changed just over 950 years ago on fields of battle near Hastings, close to the present-day town of Battle, East Sussex.

On Oct. 14, 1066, the Normans (from what is now France) were victorious at the Battle of Hastings as William, the Duke of Normandy, and his army defeated England’s last Anglo-Saxon king, Harold Godwinson.

The pivotal moment changed the course of British history forever. It has been commemorated in numismatics several times, including on the 900th anniversary in 1966. An example of the commemorative gold medal Spink issued to mark the battle’s 1966 anniversary highlights Davissons Ltd.’s auction No. 36, which closes on Feb. 22.

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The Davissons sale is an opportunity for a history-minded gold collector: the item features both at a small premium above “melt” value. The .9167 fine medal weighs 47.77 grams, containing 1.4 ounces of pure gold.

The obverse of the medal depicts the king seated on a throne under an arch, facing, with rim legends reading WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR 900TH ANNIVERSARY.

On the reverse, a map shows the English Channel, England at the top with HASTINGS and PEVENSEY marked; France at the bottom identified as NORMANDY, with BAYEUX, and ROUEN marked; four sailing galleys; and rim inscriptions THE LAST INVASION OF BRITAIN and THE BATTLE OF HASTINGS separated by the split date 1066.

The medal offered is Fleur-de-coin, or Proof, as issued, in the leather covered, silk-lined box with Spink logo on the lining, and a printed description of the medal hand-signed by D. Liddell for Spink & Son. 

Spink and Son, London’s oldest coin firm, has been known as a medal issuer for well over 200 years.

The 900th anniversary of the pivotal moment in English history was at the height of the modern market for medals. Two sizes of this medal were issued in both silver and gold, the one in the auction being the smaller (38-millimeter diameter) gold edition. Both gold versions have a reported mintage of 300 pieces. 

The Battle of Hastings marked the beginning of the Norman conquest of England. Rebellions and resistance to William’s rule continued, but Hastings was effectively the culmination of William’s conquest of England.

Once victorious, the Duke of Normandy replaced the Saxon aristocracy with a French-speaking ruling class and introduced common law into England.

The medal in the Davissons auction has a precious metal value of about $1,700 at press time, and an estimate of $2,000. 

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