Goldberg Coins and Collectibles

Sale 31

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Lot 2433

Great Britain. Silver Shilling, 1798. George III. S-3747, portrait style of the 1787 currency issue but with the distinctive date, which appears on no other English shilling. Plain edge. ESC-1243, as R5, 5 to 10 known. Engraved by John Milton (see the 1799 Fullerton halfcrown for more commentary on the engraver). Classic bifurcated letters in the legends, and a real study in 18th-century die-cutting in addition to being a major silver rarity. In fact, this is one of the most famous of all shillings, yet most cataloguers comment very briefly on it, as have a number of those who have penned histories of British coins. Josset says importantly that the price of silver rose steadily from 1792 to 1814 during the war with Napoleon, which explains in part why so little silver coinage appeared in these years from the Royal Mint. Many numismatists assume that the 1787-dated issue of sixpence and shillings continued for more than one year, explaining the ready supply of those coins even today. Craig provides the best insight into this little understood issue, as follows: after the Bank of England, under its authority, had countless Spanish 8 Real silver crowns counterstamped with the king's head in miniature, the price of silver fell temporarily to almost pre-war levels. It was not to last. In April of 1798, the mint began turning silver specie and old coins supplied by ten London banks into new shillings, but within a month it was discovered by the mint that there had never been an official order for such coins, from Parliament. The Privy Council ordered the mint to halt production of all silver coins. No one at the time seems to have understood if sufficient authority (during war) had or had not been granted for this coinage, so the mint melted almost all the shillings it coined in 1798. Silver bars and even scrap was also melted, turned into ingots. The ten banks were repaid the silver they had lent for the coinage. Barclay's and Hoare's Banks were the largest contributors. The smallest silver contributor was the firm of Dorrien & Magens, the name listed in the mint's records. Evidently the actual name of the company was Dorrien, Magens, Mello, Martin and Harrison. But confusion remains, thanks to the inexact records of the day, and it is said that a "Mr Dorrien Magens" was the firm's head, or so he signed at least one publication of the firm. Fabrications of names are not uncommon among corporate publications, even today, when used for publicity. Craig concludes that "the firm of Dorrien and Magens" which had given the mint the least amount of silver for the project, "made the loudest outcry" when the coins were melted without being released to the public. Soon the price of silver rose again, ending the experiment of 1798. "The shillings which the Mint privily salvaged and sold to collectors are consequently known as Dorrien shillings," Craig notes, giving us insight into how the few extant 1798 shillings escaped melting. Today, these are among the greatest rarities of the shilling series. The owner of this superb piece, after tracking this issue for years in auctions, believes that as few as 7 may exist in silver in private hands (also a few copper strikes). All were struck with a bit of softness in the design, and the dies were of low relief. This is one of the finest of the very few known, a Choice Uncirculated coin with handsome medium gray toning and slightly reflective fields. A few tiny design areas are not fully struck, as is typical of this classic rarity. NGC graded MS-63.
Estimated Value $15,000 - 17,500.
The Cheshire Collection.

Realized $27,600

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