A rare 16th century English gold coin with ties to a military
expedition stars in St. James’s Auctions’ Nov. 30 sale in London.
The circa 1585 to 1587 gold 15-shilling ship ryal of Elizabeth I was
issued, along with gold 30-shilling coins, to finance the expedition
of the Earl of Leicester to the Netherlands in 1585. English gold
coins had long been accepted as a standard currency in the
Netherlands, so they provided the natural medium for financing the
British expedition, according to the firm.
The example in the auction features a strong portrait of the monarch
above the ship.
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On April 20, 1584, an indenture was signed with Sir Richard Martin,
warden and master worker, and Andrew Palmer, comptroller at the Tower
Mint in London, to strike gold 30-shilling double nobles and
15-shilling ryals to finance the expedition. These coins were struck
from the ancient gold standard of 23 cts. 3½ grs.
Between May 3, 1584, and Jan. 31, 1587, a total of £27,936 was
struck in these two denominations — a very small issue consisting of
about 15,000 double nobles and fewer than 3,000 ryals. Most of the
ryals (including the example offered for sale) bear the Mint mark
representing London, an escallop, on the reverse.
Already scarce, surviving examples are usually somewhat worn and
clipped. The auction house grades this example, which is of full
weight, as Good Very Fine. “This is a highly desirable piece as it is
one of the best examples available,” according to the catalog.
The coin has an estimate of £40,000 to £50,000 ($49,698 to $62,112 U.S.).