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England, James I, First Coinage, First Sovereign (1603-04) - NGC MS62 Very Rare, Single Finest Graded, Finest Known, ex. Slaney, ex. Dr Carter

- Both the finest graded by both major grading companies, and finest known first type sovereign of James I, as well as being the SPINK plate coin for the issue.

- The only example in existence featuring fully struck armour details.

- Featured in three extremely prestigious collections with a provenance of over 70 years.

Condition
NGC Mint State 62. An extraordinary example with full lustre, details unusually well struck and an extremely pleasing tone. Very rare. Finest graded by both major grading companies. Finest known.
Obverse
Half-length, armour-clad figure right, holding orb and sceptre, within beaded circle; thistle mint mark above right; · IACOBVS · D: G: ANG: SCO: FRAN: ET · HIB: REX · [James, by the grace of God, King of England, Scotland and Ireland]
Reverse
Crowned, quartered shield of arms, with I [IACOBVS] left and R [REX] right; thistle mint mark above right; · EXVRGAT · DEV · DEVS · DISSIPENTR · INIMICI · [May God rise up and disperse his enemies]
Edge
Plain (hammered)
Provenance
ex. SINCONA British Collection, SINCONA 75, lot 79, 16th May 2022.
ex. Slaney Collection, SPINK 3024, lot 9, 15th May 2003.
ex. Dr E.C. Carter Collection, Baldwin & Sons, purchased en bloc, 1950.
Our Price:
£114,250.00
Weight
11.11 g
Diameter
approx. 37 mm
Metal
gold
Fineness
22 carat (91.67%)
Fine weight
10.185 g (0.3274 oz t)
Production method
hammered
General References
Fr.226; KM.20; North.2065 [R]; S.2608 [this coin]
Collection References
British.II.79 [this coin]; Broughton.445; King.55; Schneider.II.1 [these dies]; Slaney.9 [this coin]; Stratos.-; Waterbird.-
Certification number

This example is both the finest graded and finest known first type sovereign of James I. No James I sovereign of any type is graded higher. This coin has graced prestigious collections with records dating to 1950 and exists as the best example of this issue both in grade and fullness of strike.

The first thing that stands out from this coin is the neatness of it. The detail featured on the bust and coat of arms is superb. On nearly all examples the design appears to be emerging out of the coin, whereas here the details seem carefully placed upon the coin - existing proudly in full form and presence. Examining the obverse of the coin, the impeccably fine style becomes further apparent in the trim of the king’s armour. So accomplished and minute is this embellishment that magnification is needed to fully appreciate the exquisite design. This is a masterful accomplishment of both art and manufacturing. On no other example are these intricacies so well struck and preserved. Moving from the specific to the whole, the coin is alive with a lustre so rare on these hammered issues; especially so on the reverse, which brims with a swimming, satiny lustre. An extremely pleasing tone, formed over centuries, blooms inwards form the periphery of the coin creating a fitting vignette for such a stunning design.

The gold sovereign was first introduced by Henry VII in 1489 and stood at that time as the largest and most magnificent coin ever issued in England. The denomination is an awe-inspiring sight not just as a result of its impressive size but also the intricate, Renaissance-style design that the coins feature. The successful intention of this new denomination was to publicise the immense influence and wealth of King Henry VII. Subsequent rulers, such as Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, found enthusiastic use for this potent propaganda and the gold sovereign became emblematic of the riches and styles of the Tudor period.

With the death of Elizabeth I in 1603, James VI of Scotland inherited the throne of England to become King James I of a Britain thusly created through personal union. The coin currently offered is the first sovereign of this new era and features a tastefully simplistic redesign. It would appear on first glance that the sophistication and ornate craftsmanship of the earlier sovereigns was lost on these new sovereigns, but this is not true. Instead, the fine style is concentrated in the breath-taking embellishment of the King’s armour; and against the sovereign’s new, more modest background the skill of the engraving can be better appreciated. Unfortunately, this intricacy of design may have been ahead of its time as contemporary striking techniques often failed to fully capture the embellishments. This example is the sole example where the armour’s exquisite decoration is uninterrupted by weakness of strike and the original design stands in full glory.

James VI and I (1566-1625)

James VI and I was a man who had worn a crown his whole life. Before his first birthday, his father was murdered and his mother, Mary, Queen of Scots, married and then fled with his father’s likely murderer. When the dust settled, a now-one-year-old James became James VI, King of Scotland. Naturally, several regents took the reins in a practical sense and older male ‘guidance’ would be a common theme throughout the King’s life. From the age of 13, James had a very public affair with his then 37-year-old cousin, Esme Stewart (c.1542-83), which was three years of gifts and adulation being thrown upon Esme, then ending with his denouncement and banishment. The public openness of James’ bisexuality continued throughout his life with nearly all relationships taking a similar path. In 1603, Elizabeth I died and James VI succeeded to become James I of England, France and Ireland. The London gentry joked that Elizabeth rex was being replaced by James regina.

As Shakespeare penned Othello, James inherited an England with bubbling religious tensions. In 1605, a group of Catholic plotters led by Guy Fawkes (1570-1606) placed two and a half tons of gunpowder under Parliament with the goal of the State Opening beginning with both a bang and the death of the King. The plot was foiled, and the group executed. To this day, Guy Fawkes night is celebrated in the UK every November 5th with fireworks and the burning of effigies. More seriously, this perceived act of terrorism greatly hurt the public opinion of Roman Catholics at the time and fuelled the fires of intolerance and resentment.

Interestingly, James I hated tobacco, publishing his “Counterblaste to Tobacco” pamphlet anonymously in 1604. The leaflet lamented the woes of tobacco smoke’s disgusting nature: “…the black stinking fume thereof nearest resembling the horrible stygian smoke of the pit that is bottomless…”. Unsurprisingly, no notice was taken of the authorless pamphlet. The King then banned tobacco production in his kingdom and placed a tax of 4100% on its import. Clearly, James was not good at being popular. He believed in absolutism, the divine right of Kings and sovereign power. This was contradictory to an England ruled by Common Law. In an environment of terrible inflation, with the growth of towns, Protestantism, Parliament, and diminishing respect for traditional authority James’ rule ended with the country at ends with itself and on track for civil war.

The Dr Carter Collection

This specific coin was a part of the Dr Carter Collection purchased by Baldwin & Sons in 1950. Dr Carter is a provenance that is seen often when dealing with the highest end of British numismatics.

The Slaney Collection

This coin was a member of the prestigious Slaney Collection – one of the most revered collections of British coinage ever assembled. For decades collectors had wondered where the cream of the numismatic crop liquidated in the 40s and 50s had disappeared to, only to find most of it in the Slaney Collection, which was sold by SPINK in two sales in May 2003 and May 2015. The collection sold for over £4 million; broke numerous sale records; is considered a milestone in British coinage; and ushered in a new era of serious growth in the market.

The British Collection

This coin graced the illustrious British Collection, sold by the Swiss auction house SINCONA in two parts. The collection is one of the most complete and important collections of British coinage ever to exist. Assembled over 50 years of collecting with pieces spanning nearly six centuries and all of astounding quality, the collection sold for $5.8 million and stands as a momentous event in British numismatics, likely not to be bested for years to come.

It is worth noting however that most of the coins in the sale were sold without their provenances, much of which were of the highest prestige. Independent research has been successful in reuniting some of these significant pieces with their history.

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Ukraine

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Rest of the world

Orders to rest of the world are shipped via Royal Mail up to an order value of £2,500, via DHL on order values over £2,500. Insurance cover at 0.5% of order total will be added. Prices are excluding VAT.

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US

£15.00

£50.00

Canada

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£50.00

Australia

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£55.00

Japan

£15.00

£55.00

Singapore

£15.00

£55.00

China

£15.00

£55.00

Rest of World

£20.00

£55.00

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