World Coins

Rare Dutch 1891 25-cent soars in Heritage sale

A rare Netherlands silver 25-cent coin from 1891, one of just two examples known, realized €1,045,500 ($1,130,376 U.S.) in a May 20 auction in Europe.

Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

A rare Dutch coin soared past the pre-sale estimate to top $1 million U.S. in an auction in Europe on May 20.

The Proof 1891 Queen Wilhelmina, Long Hair silver 25-cent piece, one of two examples known and the only one in private hands, realized €1,045,500 ($1,130,376 U.S.) including the 23% buyer’s fee. The coin was sold by Heritage Auctions Europe-Cooperatief, an affiliate of Heritage Auctions.

The previous record price paid for a Dutch coin was €700,000 ($757,190 U.S.), in 2021, for a circa 1600 gold rose noble (an 8-gulden coin), and the record price for a coin from the Kingdom of the Netherlands (1806 to the present) was €200,000 (about $217,100 U.S.) realized in 2023 for an 1867 gold double ducat.

“This coin was the cover piece for our catalog, but we expected a hammer price between €300,000 and €400,000,” said Jacco Scheper, Managing Director of HA-Europe. “Nobody expected this world record.”

Bids came in quickly for the coin, which opened at €300,000 before soaring to its record result in a matter of two minutes.

The 1891 silver 25-cent coin is considered the pinnacle of “Kingdom coins.”

The other example of this coin is part of the National Numismatic Collection at De Nederlandsche Bank.

This record-setting example, which Scheper called “the Holy Grail for coin collectors” in RTL Nieuws, has had just four owners in the past century.

The coin depicts Queen Wilhelmina, who sports long hair and a string of pearls in this image, hence the coin’s nickname, at the age of 10.

The reverse carries the denomination, date, Mint-master mark and Mint mark within a oak wreath.

The coin’s provenance includes the Virgil Brand Collection, sold May 17 and 18, 1984, by Sotheby’s. In addition, the piece was once part of the collection of Mint Master H.L.A. van den Wall Bake, whose mark on the coin is the halberd (an ax mounted on a shaft).

Historical background

The coin came about with the sudden rise of the Princess Wilhelmina to queen.

On Nov. 23, 1890, King William III died at Paleis het Loo in Apeldoorn.

The reign passed to the 10-year-old Princess Wilhelmina, for whom her mother Emma was appointed regent Dec. 8, 1890.

On Nov. 29, 1890, the Muntcollege (Board of the Mint) received an order from the minister of finance to make a design proposal for the coinage and, at the same time, estimate the time frame in which the minting process could start. The Muntcollege by May 1891 received a plaster model made by the sculptor and medalist Ludwig Jünger (born 1856, died 1906).

Jünger’s design depicts the youthful queen with a pearl necklace as a sign of royal dignity; he received a sum of 300 guilders for his work.

Willem Jacobus Schammer, in his position as assistant engraver at Rijks Munt, was commissioned to cut the dies after this plaster portrait. Schammer started his work with the dies for the gold 10-gulden coin, then worked on the dies for the smaller denominations.

The 41st Report of the Mint Board for 1891 reports that, “...proofs were presented in the autumn by the Minister of Finance to Her Majesty the Queen Regent, who granted Her High Approval of the new design before the end of the year.”

The order for the manufacture of a new dies for the gulden was given on Dec. 17, 1891. Dies would be completed by the end of March 1892, so no gulden coins with the date 1891 were minted.

The 1891 25-cent coin was missing from almost all major collections of coins of the Dutch Kingdom: even King Farouk of Egypt was unable to possess this Queen among Dutch coins.

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