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England, James II, 1687 Five Guineas, Elephant and Castle Very Rare, Single Finest Graded, Finest Known, ex. Slaney, ex. Dr Carter, ex. Lieut. Col. Carter, ex. Roth, ex. Montagu, ex. Brice NGC Mint State 63

- Both the finest graded and finest known example of the issue, as well as the SPINK plate coin for the type.

- Struck to a higher quality than all other examples featuring a unique level of detail and a specimen-like nature.

- Accompanied by a staggering provenance of the most illustrious collections, including Montagu and Slaney, with records dating to 1887

Condition
NGC Mint State 63. Extraordinary example, prooflike and lustrous with a standard of definition completely unseen on other examples. Very Rare. Finest graded. Finest known.
Obverse
Second laureate bust left, with flowing hair; elephant and castle below; IACOBVS · II · DEI · GRATIA [James II, by the grace of God].
Reverse
Crowned, cruciform shields; sceptres in angles, with French fleur-de-lis struck over Irish harp, and Irish harp struck over French fleur-de-lis; date above, bisected by crown; · MAG · BR · FRA · ET · HIB REX · [King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland].
Edge
• + • DECUS • ET • TUTAMEN • EST • ANNO • REGNI • TERTIO • + • [An ornament and a safeguard, in the third year of his reign].
Provenance
ex. SINCONA British Collection, SINCONA 75, lot 154, 16th May 2022.
ex. Slaney Collection, SPINK 3024, lot 70, 15th May 2003.
ex. A.H. Baldwin & Sons, 1951, purchased by Slaney.
ex. Dr E.C. Carter Collection, purchased en bloc by A.H. Baldwin & Sons, 1950.
ex. Lieut. Col. T.G. Carter Collection, purchased by SPINK, 1936.
ex. B.M.S Roth Collection, Sotheby, lot 349, 19th July 1917.
ex. H. Montagu Collection, Sotheby, third portion, lot 842, 13th November 1896.
ex. W. Brice of Clifton Collection, purchased en bloc by H. Montagu, 1887.
Our Price:
£245,000.00
Weight
41.71 g
Diameter
approx. 37 mm
Metal
gold
Fineness
22 carat (91.67%)
Fine weight
38.236 g (1.2291 oz t)
Production method
milled
Alignment
coin
Designer / engraver
John Roettier (1631-1700)
General References
Bull.312 [R]; Fr.293; KM.460.2; MCE.118 [VR]; S.3398 [this coin]
Collection References
British.II.154 [this coin]; King.119; Montagu.842 [this coin]; Murdoch.688; Schneider.452; Slaney.70 [this coin]; Stratos.188; Waterbird.-
Type
B/3 (Bull); 2/2 (MCE)
Certification number

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. This example is the SPINK catalogue coin and undisputedly the very best example of the issue. Time and time again, collectors who have wished to assemble the finest and most important of collections, such as Montagu in the 19th century, or Slaney in the 20th, have found themselves purchasing this exact coin - and for the first time in two decades this coin is courting suitors.

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.

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 ‘CAL.’ quarter eagles of 1848 proudly struck with California gold. 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. James II was a majority shareholder in the enterprise and, aware of the cruel, murderous, and dehumanising practises of the company, profited immensely from the booming trade of precious metals and enslaved lives. This coin was struck at the beginnings of centuries of devastation and exploitation to be left in the wake of Western progress. 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. To throw a sheet over the prevalent evils of human history would be to repeat these mistakes again and ignore the progress still to be made.

A coin’s beauty is in its condition. This coin’s striated surfaces exhibit a dazzling lustre, rich tone, and areas of strong mirroring. With only light handling and haymarks, this example is the highest graded by both NGC and PCGS by two full grades, with only two other examples having graded mint state (MS60 and 61, both NGC). But the most striking feature of this coin is how exceptionally well struck it is. The James II bust is a masterclass in fine workmanship and intricate detail executed by veteran engraver John Roettiers (1631-1703). The flowing, regnal locks are each carefully planned and painstakingly engraved. Only with a full and clean strike can the true beauty of Roettiers’ efforts be appreciated. The richness of strike is also seen, importantly, in the elephant and castle mark.

Tilting the coin slowly around in one’s grasp, centuries of beauty spring to life before the beholder’s eyes. A shimmering and full lustre dances over rich, ochre toning as the crisp and fully defined strike appears decades ahead of its time. No photo or video will ever capture the beauty of a lustrous coin in light, let alone a rarity such as this; and only with the coin before us can the presence of its history be felt. This coin was likely struck to grace a court favourite of the King and one can only imagine the noble, valiant, or murderous hands that may have held it.

The coin exhibits just one spot of weakness that is on the lowest tip of the bust. This weakness is ubiquitous and consistently more severe across the issue. Another common problem with the issue is adjustment marks that obscure the ‘16’ of the date. This coin’s date, however, is confidently full and quite the pleasing rarity. Taking this into consideration, as well as the fullness of strike and the mirroring of the fields, this coin is most likely one of the very earliest strikes. A fresh strike is further implied by the weakness of the lower truncation being so mild and the clarity in the bust’s hair being rendered in a definition completely unseen on other examples.

Any example of this issue, as such an impractically large denomination, may be considered in some ways a presentation piece having been struck to serve a purpose more symbolic than useful. It is quite possible however that this specific example was struck with a greater level of care, and perhaps even with greater intentions. There is a quality about this example that evokes a modern specimen strike. The edge beading is unusually clear and well placed. The locks of hair are unusually well defined. The golden blank on which it is struck is unusually broad. It is in an unusually fine state of preservation showing it has been treated with upmost care since its striking. The exact, unique nature of this piece cannot be described for certain, although it can be said that its beauty is unparalleled within the issue.

It is not uncommon for top dealers and auction houses to have only publicly handled one or two examples of this coin in any grade, or no examples at all. The institutions who have publicly handled an example of this calibre are just those listed in this coin’s provenance.

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.

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.

It is a common view that tangible assets, particularly rare and fine coins, perform well in times of economic adversity. However, the highest end of numismatics has consistently seen far superior growth that is vastly out of proportion to the rest of the market. The reason for this is simple: rarity, beauty, and historical importance as traits become exponentially rarer with each step forward in quality. As the most resourceful of collectors and investors jostle for the best of the best, the rest of the market watches on as the upper echelon of coinage drifts further and further ahead of the fleet. This coin has long been aboard those flagship vessels.

King James II (1633-1701)

James Stuart, crowned as James II in 1685, was not a popular king and his rule was marked by controversy. As a Catholic ruler in a predominately Protestant Britain, his goals of religious tolerance and later birth of a legitimate, Catholic heir led to his being deposed in the Glorious Revolution of 1688-89 when James’ daughter Mary, with husband (and first cousin) William of Orange, were expressly invited by members of Parliament to invade Britain and overthrow the crown. This invitation was warmly accepted and swiftly acted upon. William landed in Torbay in 1688 and marched to London practically unopposed. James II died in France in 1701 – exiled from the land he once ruled.

There were factors besides his religion that led to the unsuccessful nature of James’ reign; namely how aggressively he tried to enforce his desires, even in 1686 going so far as to assemble a private army at Hounslow Heath to intimidate nearby London’s parliament and population. James tried to cling to the past and suppress the shift of control from the crown to the people’s (or rather parliament’s) will. There were also fears that James II’s ambitions were beginning to resemble those of his cousin, The Sun King, Louis XIV of France, too closely and that he wished to impose a longevous, Catholic and monarchic absolutism seen at that time in France upon Britain.

On the other hand, James II could be regarded as a figure of religious tolerance against a Britain that was hugely discriminatory of religious diversity. There was a strong Protestant population and preference in the country that was enforced by attempted and often successful parliamentary acts of religious intolerance. However, James II did try and enforce his own Papist desires in a manner as authoritarian as his Protestant antagonists. It is quite possible that he wished to do much the same as those who had come before him but in the name of Catholicism instead of Protestantism.

James II lived most of his life as the Duke of York: a care-free, younger Royal unburdened by serious, public responsibility and unlikely to see the throne. His contemporaries in this regard include Henry VIII (of the many wives) and Prince Andrew (of the legally redacted). The psychology of someone who has grown up with blood of an imagined divinity, resources of an actual abundance, and consequences of an intangible nature is much as you would expect and, as such, the Duke of York’s biography paints a picture of a man more concerned with personal avarice than national interest or moral integrity. This is shown especially in his consistent disregard for human life. There is no greater example of this disregard than James’s involvement as majority shareholder in the evil Royal African Company, which transported more slaves than any other entity during the entirety of the Atlantic slave trade. Between 1672 and 1731 the RAC transported more than 187,000 enslaved Africans across 653 voyages.

He may have been a self-interested and ill-suited monarch, but James II’s reign had a tremendous impact on the political progress of Britain. So awfully viewed was James Stuart that upon his forced replacement, the 1689 Bill of Rights was presented to and approved by William and Mary. This landmark Act established a frequent parliament, furthered the cause of freedom of elections and speech, outlawed taxes without parliamentary approval, laid the foundations of the right to political protest and clarified the royal line of succession. The misdeeds of James are described at length in the bill, and it could be said that the example set by his tumultuous rule provided an easy rubric for how not to govern. It becomes easier to limit the powers of tyranny when, for four years, the mechanisms of tyranny have been so well demonstrated.

The Brice Collection

The oldest provenance of the coin is to a collector by the name of William Brice who hailed from Clifton: a riverside area of Bristol. It is no surprise this coin’s recorded history begins in Bristol, which was at the time of the coin’s striking a thronging, maritime hub and instrumental port for the Royal African Company. Brice can be seen mentioned in the numismatic chronicles of the 1880s, often acknowledging the exquisite nature of his collection. Who knows how long the coin resided in Bristol? It is quite possible the piece was a gift from King James II to a Bristol trader involved with the RAC. Although entirely likely, it cannot be said for certain.

The Montagu Collection

Hyman Montagu (1844-95), born Hyman Moses, was a successful lawyer specialising in bankruptcy, with a deep and academic interest in numismatics that began in his early thirties. He purchased entire collections - such as the Brice collection in 1887 (containing this coin) and the Addington collection in 1883 - with the same capitalistic efficiency of great US collectors like Eliasberg Sr., or J.P. Morgan, who circa 1904 purchased the famed Brock collection of outstanding US proofs. In 1893, Montagu purchased the entire stock of retiring, Parisian dealer, M. Hoffman. Between 1895-97 the immense Montagu collection was sold at Sotheby in London to resounding success. So revered is this sensational collection that a contemporary, Sotheby publication of the sale sold at auction in 2020 for £1,900.

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.

A.H. Baldwin & Sons

A.H Baldwin & Sons - now known as Baldwin’s - is a London coin house founded in 1872 by Albert Henry Baldwin, later joined by his three sons: Percy, Roy and Fred (accomplished cataloguer of the famed King Farouk Collection). Other than as an enduring sign of quality, the dealership is known for its Black Museum: a reference collection containing over 20,000 fake or doctored coins that the business has encountered over the decades; and its legendary Vault Stock of coins that have been put away for their rarity and interest, deemed too special to not hold on to. This coin never graced the vault and was sold to Slaney in 1951 for £125. It is worth noting, however, that an inferior example of the issue - once graded PCGS Details (Damage) - was a part of that famed vault stock.

The Slaney Collection

The Slaney collection was formed between 1940 and 1960. For decades collectors had wondered where the cream of the numismatic crop liquidated in the 40s and 50s had disappeared to only to find it all in the Slaney collection. The first half sold in 2003, and the second half twelve years later in 2015. The collection sold for over £4 million; broke numerous records; was considered a milestone in British coinage; and ushered in a new era of serious growth in the market.

This coin was included in the 2003 portion of the sale and outperformed over 98.9% of the other lots. When the second part of the collection was sold in 2015 the market had moved on a staggering amount from 2003, but even including this second half’s prices (NOT adjusted for inflation or market movement) the coin outperformed 96% of the collection. This puts into perspective the numismatic interest and the historical importance of the coin.

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 many of the coins in the sale were sold without their provenances, much of which were of the highest prestige. Independent research on our part has been successful in reuniting some of these significant pieces with their history.

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£55.00

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Singapore

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£55.00

China

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£55.00

Rest of World

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TCC marketplace allows you to sell your coins at fixed prices. Items listed on the marketplace will also be listed on

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The seller fees are the same as when selling in our auctions: 10% +VAT for raw (ungraded) coins, and 9% +VAT for coins graded by NGC or PCGS. If more than £50,000 worth or coins are consigned within 1 year, we give a 1% discount.

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