It’s been dubbed one of the loveliest coins ever minted and, almost two centuries after it was struck, it’s making headlines again. A rare gold five pound coin, featuring an idealised image of Queen Victoria in the early years of her reign, has sold for a six-figure sum at a private auction.
The coin, minted in 1839, went for £204,000 when it was put under the hammer by US firm, Heritage, earlier this month. The auction house was acting for an unnamed seller, and while initial estimates had set its value at around £160,000, a bidding war saw the price escalate rapidly.
The gold five pounds is one of the most famous creations of master craftsman, William Wyon, who was chief engraver at the Royal Mint in the early years of Victoria’s reign. His design imagines her as Una who takes a prominent role in the first book of the epic 16th-century poem, ‘The Faerie Queene’ written by Edmund Spenser in honour of Elizabeth I and published in volume form from 1590 onwards. Victoria is seen leading a lion in the design, the first time a British monarch had ever been portrayed as a fictional character on a coin.
Victoria had been on the throne for just two years when the coin was created, and it was designed to help cement her image as a young and vibrant ruler. William Wyon was also responsible for the engraving of the Queen used on the first coins to bear her image while another portrait of her would end up used in the design of the Penny Black stamp.
Earlier this year, the Royal Mint revealed it would be issuing a special five pounds coin to mark the 200th anniversary of Victoria’s birth. The second longest reigning monarch in British history was born on May 19th 1819 and several special exhibitions at royal residences, including her childhood home of Kensington Palace, have already been announced to mark the anniversary.