Great Britain: William III gold 5 Guineas 1701,...
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William, Prince of Orange, touched English soil on November 5, 1689, as the Catholic king James II (a convert from Protestantism) fled to France. James' new religious alliance with the church at Rome was cause for national unrest, and potential civil war. Instead what occurred was the Glorious Revolution, a bloodless affair. On January 28, 1690, Parliament declared to all that the throne had been vacated. What followed was a formal Declaration of Rights giving legal supremacy to Parliament, and acceptance of the terms of accession by the prince. On the death of Queen Mary at the very end of December 1694, William ruled alone for the first time. His silver coinage and small gold commenced in 1695, but the first large gold pieces were minted in 1699. The first 5 Guineas varied greatly on the reverse from the coins issued by him with Mary, essentially reverting to the cruciform style seen on the gold of Charles II. The king's portrait was shallowly engraved. And then Isaac Newton came to the mint in 1696. His scientific mind brought discipline to the book keeping and he attended to the coinage designs as few had before him. At the end of December 1699, Newton succeeded to the post of "master worker" or coining chief at the Royal Mint. Newton had no use for the ageing mint engravers, the Roettiers. He favored a young assistant named James Bull, and then the German engraver of great talent John Croker. At first set to simply re-engraving dies made by Roettiers, in 1698-99 he produced the famous "Flaming Hair" shillings. The king's portrait seen on those shillings bears an uncanny resemblance to the so-called "Fine Work" busts used on the 5 Guineas and 2 Guineas of 1701. The mint's own records are vague. James Bull may have contributed some effort to the creation of this portrait but the master engraver seems to have been Croker. Similar flourishes of engraving ingenuity are to be found on any number of medals of the period known to have been made by Croker, most of them signed by him. Newton's first indenture, or commission to produce coin, occurred on December 23, 1700. He had taken a particular interest in the fineness of English gold as compared to the French and Spanish gold commonly seen in commerce in England. No record exists specifying that Newton directed Croker to produce the dies used to mint this 5-Guinea coin, of superlative design and gold quality, but the dates of involvement at the mint by both men strongly suggest how this fabulous coin came to be.
From the collection of Donald E. Bently, sold for the benefit of the Bently Foundation
Service and Handling Description: Coins & Currency (view shipping information)