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Victorian-era embellished coins in Feb. 2 London sale by Dix Noonan Webb
- Published: Jan 5, 2021, 8 AM
The Victorian era was characterized by much change and advancement as the triumph of the British Empire occurred during the lengthy reign of Queen Victoria.
A coinage custom that proved popular later during her reign was the addition of enameling to bring color to various British denominations. A practice of individually engraving “love tokens” also arose during this time.
Dix Noonan Webb’s Feb. 2 auction in London offers a nice run of these “embellished” (some might say altered) pieces.
Rare on bronze
Leading the offerings is the 1887 penny of Victoria that has been turned into an objet d’art, swivel mounted in a brooch fitting, with its reverse enameled in eight colors to highlight the dignity and majesty of Britannia.
The obverse is engraved “A present from Southsea for a good aunt” with the fields gilt.
While it’s impossible to identify the date such pieces were made, the terminus post quem (that is to say, the earliest date) for the embellished objects to have originated is the date of the host coin.
The auction house said it is rare to see enameling on a bronze host coin such as this.
The host coin is graded Very Fine, and the enameling is “unbroken and of fine workmanship,” according to the auction house.
The more elaborate the work (and sometimes the larger the host coin), the higher the price, relatively speaking. This altered penny has an estimate of £100 to £150 ($135 to $202 U.S.)
Another piece, a halfpenny, is gilt, and features a reverse that’s been turned into a portrait of a man, created with numerous tiny pinpricks
The piece is signed by the artist, E. Yearsly.
The coin has “a few surface marks,” but is otherwise in Very Fine condition and is “of fine workmanship,” the firm said.
It has an estimate of £100 to £120 ($135 to $162 U.S.).
The practice continued
Though the practice of modifying coins in these manners reached a zenith in the Victorian age, it continued even into the reigns of her successors.
One lot offers three pieces, from three different monarchs, at an affordable price.
The 1899 Victorian penny is from late in her reign. The reverse was planed flat and is engraved “presented by her uncle Ned to Lilian, her first Penny, July 17th 1905.”
A penny of Edward VII, issued in 1907, features an engraved portrait of a man facing slightly right, and is signed R. Murray.
One quirk of these pieces is that we may never know the full stories of the artists or recipients, thanks to the commonness of many of the names.
The final piece in this grouping is another penny, of George V. The piece is engraved “the Great War, New Year 1916, from Noble to Jim.” A tiny cannon and RFA (Royal Field Artillery) appears in the design.
The lot of three items are “of fine workmanship,” according to the firm, and have an estimate of £60 to £80 ($81 to $108 U.S.).
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