A Spectacular "Crowned Lion" Spur-Ryal of King James

    James I (1603-25) gold Spur-Ryal ND, of 15 Shillings, S-2634, North-2109 (very rare), Schneider-79, 3rd Coinage of 1619-25, Tower mint London, Spur rowel mm (struck 1619-20), MS64 NGC, a superb coin, lustrous and exceptionally choice, struck on a nearly perfect, broad flan having a very light crease on the right side of the shield on obverse (struck in 23ct 3.5 gr gold, or .995 fine, almost pure gold), very close to being fully struck, the crowned lion fully detailed except for a single tiny tuft of fur on his chin, his right paw clutching the sceptre also being crisp in detail, as are his eyes and the crown upon his head; on reverse, only one lis and two of the tiny lions passant under their crowns are not fully detailed, the Tudor rose upon the spur rowel at the center of the royal cross is also bold, as are the encircling beaded crescents and the beaded inner circle. Most of the outer beaded rim shows on each side. The legends are fully detailed and complete on each side, and the 6-pointed spur-rowel initial mark on each side within the legend is also fully struck with the center being a sharply defined open circle. These are qualities of a truly bold strike, not seen on many specimens. Edges are normal. All in all, this is a fantastic example of this great Jacobean rarity, one of the most difficult hammered gold coins to find in any grade, let alone in this state of preservation. The cataloguer remembers reviewing the British hammered gold at the Ashmolean Museum, at Oxford University, which contained two of these pieces, one with a hole. That reveals its rarity. Ex Millennia (May 2008, Lot 300, at $65,000) and Jacob Y. Terner Collections. A similar coin, struck from the same dies, sold for $120,000 plus buyer's fees in October 2013.

    King James, the scholarly Scot whose lineage was among the most royal of all English monarchs, introduced a series of new denominations and attendant style changes, importantly including the Scottish arms in his royal shields, for the first time ever, as he was both James VI of Scotland and James I of the combined kingdoms. Frequently his coins display the national emblem of Scotland, the thistle, as an Initial Mark. Elizabeth had begun this transition to more denominations, recognizing the needs of commerce as the nation's wealth grew. For many years, the Angel, made of high-grade gold and carrying a "face value" of 6 Shillings and 8 Pence (the standard "professional fee") in the Middle Ages, was the coin made in largest quantities. At times the Angel was variously valued, as low as 8 Shillings for Henry VIII and as high as 10 Shillings in Elizabeth's reign, its value as this reign began. James I introduced a new coin, the Spur-Ryal, worth 15 Shillings, clearly stated on the coin as "X V" - seen on this coin split by the royal shield. Handily, it was worth one and a half Angels at the time of its first appearance. Marking the denomination on the coins themselves was a practice that commenced in this reign. Gold became more plentiful as an ore during this era - beginning with Elizabeth I and continuing forward - largely as a result of new trade. European trading abounded: gold coins minted from raw bullion mined in the New World and shipped to Spain, then reminted as that money moved across borders, eventually became English coins when traded to England. Another major source of new money in the form of gold was the growth of trade in the East - China, the Malay Peninsula, India and Ceylon - which exchanged silks, spices, gemstones and other native goods for English luxuries. Gold flowed into England as never before. When Queen Elizabeth, almost with her last breath, named her successor with these words - "I will that a king succeed me, and who but my kinsman the king of the Scots" - could she have imagined that the wealth of the nation which she inspired ever have taken form in such regal gold money as this fabulous Spur-Ryal with its sunburst reverse and its portrait of the king himself as a crowned lion?

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    Auction Dates
    January, 2014
    5th-6th Sunday-Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 4
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