February 21, 2019 – Let’s go back to the early days of the 18th century and to European countries at war over the Spanish succession. In this context, what is today the world’s most expensive British coin ever sold in a public auction was created. It is the 1703 Vigo Five Guineas piece that sold for $1,080,000 including premium (£845,000) in Baldwin’s of St. James’s New York Premier Sale on January 13, 2019.
The 1703 Vigo Five Guineas piece was struck shortly after Anne had assumed the British throne. Photo: BSJ Auctions.
The Battle of Vigo Bay on October 23, 1702 signified a decisive victory for the Anglo-Dutch allies. However, their hopes of finding a massive booty upon landing quickly abated. The Spanish ships that had previously returned from America laden with treasures from the New World, had been unloaded and carted away in time.
What was left was taken to the Royal Mint. Only a few pounds of gold were part of the loot. In the auction press release, Baldwin’s of St James’s point out: “It has long been believed that, from this small amount, all British gold coins given the boasting hallmark VIGO were minted: a mere handful of the large 5-guineas, it is said, as well as a small number of the two other denominations, guineas and half-guineas. The coins’ celebrity has only intensified through the centuries. Just as they were about to be minted, however, Queen Anne issued a royal warrant authorising their creation in which she poignantly stated that the VIGO hallmark would be applied to the coins so as to ‘Continue to Posterity the Remembrance of that Glorious Action’ at Vigo Bay. And, indeed, Anne’s Vigo coinage remains some of the most desirable of all British coins.”
As experts, Ian Goldbart and Christopher Webb were asked to verify this record on February 20, 2019.
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