Auction review: Collection of former Archbishop of York brings £700,000

Prices include buyer’s premium

A collection of rare British coins that formerly belonged to Dr. John Sharp—an Archbishop of York more than 300 years ago—more than doubled its pre-sale estimate at an auction hosted by London’s Morton and Eden last month.

Altogether, the 300-lot sale brought £700,890 (about $1.18 million Cdn.) and included a range of British, Scottish and Irish coins—different from many of the collections assembled during that era, when budding numismatists were mainly focused on ancient Greek and Roman examples.

Sharp (1644-1714), who was Archbishop of York from 1691 until his death, was an enthusiastic collector and student of coins and medals, according to auctioneers.

“His interest seems to have begun around 1687 when, as Rector of St Giles in the Fields, he ‘found it a good divertisement in the evening.’ In contrast to nearly all his numismatic forbears and contemporaries who were interested in Ancient Greece and Rome, Sharp selected the coinages of the British Isles and, to a lesser extent, the Colonies and Continental Europe, as his chosen fields. He wrote his Observations on the Coinage of England with a letter to Mr [Ralph] Thoresby in 1698-99, which was to circulate amongst numismatists in manuscript form for nearly a century before being finally printed in 1785.”

A 12th-century silver penny realized £28,800 at the 300-late sale. (Photo by Morton and Eden)


A Henry VIII gold sovereign sold for £37,200 (about $63,100 Cdn.) during the auction.

The sale also included a 12th-century silver penny depicting a knight wearing armour as well as a helmet and holding a raised sword. It sold for £28,800 (nearly $49,000 Cdn.).

For more information about the sale, visit

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