Detectorist Strikes Gold At Itchingfield

The obverse and reverse of an Edward IV second reign gold-angel c.1471-1483, mintmark and heraldic cinquefoil

A gold-angel coin discovered at Itchingfield in West Sussex has just been sold at Toovey’s for £4200.

Toovey’s coin specialist, Mark Stonard, explains “Dating from between 1471 and 1483 the coin was an example of a gold-angel coin introduced during the reign of Edward IV in 1465. The obverse depicts the Archangel Michael defeating the devil who is represented as a dragon. The reverse is decorated with a ship showing the power of the English naval fleet and the importance of shipping to our overseas trade.”

I ask Mark about the coin’s discovery, he replies “The coin was found at Itchingfield in the Horsham District by a responsible detectorist. It was recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme and returned to the finder. The finder and the landowner decided to enter this remarkable coin into Toovey’s specialist coin sale where it made £4200. It’s so important to emphasise the value of recording finds made by metal detectorists. The location and context of where things are found gives us a fantastic record of what has been before us.”

Mark continues “These coins were often known as touch pieces and were thought to bring good fortune and healing. It was thought that coins given at Holy Communion could be rubbed on parts of the body suffering from rheumatism to bring a cure. This tradition was also employed using coins given by the King or Queen in a ceremony which illustrated the ‘Divine Right of Kings’ before God. People of royal blood were thought to have the God-given power of healing through touch which is why the coins became known as touch pieces. Coins which depicted the defeat of the Devil were favoured and emphasised the monarch’s divinely given healing power.”

The obverse and reverse of a Henry VIII first coinage gold-angel c.1509-1526, mintmark castle (well-centred with a nice full flan)

“A Henry VIII first coinage gold-angel coin dating from between 1509 and 1526 was also entered at Toovey’s and realised £3000. These coins are often pierced so they could be worn by the recipient, it was exciting to see these two complete examples.”

Reflecting on the current high prices for coins Mark concludes “The specialist collector’s field of coins remains really strong. These objects help us to understand our history and powerfully connect us to it.”

Mark Stonard is inviting entries for his next specialist sale of coins on and can be contacted by telephoning 01903 891955.

Celebrating More Than 500 Years of The English Gold Sovereign

An Elizabeth II Royal Mint proof sovereign four-coin set commemorating the 500th Anniversary of the First Gold Sovereign 1489-1989

This week I am in the company of Toovey’s Coin specialist, Mark Stonard. He shows me An Elizabeth II Royal Mint proof sovereign four-coin set which commemorates the 500th Anniversary of the First Gold Sovereign in 1489 through to 1989. The set includes examples of the whole family of Sovereign coins and includes a five pounds, a double-sovereign, a sovereign and a half-sovereign. Cased and with its certificate it has just sold in his specialist coin sale for £4600.

Mark says “In 1489 Henry VII ordered the officers of the Royal Mint to produce a new money of gold. It wasn’t the first English gold coin but it was certainly the largest and most important at that date. The coin became a symbol of stability and power and every monarch had their own versions struck up until James I in 1603.

“The Sovereign was reintroduced in 1815 after the Battle of Waterloo when it was found that there was demand for a new 20 shilling gold coin. The new coin was produced in 1817. It was about half the size and weight of the first Sovereign. The reverse was decorated in relief with a depiction of St George defeating the dragon designed by Benedetto Pistrucci. He was one of the world’s most celebrated gem engravers at that time and it shows in the quality of his design. His design was used until 1825 when it was replaced by the Royal Coat of Arms. In 1871 St George appeared again but next to a shield. It wasn’t until 1887 that Pistrucci’s earlier St George design was reintroduced for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. It’s appeared on every subsequent Sovereign to the present day.”

Toovey’s coin specialist, Mark Stonard

I ask Mark if it is just the value of the gold which gave this set its value. He replies “The high gold price certainly has to be taken into consideration but condition, date, the quality of design and the rarity of the coins in question also have a significant affect on values. This set sold for almost double its bullion price.” I suggest that the value reflects weight plus artistry and Mark agrees. He continues “There is an increasing appetite amongst collectors to buy and sell their gold coins in our specialist auctions as the prices are strong but realistic.”

Whether your passion is for Saxon Sceats or a gold proof Sovereign Mark’s knowledge is extraordinary.

Anglo Saxon Coins Discovered near Storrington

A collection of six Anglo-Saxon sceats dating from the 7th and 8th centuries

A Sceat or Sceatta was a tiny, thick silver coin usually measuring about 3mm in diameter (about an 1/8th of an inch in old money). They were minted in England and on the Continent during the Anglo-Saxon period. Sceats are diverse in origin and design, and highly sort after by collectors.

Toovey’s coin and antiquities specialist, Mark Stonard, explains “The large number of finds by detectorists in the last 30 years or so has dramatically altered our understanding of this coinage. They were certainly used across eastern and southern England from the early 8th century.

You can see the influence of the Celts and the Vikings in the two coins entered for my next specialist sale of coins on 11th July from a private West Sussex collector. The first depicts a standard bearer in a hatched tabard looking to the right. On the reverse there is a serpent whorl. Tony Abramson who is one of the leading authorities has recorded this sceat as being a unique new variety. The find was made in the Storrington district here in West Sussex in April this year. It carries a pre-sale estimate of £800-£1200. The second coin has a Woden style head, unusually depicted with amulets by the neck. On its reverse is a depiction of a dragon. The beast is looking back on itself and is perhaps influenced by the Vikings. It’s again estimated at £800-£1200.”

Mark continues “They’re Southern types often found south of the Thames. The large number of detectorist finds is extending our knowledge and understanding of the coinage and their times with many coins being re-attributed to specific districts and areas, challenging the long-held view that the majority were made in Kent and the Thames estuary. From the early 700s there was an expansion of minting all over southern and eastern England in every major Anglo-Saxon kingdom. It’s entirely possible that these examples could have been minted here in Sussex which was part of the kingdom of Wessex.”

The strength of the market for coins is bringing fine collections from all periods to auction. A number of collections of sceats have been sold at Toovey’s in recent times. The six sceats illustrated totalled more than £2000.

Two Anglo-Saxon sceats entered for sale in Toovey’s next fine sale of coins

Mark concludes “The specialist collectors’ fields like coins, antiquities, medals and militaria remain really strong and its exciting that our understanding of sceats continues to grow.”

Mark Stonard is still inviting entries for his next specialist sale of coins on Tuesday 11th July 2023 and can be contacted by telephoning 01903 891955.

A World Record £260,000 for a Japanese Gold Coin at Toovey’s

The obverse and reverse of the record breaking Japanese Meiji ten yen Year 3 pattern gold coin from 1870

A Japanese Meiji ten yen Year 3 pattern gold coin dating from 1870 has just sold at Toovey’s for £260,000. A world record price at auction.

Measuring just 3.2cm the coin’s obverse is decorated with a dragon design within a beaded border surrounded by a frame of characters, whilst the reverse has a sunburst flanked by banners between Imperial kiku and kiri mon. It is in extremely fine condition.

Toovey’s valuer and auctioneer William Rowsell, describes how he discovered the coin on a routine visit to a family home in Walberton, West Sussex. He says “There were a small group of gold coins in a brown envelope. This one coin particularly stood out as being Japanese and worth further research.”

William continues “I returned to Toovey’s salerooms with a car full of an eclectic array of collectors’ items including the coin. I showed it to our specialist Mark Stonard who immediately identified it as being an extremely rare Japanese Meiji ten yen Year 3 pattern gold coin, the first coin of its type after Japanese decimalisation in 1870.”

Mark Stonard explains “This type of coin was originally intended for general issue but it was too fragile and the design was changed to a smaller thicker design. Only four examples of this coin were known to exist before our discovery, one is in the British Museum, one is in the Bank of Japan Collection, and two were auctioned in the USA in 2011 and 2014. The die anomalies in the coin’s striking were identified as being correct by comparing them to those found on the example in the British Museum.”

William Rowsell describes how the seller, a keen genealogist, was able to provide the most remarkable provenance. He says “The coin had come to them by family descent from George Henry Williamson Esquire of Worcester [1845-1918]. George Williamson was a former mayor of Worcester, a manufacturer and a Conservative politician. But the vendor thought that it was likely that this coin was originally acquired by George’s father, William Blizard Williamson [1811-1878]. Mr Williamson was a tinsmith from Cork who eventually settled in Worcester, where he founded the Providence Tinplate Works in 1858. George and his brother William Blizard the younger took over the company after their father’s death. George Williamson deposited this coin with several others for some time at Lloyds Bank in Worcester, incorrectly labelling it ‘Chinese gold piece’, suggesting that he was unaware of its significance.”

It is always exciting to discover something that has lain undiscovered and forgotten, especially when it realises a world record price of £260,000. There is much talk about the value of precious metals but the collectors’ value is so often much higher than the bullion price.

William Rowsell, Mark Stonard and the seller are still celebrating this remarkable coin, its discovery and the result.

“You never know when you’ll make your next big discovery…”

Toovey’s Specialist Mark Stonard

I am in conversation with Toovey’s specialist Mark Stonard as he remarks “You never know when you’ll make your next big discovery in the auction world but it happens more often than you would think.” Mark explains how a couple recently arrived at Toovey’s reception for a free-presale valuation. He says “They were carrying a cardboard box no bigger than a shoe box. They had no idea whether the items in the box were valuable. It was filled with treasures and amongst them was the most remarkable collection of early coins.”

A Charles I Newark besieged shilling dated 1645
A Charles I Newark besieged shilling dated 1645

Mark shows me a Charles I Newark besieged shilling from the collection dated 1645 with an old ink-written collector’s ticket. Mark says “Siege money was minted during the Civil War in Newark-on-Trent in the third and longest siege between 1645 and 1646. Much of it was made from cut up Church plate and other valuables to answer the besieged Royalist’s need for money. On some of the coins you can see the original decoration from the objects they were cut from though this coin shows no evidence of this. All the time you’ve got a mint producing coins it’s a symbol of state – so for Charles I and his supporters this coin was a political statement too.”

I ask Mark how much a coin like this is worth and he replies “It’s just been sold in Toovey’s specialist coin auction for £1600.”

An Edward the Confessor (1042-1066) hammered penny from the Steyning Mint
An Edward the Confessor (1042-1066) hammered penny from the Steyning Mint

I am excited to find an Edward the Confessor (1042-1066) hammered penny from the Steyning Mint which has just realised £400. Mark comments “This coin is amongst the earliest from this collection. Look at the obverse with its facing bust of the king.” There was a mint at Steyning from the end of King Canute’s (1016-1035) reign, which was possibly the successor to the mints of Burpham and Cissbury.

An Elizabeth I milled issue shilling
An Elizabeth I milled issue shilling

I have always found Elizabeth I an inspiring historical figure. Mark points out an Elizabeth I milled issue shilling that has just sold for £1800. The depiction of Elizabeth I on the obverse is extraordinary.

He explains “Milled coins were minted for the first time in 1561 in the reign of Elizabeth I. They were the first coins to be produced employing a mechanical screw-press powered by a horse. Their production was initially overseen by a Frenchman, Eloye Mestrelle. But coins were still being produced more quickly by hand so the production of milled coins was short-lived.”

I ask Mark which markets are booming at auction and he responds “The specialist collectors’ fields like coins, jewellery and medals without a doubt.”
If you would like to discover if your coins and collectables are forgotten treasure contact Mark Stonard by telephoning 01903 891955.

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.