Goldberg Coins and Collectibles

Sale 46

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Lot 447

Great Britain. Proof "Una & the Lion" Gold Five Pounds, 1839. S-3851; Fr-386; KM-742. By William Wyon. Victoria, 1837-1901. Young bust of Victoria left, her hair bound with Greek-style ribbons. Reverse: The Queen, dressed as Una, holding scepter and globus cruciger, leads lion left. Egg-and -dart "dentils" on both sides. This gorgeous specimen is remarkably free from scuffs, has only faint, scattered hairlines, and is therefore exceptional. This is among the most famous and desirable of all British coins. NGC graded Proof 64 Ultra Cameo.

Few £5 gold coins were ever minted for circulation, in any reign. The greatest shame in that respect was Queen Victoria's first £5 coin of 1839. The famous "Una and the Lion" design on the reverse makes it one of the most beautiful coins ever minted. Issued only in proof, the 1839 fiver captured the very essence of empire and majesty at the beginning of Victoria's remarkable reign, and took much of its inspiration from the art and literature of the Romantic Era just ended. Mintage reported to be only 400 pieces struck. Later, all gold coins came to feature the standard design of St George slaying the dragon. Since no special name was ever proposed for the £5 coin, a departure from tradition, one wishes that the 1839 design had been continued and the coin perhaps dubbed the "Lion." Only a few pieces have ever been graded at the 63 to 64 level by all the certification companies.

The motto DIRIGE (sometimes DIRIGIT) DEUS GRESSUS MEOS on the reverse means "May God Guide My Footsteps."

The allusion of Una leading the mythic British Lion (variously away from danger or into the future) comes from the epic poem "The Faerie Queene" by Edmund Spenser (1552-1599). Una personifies Truth (Una Veritas, "One Truth"). The Lion finds her sleeping in the woods and prepares to eat her, but then is tamed by her beauty and becomes her protector. On the coin as engraved by William Wyon, Una looks like Queen Victoria. Una is the companion and intended lady of the Redcrosse Knight. The Knight turns out to be Saint George, patron of England, whose Red Cross appears on the flag of England. The image of Una and the Lion thus carries an unusually strong association with allegorical England.
Estimated Value $40,000 - 50,000.
Ex Cheshire Collection (5/30 - 6/1/05), lot 2668. Illustrated in Money of The World, coin 143.

Realized $89,125

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