Bentley Sets The New Gold Standard For Sovereigns
There was an air of sadness in the room as the final part of the Bentley Collection went under the hammer. The end of an eighteen month journey of auctions, and thirty four years of collecting, did
George III Trial Gold Flan for a Sovereign, 1816, 22 Carat uniface piece of gold inscribed in italic script on obverse in four lines, Stand. Sovereign Wt. by Act of Part. 1816, plain reverse and edge with bevelled rims, 7.99g, 19.6mm, thickness 1mm (unpublished in standard reference works). Quite heavily hairlined, otherwise as made and engraved, unique.
ex “125 Years of Baldwin’s 1872-1997”, Baldwin’s Auction 15, 13 October 1997, lot 42, sold for £4000
ex An Important Collection of Gold Sovereigns 1816-2000, offered as one lot, Sothebys, November 2000, lot 525 (part)
After the Battle of Waterloo a reform of the coinage was required and the Government at first thought to reintroduce the Guinea and its fractions. However, the general feeling of the public was that they had become used to banknotes in round figures of a Pound and Two Pounds, rather than the more inconvenient calculations required with multiples of gold Guinea coins. Though the Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool, desired a return to the Guinea personally (he was briefly Master of the Mint 1799-1801), he was more practically minded and gave no resistance to the concession progressing through Act of Parliament, on the recommendation of the then Master of the Mint William Wellesley Pole. The Privy Council Committee duly recommended coinage of Ten Shilling, Twenty Shilling, Forty Shilling and Five Pound Pieces which was approved by the Prince Regent, 3 August 1816.
For further reading see Royal Sovereign 1489-1989, edited by G P Dyer, specifically Chapter 3 The Modern Sovereign.
This intriguing piece is of the utmost historical significance. No doubt it would have been produced for the earliest stage of the process of the introduction of the new Sovereign denomination, once it had been passed by Act of Parliament, 22 June 1816. It is easy to imagine such a piece being passed around a meeting of council members for the committee on coin and such a piece helping visualise the new dimensions for the new Sovereign that came to fruition as currency 1 July 1817.
Such trial pieces do not usually survive or even leave such meetings, the first time this piece ever appeared in public for sale was at the Baldwin’s 125 Years celebrations auction in 1997 and remains unpublished in standard works on the subject of the Sovereign. It has only appeared once since, in the Sotheby sale in 2000 for the Important Collection of Sovereigns which was offered by sale as a single lot, but remained unsold. The Bentley collector was later introduced to this gentleman and a great many Sovereigns changed hands privately including this piece which is now offered for sale for only the third time in 15 years
Lot 934 George III, Pattern Sovereign, 1816, engraved by Thomas Wyon Jnr after Pistrucci’s model, laureate head right, with ties at back, four leaves at top of laurel wreath that consists of 13 leaves, toothed border both sides, legend GEORGIUS III DEI GRATIA, no punctuation, rev inverted die axis, crowned