Many dream of finding treasure in unexpected places, but that dream
became reality for a United Kingdom resident in 2016.
A 1703 Vigo Bay gold 5-guinea coin — one of the rarest English gold
coins ever — was discovered in the inherited belongings of a family,
according to the London auction house Boningtons Auctioneers, which
sold the coin in its Nov. 16 auction.
The family had no idea the coin was valuable until a specialist at
Boningtons appraised it. Their discovery was announced almost exactly
314 years after seizure of the gold that became the coin issue, during
the reign of Queen Anne. Fewer than 20 examples of the coin were made
from gold the British captured from a Spanish treasure ship in 1702 at
Vigo Bay, northern Spain.
Connect with Coin World:
up for our free eNewsletter
Follow us on Twitter
The coin was reportedly passed down through four generations of the
same family, kept in a little boy’s treasure box. From what the
consignors told the auction house, their little boy liked to play
“pirate” with the coin, and other coins, that originally belonged to
the child’s great-grandfather.
Boningtons spokesman Luke Bodalbhai said: “The coin was consigned to
us by a gentleman from Hertfordshire whose grandfather had given it to
him many years ago, when he was a young boy. However, he had no idea
what it was worth until recently, when he showed it to our coin
specialist, Gregory Tong, [who] immediately recognized the coin and
informed the consignor of its value.”
According to a press release from the auction house, the consignor
said, “My granddad travelled all over the world during his working
life and collected many coins from the various countries where he had
been. As a boy, I was into pirate treasure, so he gave me bags of
coins to play with. As time passed, these coins went back into bags
and boxes and were forgotten about. Then, after my granddad passed
away, I rediscovered the coins and recalled how much I had enjoyed
them as a boy. So I gave them to my own son to play with, including
the Queen Anne Vigo 5-guinea. He kept it in his treasure box and has
been playing ‘pirate’ with it just as I did, all those years ago.”
The story of the coin’s discovery is worthy of great literature, but
then, the story of its creation is also a romantic masterpiece.
The VIGO emblazoned coins were struck from treasure the British
fleet seized in 1702 from Franco-Spanish ships returning from America,
during the War of Spanish Succession. The 1703 Vigo gold issues were
intended for circulation and comprised half guinea, guinea and
5-guinea pieces. In addition, related silver coins were struck in
crown, half-crown, shillings and sixpence denominations, in 1703.
(Some 1702-dated shillings were also struck.)
Each of the coins has the usual obverse and reverse design types
appropriate to the denomination but on the obverse of each
denomination, below Queen Anne’s bust, the word VIGO was added,
engraved into the die.
The gold coins struck are all very scarce to very rare and would be
beyond the means of most collectors. The silver coins, however, were
struck in generally large numbers.
The coin realized £280,000 ($348,810) with the buyer’s fee.
Read all of our Coin World Top 10 of 2016 series:
- U.S. Mint issues gold Centennial coins
- Pogue IV auction tops $16 million
- Rare English gold coin found in toy
- Boutique bullion trend catches on worldwide
- Langbord 1933 double eagle case rolls on
- 1974-D aluminum cent returned to U.S. Mint
- Treasury announces new Federal Reserve note
- 1964 Morgan dollar tooling uncovered
- American Liberty silver medal released
- U.S. Mint plans yearlong 225th anniversary party