Paramount Collection: The Auction of Records
Heritage’s 25th-27th March 2021 auction will go down in numismatic history as the most valuable World & Ancient coins auctions held anywhere in the world, said Cristiano Bierrenbach, Executive Vice President of International Numismatics. The quality and rarity of World and Ancient coins drew intense bidder interest. The sale set world auction records for the most valuable coins across 12 different countries or issues. “It was a triumph,” Bierrenbach said. “Everybody who watched the sale was simply blown away by the prices realized. More than 2,000 participants watched record after record fall for coins from several countries.”
A total of 132 lots sold for more than six figures each, with rarities from Austria to Italy to Australia captivating collectors. A grouping of 100 German States coins realized a combined $6,618,000 and coins from Austria added $4,344,840 to the total. The 67 Ancient coins in the collection realized $2,341,560, far exceeding expectations and hitting an average sale price of $34,949 per lot.
Top Lot: Edward VIII Gold Proof Pattern 5 Pounds 1937
Taking top lot honors was a 1937 Edward VIII 5 Pounds Pattern coin, graded PR67 Ultra Cameo NGC, and one of only a small number of commemorative British gold coins produced for the would-be coronation of Edward VIII, which set a world record as the most expensive British coin ever sold at public auction when it ended at $2,280,000. It led total sales of nearly $9 million worth of British coins sold, one of the largest auctions of British coins ever by dollar amount.
Both rarity and condition contributed to its record setting auction price, according to Cristiano Bierrenbach, Executive Vice President of International Numismatics at Heritage Auctions.
“The gold Edward VIII 5 Pound is one of the greatest prizes in British numismatics,” Bierrenbach said. “Uncompromising in terms of its beauty and quality, this coin is one of less than a half dozen believed to be in private hands.”
The previous record for the most expensive British coin sold at auction was for a William IV proof 5 Pounds from 1831, which sold in Monaco in October 2020 for a hammer price of 820,000 euros.
Despite extensive plans that were made for the production of coronation sets for distribution to collectors and important persons, Edward VIII’s coinage was ultimately cut short by his decision to abdicate the throne to marry Wallis Simpson, a commoner and yet the woman he loved, after just 10-1/2 months of rule.
Reports from 1935 to 1936 show that more than 200 dies for coins, medals and seals were prepared and then ultimately destroyed after Edward’s fateful decision. Edward was no stranger to taking steps that flew in the face of what was conceived at the time as “conventional.” His style of dress and mannerisms were considered “simple” and “frank,” much to the delight of the common people and in opposition to what could have been called kingly or royal.
“The coinage that was struck was confined to a series of special-purpose coins intended for collectors and dignitaries and the like, rather than issues for general use,” Bierrenbach said. “To the best of our knowledge, not a single example of the Edward VIII 5 Pounds has come to auction in at least the past 20 years, if not longer.”
A surviving letter exchanged between the Duke of Windsor and his brother, George VI, reveals that even Edward himself was denied his request to obtain a surviving coronation set for himself.
“It’s fitting to state that this is the coin that even a ‘king’ couldn’t have,” Bierrenbach said.
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The Sale Recorded Winning Bidders from 28 Countries
Every coin offered from the collection was graded by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) and presented with a pedigree label. “I have no doubt bidders approached the collection with the utmost confidence because the entire collection was expertly graded and managed by NGC,” Bierrenbach said. Coins from Great Britain, rarely offered at auction (or seen for a generation or more) swept the sale’s top lots, including a 1662 Charles II gold Proof Pattern Crown, PR63 Cameo NGC, which sold for $780,000. A 1773 George III gold Proof Pattern 5 Guineas, PR64 Cameo NGC, ended at $750,000. A stunning 1731 George II gold Proof 5 Guineas, PR64+ Cameo NGC, also realized $660,000 and 21 bids pushed the auction price of a 1820 George III gold Proof Pattern 5 Pounds, PR63+★ Ultra Cameo NGC, to $504,000.
A World of Nations
An Australian 1887-S Victoria gold Proof 5 Pounds, PR64 Cameo NGC, one of two in private hands, sold for $660,000, garnering mainstream media headlines across the continent. An extraordinary 1640-A Louis XIII gold Early Restrike 10 Louis d’Or, MS61 NGC, a rare royal gambling piece and the largest denomination struck in France, sold for $456,000.
An exceptionally rare 1655 Austrian Ferdinand III gold 20 Ducat, AU55 NGC, garnered 27 bids before it ended at $432,000. From Bohemia, a circa 1612-1619 Matthias II gold “Three Emperors” 5 Ducat ND, MS63 NGC, realized $408,000. A unique 1623 German States, Memmingen. Free City gold Medallic 10 Ducat, MS62+ NGC, sold for $384,000. An Italian, Guastalla. Ferrante II Gonzaga gold 10 Doppie from 1610, MS61 NGC, ended at $384,000 after 23 bids.
“Managing the cataloging, marketing, and sale of this collection was never a chore,” said Sam Spiegel, Director of International Numismatics. “Just to handle these special, historic pieces and bring them to auction will certainly be a highlight of my career.” The thoughtfully-prepared catalog for “The Paramount Collection” was designed to not only highlight the breadth, quality and rarity in advance of the auction, it was also created to stand on its own as an important reference book to one of the most important collections ever offered at auction, said catalog editor Roxana Uskali, Heritage’s Director of World & Ancient Coins, Chicago. “Editing the Paramount Catalog was an honor for me,” Uskali said. “From ensuring that our descriptions were clear and concise, to working on the cover design and layout, this project was a significant challenge that was incredibly rewarding.”
An archive of prices realized and high-resolution images of each lot from “The Paramount Collection Signature Auction” will remain available free of charge on Heritage Auctions’ website.