US Coins

How special was the first part of the Slaney Collection?

News of multiple rarities selling for enormous sums in the second part of the famous Slaney Collection of English coins prompted us to delve into the archives.

See: Second part of Slaney Collection auction features multiple English rarities

Coin World’s London correspondent, John Andrew, reported on the sale in the June 16, 2003, issue of Coin World.

In that report, he noted that the May 15 Spink auction of the Slaney Collection of English Coins would be remembered as the moment “when exceptional English coins entered a new watershed of prices.”

“Collectors have never seen so many auction records broken at an auction devoted to English material,” he wrote. “However, this does not mean that prices for coins generally have risen into the stratosphere, but that collectors are willing to pay much higher prices for exceptionally choice pieces.”

The appearance of the Slaney Collection at auction answered several unanswered questions about where the best coins sold at auction in the 1940s and 1950s had gone, according to Andrew.

“Even before the collection was cataloged, expressions such as “truly breathtaking,” “fabled” and “long lost” were spreading along the numismatic world’s bush telegraph,” he wrote. “... Indeed, it has taxed the minds and imaginations of collectors as to where the cream that appeared at auction in the 1940s and 1950s had vanished.”

For years, the Slaney Collection had been forgotten.

Until the lead-up to that 2003 auction, which was a record-breaking affair. 

“In 25 years of reporting on London auctions, I have never seen so many new auction records being set," Andrew wrote. 

A new record was established for an English silver coin, as well as new auction records for an Edward VI crown, a Charles I halfcrown, a James II 5-guinea piece, a Victorian silver crown, a Charles I triple unite, an Elizabethan copper coin and an Edward VI halfcrown.

At the sale, a Charles II Petition crown earned the new record for an English silver coin. The final bid of £138,000 ($223,312) inclusive of buyer’s fee was more than double the previous record of £57,500 (about $86,800) for an English silver coin (an Edward VIII 1936 pattern crown auctioned in November 2000). 

Spink had given the coin an estimate of £40,000 to £50,000 ($64,728 to $80,910). At the lower estimate, where the bidding began, there were many takers. There were still a few hopeful bidders at £80,000 ($129,456) hammer. The market was far from thin. The last telephone bidder dropped out at £90,000 ($145,638) hammer. From there on two bidders remained in the room. The bids bounced from one end of the room to the other rather like a hard fought rally in a singles final at Wimbledon.

“Those in the room broke into a spontaneous round of applause. As a matter of interest, this Petition crown was last auctioned in 1950. It then sold at a hammer price of £450,” according to Andrew.

Though that price has since been eclipsed, the collection remains a notable pillar of English coinage.

The first auction totaled £1.07 million ($1,731,470). The quoted prices, unless otherwise stated, are inclusive of the buyer’s fee of 15 percent of the hammer price. 

The second portion of Slaney’s collection realized £3,139,482 ($4,926,880 U.S.), including the 20 percent buyer's premium, against a low estimate of £1,043,210.

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