Coins, a Rising Market

A cased George VI gold four-coin specimen set, 1937, comprising a five pounds, two pounds, a sovereign and a half-sovereign
A cased George VI gold four-coin specimen set, 1937, comprising a five pounds, two pounds, a sovereign and a half-sovereign

The field of coin collecting brings together social, political and economic history with art and culture. Coins have been collected since Roman times and provide a tangible link to our past, present and future.

Coins have often been crafted by the finest engravers and sculptors of their time and are frequently works of art in their own right.

A William IV Crown, 1831, 'W.W.' on truncation of bust
A William IV Crown, 1831, ‘W.W.’ on truncation of bust

Whilst rarity is important to the value of any particular coin it is condition which is of overriding significance in establishing values. There is an enormous disparity between the price of a worn example of a coin compared to one in extremely fine or uncirculated condition. This is apparent in the prices realised by the exceptional George VI gold four-coin specimen set from 1937 and the William IV Crown from 1831 which made £8500 and £6000 respectively at Toovey’s specialist coin sales.

A Saxon penny from the Steyning mint, struck in the reign of Edward the Confessor (1042-1066)
A Saxon penny from the Steyning mint, struck in the reign of Edward the Confessor (1042-1066)

Sharper coins were produced by the process of milling coins with dies mounted onto a screw press. This can be seen by comparing the handmade Charles I gold Unite with the later coins illustrated. The Unite was a 17th century gold coin worth twenty shillings or one pound but this example sold recently at auction for £1600. The difficulties of manufacturing blanks to a uniform weight ensured that coins continued to be made by hand until the Restoration in 1660. Charles II brought the Roettiers brothers with their improved screw press from Holland to London. The first English coins made by this method for circulation were the 1662 silver Crowns.

As a general rule coins should never be cleaned without seeking expert advice. Silver and copper coins can appear to be tarnished but this patina is prized by collectors.

Collectors quickly develop an understanding of condition and quality. As they handle and inspect different examples their understanding and eye tone.

There are many fields to capture the attention of collectors. Some will collect coins from a particular country, others will focus on a specific type of coin like Crowns, or a period. Many are attracted by collecting coins made from precious metals.

I love to imagine who might have held the coins which come to auction and what points of history they have encountered.

With such breadth of interest, price and quality coins have a growing following and remain one of the most buoyant collectors’ markets.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Saxon Steyning

Late-medieval buildings in Church Street, Steyning following the earlier Saxon tradition
Late-medieval buildings in Church Street, Steyning following the earlier Saxon tradition

Sussex, her towns, ports and villages, were at the heart of the Saxon Kingdom of Wessex.

In my imagination I can picture wooden Saxon houses flanking the old Roman streets of Chichester, the earlier pavements covered by grass. By the late 6th and early 7th centuries Steyning, Lewes, Hastings and Pevensey had developed from their farming origins into towns of craftsmen and traders. By the 10th century all these towns had mints producing coinage which is evidence of an established urban economy. A mint was recorded at Steyning at the end of King Canute’s (1016-1035) reign, and was perhaps the successor to the mints of Burpham and Cissbury.

A Saxon penny from the Steyning mint, struck in the reign of Edward the Confessor (1042-1066)
A Saxon penny from the Steyning mint, struck in the reign of Edward the Confessor (1042-1066)

The penny illustrated dates from the reign of Edward the Confessor (1042 – 1066) and is an example of Saxon coins from the Steyning mint. Coins are remarkable in their ability to provide a tangible connection with our past. Edward the Confessor, also known as Saint Edward the Confessor, was amongst the last Anglo-Saxon kings of England, and was the last king of the House of Wessex.

Saxon Cottage which actually dates from c.1550
Saxon Cottage which actually dates from c.1550

Many antiquarians argue that where buildings of a varied type, arranged in close proximity to one another along the main street of a town or village are found they are often following a tradition dating back to Saxon times. This would certainly appear to be the case at Steyning. Saxon Cottage in Church Street actually dates from c.1550 but its name perhaps hints at an earlier structure on the site now lost. The town was located on the River Adur and is generally believed by historians to have been one of the most important ports in Saxon times.

The Parish Church of St Andrew and St Cuthman, Steyning
The Parish Church of St Andrew and St Cuthman, Steyning

The current parish church of St Andrew and St Cuthman has Saxon origins and replaced a timber structure built by St Cuthman. Inside, in the south aisle, alongside the fine Norman arcading, is an arch exquisitely carved with fabulous beasts. Contemporary historians are increasingly of the view that this arch dates from the late Saxon renaissance which took place during the reign of King Canute. The Saxon St Cuthman and Aethelwulf (839-858 are both said to have been buried there). Aethelwulf was father of King Alfred.

Today Steyning with her fine church, architecture and Museum connects us with our past. The Sussex Produce Company and the wonderful Steyning Bookshop along with a rich array of other independent retailers, restaurants and tea rooms maintain the vibrant tradition of this ancient and important town. The perfect place to visit as spring returns to Sussex!

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.