A huge collection of the British equivalent of American inaugural medals realized an auction total of £153,618 ($224,778 U.S.) during A.H. Baldwin & Sons Ltd.’s May 3 auction in London.
The Dr. Robert and Joshua Feldman Collection of Official British Coronation and Jubilee Medals featured 75 lots with 77 medals (including a small number of copies or imitations).
The medals tell the history of royalty in Britain during the course of more than four centuries and reflect changing artistic values and abilities during that time.
Some of the most famous British coin designers were commissioned to create these medals, and the rarity often far surpasses coins of the same monarch but at fractions of the cost.
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A history of the series
The Royal Mint has issued British coronation medals since James I’s coronation in 1603 and the tradition continued for more than 300 years.
According to Robert Feldman, the medals “constitute a wonderful historic legacy for the United Kingdom; cultural artifacts rich in symbolism.”
Though initially only silver and gold versions were issued, copper editions were added beginning in 1685 for James II’s coronation.
British coronations are held at Westminster Abbey and the medals were tossed to various groups depending on rank. Lords received gold medals, peers received silver medals, and the copper ones were strewn to those in the crowd outside the Abbey.
That process continued until Queen Victoria in 1838 decided to personally hand out the precious metal versions (instead of throwing them), though the copper medals were still strewn to the outside throng.
Prior to the 1707 unification of Britain, monarchs were sometimes crowned several times, in separate ceremonies for England, Ireland and Scotland.
One of the earliest medals in the collection is the 1633 Scottish Coronation medal of Charles II.
Struck in gold, the piece has a mintage of just 75 pieces. Graded Very Fine by the auction house, the medal realized £6,000 ($8,779 U.S.). All realized prices quoted reflect the 20 percent buyer’s fee.
The medal was designed by Nicholas Briot, who was appointed chief engraver at the Royal Mint in London after traveling to Edinburgh (where the coronation was held) to prepare dies for the coins and medal honoring the coronation.