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    The Heaviest Hammered Gold Issue of the British Isles

    James VI (I) gold 20 Pounds 1575 XF40 NGC, Edinburgh mint, Second coinage, S-5451, Fr-37, cf. Burns-pg. 385, 1 (for 1576 date; Fig. 947), SCBI XXXV-1139-40. 30.44gm. IACOBVS • 6 • DEI • GRA • REX • SCOTOR, crowned and armored half-length bust right, olive branch in left hand, sword over shoulder in right; in tablet below, two line legend reading IN • VTRVNQVE • | • PARATVS • / PARCERE SVBIECTIS • & DEBELLARE SVPERBOS, crowned coat-of-arms. An important and impressive specimen, being the first (and rarer) date of a two-year issue, this 20 pounds type has the distinction of existing as the heaviest gold emission from the British Isles as well as being an incredibly difficult piece to encounter. The 1576 date has only about seven examples known to be held privately, while this year is even more elusive, with just two examples having crossed the auction block over the past 15 years--the date altogether missing from the Dundee Collection. The more recent of these two specimens to sell, one of comparable quality and displaying a small graffiti 'X' in the field on the reverse (the present example also has a small 'X' within the obverse cartouche), realized a hammer of £130,000 (nearly $205,000) in early 2013, marking it as the highest value Scottish coin sold at the time.

    A wondrous design, the reverse displays a crowned coat-of-arms occupying an amount of flan generally reserved for only the largest of silver crowns of the era, while the obverse features the youthful King of Scots (at the tender age of just nine) in full armor, holding in one hand an olive branch (emblematic of peace) and in the other a sword (emblematic of war). The legend in the cartouche below mirrors the imagery, translating as 'prepared for either,' a message of both temperance and assertiveness mirrored by the reverse citation from the Aeneid, which translates as "To Spare the Humbled and Subdue the Proud", a statement emblematic of the Humanistic learning that prospered at James' court. Though a bold statement, in reality the boy-king was fragile and vulnerable given his youth and inexperience. Even the bust, though clad in armor, can be seen as more defensive and protective rather than offensive and imposing, given his rather frail, thin frame. Nevertheless, his reign lived on, and he oversaw his realm into adulthood, whereupon he became Elizabeth I's heir and eventual successor to the British throne. Later portraits and types convey a much more stern profile or strengthened iconography, making this large, early piece an excellent and rare glimpse into a time when his imperium over the Scots was legitimately in question.

    Given the immense rarity, charm, and history which this impressive piece has to offer, we believe that it is sure to elicit intense focus and study, as well as exuberant participation and bidding. An elite piece of numismatic lore.
    Ex. Douglas Collection (Spink Auction 119, March 1997, Lot 291)
    From the Penn Collection

    View all of [The Penn Collection ]

    View Certification Details from NGC

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2021
    21st-22nd Thursday-Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 16
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,936

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