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.

The Coin Collection of the Late Frederick Sydney Clark

Fred Clark (1923-2016)
Fred Clark (1923-2016)

Fred Clark, as he was always known, was born to publicans in South London. Sometime later, the whole family moved to Seaford in East Sussex.

Fred’s greatest passion in life was collecting and, following the family move, he loved nothing more than field-walking in Seaford and on the Peacehaven Downs. These areas were rich in fossils and prehistoric flints. Such was his passion for collecting that he would, on occasions, ride all the way to Suffolk on his BSA Bantam motorbike, following in the footsteps of his predecessor Dr William Allen Sturge and those of his great friend, the collector Dr Hugh Fawcett, who was well-known for his lithic collections.

Lot 892 a Byzantine Empire Heraclius with Heraclius Constantine (610-641AD) gold solidus, the obverse with two busts, Constantinople mint.
Lot 892: A Byzantine Empire Heraclius with Heraclius Constantine (610-641AD) gold solidus, the obverse with two busts, Constantinople mint.

Once again the family moved, this time to Woking in Surrey, and in the 1960s Fred decided to open a shop in nearby Guildford selling collectables. These included fossils, minerals, prehistoric tools and coins. His shop was to become very popular with collectors and he continued to trade there until he retired in the mid-1980s.

Following his retirement, he moved to Worthing, where he stayed for many years until he sadly passed away following a short illness.

A Roman Empire Balbinus (238AD) antoninianus, the reverse with clasped hands beneath 'Concordia Augg'.
Lot 807: A Roman Empire Balbinus (238AD) antoninianus, the reverse with clasped hands beneath ‘Concordia Augg’.

Fred Clark was meticulous with recording. Every artefact he found would be written on with a location and his monogram ‘FC’, which remains well-known by academics and collectors to this day.

Fred formed his coin collection predominantly during the 1960s and 1970s.

Coins from Classical Antiquity

The late antiquarian and collector, Fred Clark
The late antiquarian and collector, Fred Clark

A remarkable collection of coins, predominately from Classical Antiquity, have been entered for auction at Toovey’s and is expected to realise tens of thousands of pounds. This single owner collection of coins was formed during the 1960s and 1970s by the late Fred Clark, a gifted and meticulous antiquarian.

Fred rode his BSA Bantham motorcycle all over Suffolk and the South East of England collecting not only coins but fossils and prehistoric flints too.

When his family moved to Woking in Surrey in the 1960s Fred opened a shop in Guildford which became a favourite haunt for collectors.

The study of the ancient civilisations of Greece and Rome have had a profound influence on Western Civilisation and thinking over millennia. As we look through this remarkable collection it becomes apparent that nearly all the Roman Emperors are represented in the coins. Fred Clark was a gifted classicist.

A Roman Empire Hadrian (117-138AD) sestertius, the reverse with Ceres standing left, holding corn ears and a long torch
A Roman Empire Hadrian (117-138AD) sestertius, the reverse with Ceres standing left, holding corn ears and a long torch

Toovey’s specialist, Mark Stonard, draws my attention to the Roman Empire Hadrian (117-138AD) sestertius. He explains that on the reverse Ceres is depicted standing to the left, holding corn ears and a long torch. Mark says “Hadrian is such a well-known character to us. The natural patination of this bronze sestertius coin and its condition is very good.” There is an accompanying letter from the British Museum, dated 17th July 1970, remarking that this coin is ‘even better than their own example’. The finely penned label written by Fred Clark describes the coin and its history. Mark comments “Fred was meticulous with his recording.”

The coin reminds me that the Emperor Hadrian was a brilliant administrator and travelled the Empire visiting the Provinces and ensuring discipline in the Roman armies which he held in such high regard. Hadrian was also renowned for his love of architecture and building. The Pantheon which he rebuilt in Rome still stands.

Hadrian left his mark in Britain too. The Vallum Hadrian, known today as Hadrian’s Wall, was built around 122AD. It stretched from coast to coast and its ruins can still be seen today.

The British Empire looked to the Classical Antiquity for inspiration in its arts, architecture and objects.

A George IV crown dating from 1821
A George IV crown dating from 1821

This influence is apparent in the George IV crown dated 1821 which depicts the King as an Emperor from antiquity which is in fine condition.

With estimates ranging from the low hundreds into the thousands the collection is expected to realise tens of thousands of pounds. The Fred Clark coin collection will be auctioned at Toovey’s on Wednesday 1st November 2017 in the afternoon.

Coins connect us with the procession of human history in a remarkable way and delight in the quality of their aesthetic and manufacture. No wonder that they are a boom market.

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.

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.