672-year-old coin earns highest price ever for English piece

Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) recently announced it certified a 1344 Edward III “Double Leopard” coin that sold privately for the highest price ever paid—$850,000 USD—for an English coin.

The Double Leopard—named for the two leopards featured on the reverse—was struck in 1344 as England’s first large-sized gold coin. Until that time English coinage was exclusively silver save for a small number of tiny gold pennies struck in 1257. Gold coins needed for domestic and international trade had to come from other European countries such as France and Italy.

In Mint State (MS)-62 condition, the NGC-graded piece is the only example of this gold coin in private hands.

Edward III decided England needed its own gold coins, and in 1344, it issued three, including denominations of double florin (double leopard), florin (leopard) and half-florin (half leopard). The double leopard weighed 108 grains (or just under one-quarter of an ounce) to mimic the French florin then in common use. It was assigned a value of six shillings.

The gold leopard coinage was extremely short-lived. Struck between January and July of 1344, they were quickly abandoned in favour of the gold noble, which was a bit larger than the double leopard with a weight of 138.46 grains and a value of 6 shillings, 8 pence. The gold noble gained popularity and on Aug. 20, 1344, the gold leopards were officially demonetized.

Few gold leopards were struck and it’s likely that many were melted—in fact, the double leopard was thought to have been lost to time until schoolchildren found two examples in the Tyne River in 1857.

Both pieces later became part of the British Museum, where they currently reside.

A third example—the piece recently graded by NGC—was discovered by a metal detectorist in southern England nearly 150 years later in 2006. It sold at auction later that year for $850,000 USD, the highest price ever paid for a British coin at the time.

Ira Goldberg, co-owner of Ira & Larry Goldberg Auctioneers, was the under bidder at that auction, dropping out when the coin reached that hefty price. A decade later, however, Goldberg was again presented with the opportunity to acquire this phenomenal rarity.

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The 672-year-old gold coin is ‘the most valuable English coin of all time.’

He seized the moment and purchased the coin for a client who is building a “fantastic collection of important coins from England and other countries.” The purchase price was not disclosed but Goldberg claims “it easily establishes this coin as the most valuable English coin of all time.”

The NGC MS-62 Double Leopard is now part of the Tyrants Collection, a fantastic assemblage of English and other world rarities.

“Before I turned over the coin to my client, I wanted to have it certified by a third-party grading service for better long-term protection,” said Goldberg. “I showed the coin to Mark Salzberg, chairman of NGC and one of its senior graders, and his incredible excitement upon studying the coin convinced me that NGC was the right choice to grade it. My client and I are very pleased with the results.”

Salzberg added: “I was simply stunned when I saw this coin. Its beauty, rarity and historical significance are truly outstanding and I am honoured that Ira selected NGC to grade it.”

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