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    Exceptional Pattern Three Graces Crown From Wyon's Estate

    George III white metal Proof Pattern Piefort "Three Graces" Crown 1817 PR63 NGC, cf. ESC-2023 (R5). By William Wyon. Perhaps the most popular British Crown design ever produced, and indeed one of the great masterpieces of world numismatics - Wyon's 'Three Graces' pattern. This offering, an initial trial from the engraver's personal collection, has been absent from auction record for two decades and represents a sublime combination of engraving talent, provenance, undeniable beauty, and numismatic intrigue.

    In 1717, Britain established a de facto gold standard resulting from the fixing of the Guinea's value at 21 Shillings. This act led to a severe overvaluation of gold relative to silver, and caused drastic changes to coinage production. Silver was sent abroad to be used for payments, whilst gold was used domestically to pay for export goods, meaning that, by the early 19th century, production of silver coinage had effectively halted whilst gold had been divided up into Guineas, Half Guineas, Third Guineas and Quarter Guineas. These minor gold denominations bore somewhat simplistic designs engraved by Pingo, gold coinage being now so commonplace that it ceased to act as a medium for medallists to exhibit their finest work. The imbalance of metals continued until the Great Recoinage of 1816, at which point the weight of silver coinage was reduced to below face value--thus rendering it a 'token coinage', and effectively halting its widescale export.

    Such stability fostered a complete overhaul of coinage design, and in 1816 Halfcrowns, Shillings and Sixpences were created using the designs of the Italian engraver Benedetto Pistrucci. However, as is usual for such a transition, other engravers also took the opportunity to prove their skill, including Wyon; and prove his skill he did, via the present offering. The Three Graces Crown simply has no equal. Its neoclassical beauty, its energy, sensitivity, realism, all embody a talent hitherto absent from British numismatics. Drawing on Pistrucci's portrait of George, Wyon has softened the King's bullish features and imbued a delicate curvature to his cheek, humanizing the bull-like visage seen on the 1816 coinage. It is the reverse, though, which has given the Crown its name, and with good cause. England, Ireland and Scotland stand anthropomorphized as the Three Graces of Greek mythology; wrapped in a circular embrace, these three Goddesses certainly represent a United Kingdom. This impression is bolstered by the two words forming the simple legend: FOEDUS INVIOLABILE, or 'An Unbreakable Treaty'.

    Struck in white metal on a double-thick planchet, this piece is far rarer than its silver counterparts of which 50 were struck giving them a rating of R2 in ESC; 'R5' implies just 6-10 examples known. However, as a piefort, this piece is effectively unlisted in ESC with no other pieces having appeared at auction, and as such may well be unique. Evidently a source of enough pride to its creator to have been retained for his personal collection, its fabric clearly shows its special Proof status, fields lightly reflective with a sparkling silver luster, its bold devices silhouetted through a more matte gunmetal gleam. Struck to an impeccably high standard, every detail is razor-sharp with only minor surface marks limiting the certified grade; indeed, it would appear that this piece has been conservatively assessed, lovingly produced and subsequently cared for by Wyon himself. The last example of this celebrated type we handled was a PR64-graded regular strike in silver; this realized $204,000 in our January sale, indicative of demand for this Pattern dramatically outstripping supply. Accordingly, we can only anticipate the fervour that this choice and extremely rare Piefort pattern is sure to generate when it crosses the auction block.

    Ex. Herman Selig Collection (March 1999); William Wyon Collection




    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2019
    15th Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 6
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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