World Coins

Imitation is far from flattery with this auction item

An imitation gold ryal made in the Netherlands circa 1585 to 1587 realized €62,000 ($75,728 U.S.) March 1 at auction in Amsterdam.

Coin images courtesy of Schulman B.V.

Before the Earl of Leicester led the English campaign in support of the Dutch Revolt from 1585 to 1587, he needed money to fund the expedition.

The striking of fine sovereigns (double nobles) and ryals (nobles) was authorized in April 1584 to help finance the effort. But those coins weren’t the only gold issues to show up in the Netherlands: An imitation undated gold ryal of Elizabeth I from this period, apparently made in Amsterdam, highlighted Schulman B.V.’s auction No. 355 on March 1 in Amsterdam. The Very Fine and extremely rare coin, as assessed by the auction house, realized €62,000 ($75,728 U.S.), including the 20 percent buyer’s fee.

“English Nobles and their imitations had long been accepted in the Low Countries and the rather anachronistic, medieval appearance of the ryal was designed to fit this circulating medium,” according to the auction house. “Some 3,000 pieces were struck between May 1584 and the end of January 1587, a tiny figure when compared with approximately 100,000 angels produced by the Royal Mint during the same period.” 

The imitation, like the coin it mimics, shows the queen standing in a ship, holding sword and arms, a rose at her side and flag at stern. The reverse shows a floriated cross, rose in center, and crowned leopards. 

The denomination represents one of the last coins struck in the medieval design styled with full Lombardic lettering. The Latin legends translate as “Elizabeth by the grace of God, Queen of England, France and Ireland,” and on the reverse “But Jesus, passing through the midst of them, went His way,” taken from the Bible.

The imitations were not, of course, sanctioned by the queen, and Robert Dudley, the 1st Earl of Leicester, was sent as governor general to confiscate the coins and equipment used in their production. 

The coin’s rarity means that “the likelihood that this coin will be offered again is extremely small,” according to the firm.

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