The Coin Cabinet
Auction 83  28 May 2023
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Lot 6

Starting price: 20 000 GBP
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XF 45 | ENGLAND. James II, 1685-88.
Gold 5 guineas, 1687. London. Elephant & Castle.
The 1687 Elephant and Castle Five Guinea Piece is among a class of coin that is both highly sought after and seldom offered for sale. Owning any example is a great numismatic feat, more often dreamt than lived. Despite featuring one of the most artistically rich portraits, coins of James II are somewhat of a rarity for two reasons: firstly, the brevity and unpopularity of his rule led to very few coins being saved for prosperity; and, secondly, the Great Recoinage of 1696 and then a similar recoinage in 1816 saw most of his issues melted down to provide material for the new currencies. The high intrinsic value of gold coins, especially high denominations such as a five guinea piece, leaves them extremely susceptible to being melted down or repurposed throughout their journey to us. The relatively few examples we have left are fought over by collectors and investors alike. Milled Coinage of England (1950) describes the issue as 'VR' for 'very rare' and Maurice Bull (2022) awards the issue a rating of 'R' for 'rare'; although with perhaps fewer than fifty examples extant Bull's assessment is overly cautious.

The Samuel King Survey of 2005 found that just 38 examples of this issue had sold over a 45-year period making this the second rarest five guinea piece of James II. SPINK noted in 2003, that this example was not just the finest they had seen of the issue, but the finest of all James II five guinea pieces they had seen. Keep in mind that SPINK, founded 1666, predates this coin.

Second laureate bust of King James II left. Legend reads IACOBVS·II· DEI·GRATIA Translation: James the Second by the Grace of God Engraver: John Roettier John Roettiers was a celebrated English engraver and medallist. Roettiers was the oldest son of Philip Roettiers, a goldsmith of Antwerp. / Crowned cruciform shields, sceptres in angles. Legend reads 88·MAG· BR·FRA· ET·HIB REX·16 Translation: King of Great Britain, France and Ireland Engraver: John Roettier John Roettiers was a celebrated English engraver and medallist. Roettiers was the oldest son of Philip Roettiers, a goldsmith of Antwerp. Edge shows regnal year in Roman words.
In secure plastic holder, graded NGC XF 45, certification number 6762233-002.

NGC Census in this grade: 4.
NGC Census in higher grade: 7
Total NGC Census: 12
Reference: S-3397A
Diameter: 37 mm.
Weight: 41.75 g. (AGW=1.2310 oz.)
Composition: 917.0/1000 Gold.

The Elephant and Castle Hallmark

The elephant and castle hallmark gives a historic depth and connection to this coin that is quite exceptional. A hallmark denotes that the metal content of a coin is from a particularly notable source such as war plunder or newly discovered mines. It is a device scarcely utilised in British coinage and evokes thoughts of modern commemorative issues, except in these instances the coins themselves are struck of the very history they wish to commemorate. Similar issues are coins of 1703 wearing a VIGO hallmark denoting they were struck with captured Spanish bullion, and the EIC coins denoting East India Company on the coins of George II. The symbol seen below the truncation of this coin however - an elephant supporting a castle upon its back – denotes that its gold content was exploited by the Royal African Company from the newly-discovered gold fields of West Africa. By the time this coin was struck, however, the mining operation was secondary to a far more profitable monopoly that the company held on slave trading along the coast of Western Africa. A difference between this coin and most others though is that it does not hide the exploitation it has been birthed from and authentically wears what it is for all to see.

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