A Proof 1937 gold sovereign of Edward VIII established a new record
price for a British coin in a May 8 auction, according to the
auctioneer, A.H. Baldwin & Sons Ltd.
An anonymous floor bidder bought the coin, one of two examples known
and the only one available individually, for £516,000 ($874,587.50
U.S.) including the 20 percent buyer’s fee. That is a record price for
a British coin struck inside the United Kingdom, the auction house
reports. The coin had an estimate of £250,000 to £300,000 (about
$413,309 to $495,971 U.S.).
The coin was part of the Hemisphere Collection of Gold Sovereigns,
the first complete monarchical collection of gold sovereigns ever to
be offered at auction.
The Hemisphere Collection spans 525 years and 15 monarchs and
represents seven mints. It totaled 394 individual sovereign coins,
from the earliest hammered examples to modern milled pieces.
Edward VIII sovereign
The Edward VIII sovereign’s rarity is related to the circumstances
surrounding its creation and the short-lived reign of the monarch it depicts.
In 1936, Edward VIII ascended to the throne following the death of
his father, George V. However, Edward VIII famously abdicated his
position just 326 days after his accession, so he could marry American
divorcee Wallis Simpson. He was the first monarch to step down
voluntarily. Edward and Simpson married soon after and Edward’s
brother George became the next king of England.
Edward VIII flouted tradition, both in his marriage plans and in his
decision to abdicate the throne. He also flouted numismatic tradition,
which called for coinage portraits to alternate in direction with the
change of each reign, but Edward VIII would not have it. Edward
preferred that a left-facing portrait be used, although it would mean
his profile would face the same direction as his father’s face appears
on George V coins.
Small numbers of coins and patterns designed in harmony with Edward
VIII’s preference were created, but plans became moot days before
circulation production could begin, as he abdicated Dec. 10, 1936.
A small number of examples of Edward VIII’s coins, both individual
pieces and sets, are known today. Thanks to the controversy and
limited mintage, the Proof 1937 gold sovereign of Edward VIII is a
legendary coin of the highest rarity.
According to Baldwin’s, this is the sole example of the Edward VIII
sovereign available individually. It was sold in 1981 by Spink in a
private transaction. Spink sold it again in a 1984 auction of the
Professor R.E. Gibson Collection, where it realized a hammer price of
£40,000. It was later sold in a 2008 auction in Tokyo.
Its May 8 appearance is only the third time for this example to
appear at public auction and its first time in 30 years to be for sale
in the United Kingdom.
Steve Hill, director of British Coins at Baldwin’s said: “It has
been a pleasure to be involved with partly forming, completely
cataloguing and today selling this monumental collection. ... The
Edward VIII gold proof sovereign that sold today, for a record
breaking price, was a fitting celebration of the iconic British
denomination, both the owner who formed the collection and Baldwin’s
are thrilled with the result.”
Though a full results list was not available at press time, the
auction house reported results for two other highlights.
A Proof Elizabeth II 1953 gold sovereign sold for £384,000 (about
$650,107 U.S.), including the buyer’s fee. The coin was issued in very
limited numbers for the coronation of the new queen.
It is the first example available to the market individually since
1985, according to the auction house.
The other result disclosed was for the top lot among hammered
(hand-struck) coins: a circa 1502 to 1504 Henry VII gold sovereign,
which sold for £120,000 (about $203,158 in U.S. funds).
Auction catalogs are available (and full prices realized will soon
be available) online at www.baldwin.co.uk.