World Coins

Rare silver pattern coin for Madagascar coming to auction

A rare 1895 fantasy pattern 5-franc coin of Madagascar’s Queen Ranavalona III is offered as part of Schulman’s Oct. 20 to 22 auction.

Images courtesy of Schulman.

Queen Ranavalona III was the last monarch of the Kingdom of Madagascar before the French seized the palace in 1895, forcing her to spend the rest of her life in exile.

Before her reign ended, she was featured on a series of pattern silver 5-franc “pièces de fantaisie” created at the request of wealthy British coin collector Reginald Huth.

An example of one such rare type of fantasy issue is being offered in Schulman’s Oct. 20 to 22 auction in the Netherlands.

These pieces were struck in London by Pinches & Co., a firm which dates back to the 1840s and which Huth employed on multiple occasions to create an array of patterns for many places, including Hawaii.

These pieces “combine artistic taste in the design and composition with skilful and excellent execution,” according to Leonard Forrer in Biographical Dictionary of Medallists.

At least two different versions of the Madagascar 5-franc pieces exist, with the reverse designs differing.

The obverse of the piece in the Schulman auction depicts a crowned and veiled queen, and the reverse displays a rose (a very British design element, a la Westminster Cathedral), crowned, with heart.

A queen’s life

Ranavalona III spent most of her reign attempting to stave off colonization by strengthening diplomatic and trade relations with foreign powers, the firm said, but she was ultimately unsuccessful, and France declared the country a colony in 1896.

Initially allowed to remain in Madagascar as a symbolic figure of the country, she was exiled to Réunion, and finally to Algiers where she would remain until her death in 1917 at age 55.

The fantasy has a mintage figure of 25 pieces.

The example in the Schulman auction is described as being “Virtually as struck” and “Very attractive with a colorful, dark patina, hues of green and orange especially on the reverse,” according to the firm.

The coin is graded Proof 63+ by Numismatic Guaranty Corp., and has an estimate of €5,000 ($5,923 U.S.).

Consigned: 1895 silver fantasy 5-franc coin
Condition: Proof 63+
Auction Location: Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Auction Dates: Oct. 20 to 22, 2020
Details: Rare fantasy made by a wealthy British patron honors the final monarch of Madagascar

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