Last sold by UBS, Auction 51, lot 808 January 30, 2001 for $5,431. Goldberg’s Sale 91, June 7-8, 2016 Pre Long Beach Sale, lot 2285 realized $317,250 a New World Record Price. Goldberg’s Also Sell by Private Treaty. The highest price ever paid for an English coin. Graded NGC MS 62, it is the only example of this important gold coin in private hands.
The Double Leopard, named for the two leopards featured on the reverse, was struck in 1344 as England’s first large-sized gold coin. Until that time English coinage was exclusively silver except for a small number of tiny gold pennies struck in 1257. Gold coins needed for domestic and international trade had to come from other European countries such as France and Italy.
Edward III decided that England needed its own gold coins and in 1344 it issued gold coins in the denominations of double-florin (double leopard), florin (leopard) and half florin (half leopard). The double leopard weighed 108 grains, or just under one-quarter of an ounce, to mimic the French florin then in common use. It was assigned a value of six shillings.
The gold leopard coinage was extremely short-lived. Struck between January and July of 1344, they were quickly abandoned in favor of the gold noble, which was a bit larger than the double leopard with a weight of 138.46 grains and a value of 6 shillings, 8 pence. The gold noble gained popularity and on August 20, 1344, the gold leopards were officially demonetized.
Few gold leopards were struck and it is likely that many were melted. In fact, the double leopard was thought to have been lost to time until schoolchildren found two examples in the Tyne River in 1857. Both pieces later became part of the British Museum, where they currently reside.
A third example—the piece recently graded by NGC—was discovered by a metal detectorist in southern England nearly 150 years later in 2006. It was subsequently sold at auction that year for the equivalent of $850,000, the highest price ever paid for a British coin at the time.
Ira Goldberg, co-owner of Ira & Larry Goldberg Auctioneers, was the under bidder at that auction, finally dropping out when the coin reached that astonishing price. A decade later, however, Goldberg was again presented with the opportunity to acquire this phenomenal rarity.
Goldberg seized the moment and purchased the coin for a client who is building a fantastic collection of important coins from England and other countries. The purchase price was not disclosed but Goldberg says that “it easily establishes this coin as the most valuable English coin of all time.”
The NGC MS 62 Double Leopard is now part of the Tyrants Collection, a fantastic assemblage of English and other world rarities.
“Before I turned over the coin to my client, I wanted to have it certified by a third-party grading service for better long-term protection,” says Goldberg. “I showed the coin to Mark Salzberg, chairman of NGC and one of its senior graders, and his incredible excitement upon studying the coin convinced me that NGC was the right choice to grade it. My client and I are very pleased with the results.”
Salzberg adds, “I was simply stunned when I saw this coin. Its beauty, rarity and historical significance are truly outstanding and I am honored that Ira selected NGC to grade it.”
The feeling that a numismatic enthusiast gets from viewing this coin is indescribable! When we initially saw it, all of us at Goldberg Auctioneers got the chills. I’m sure you coin people out there can relate to the magical feeling of holding a treasured rarity in such phenomenal condition. The history, gorgeous design elements, and majestic lustrous surfaces make it quite difficult to put this coin down. The winning bidder will undoubtedly be almost overwhelmed by the impressive aesthetic qualities of this marvelous item.
Considering only 40 examples are estimated to have survived in all grades for this date, we are honored to have the opportunity to auction off a piece of such vital importance. Not many individuals will ever have the chance to see an example of this intriguing date, much less be able to hold one. For those who attend lot viewing, we would highly recommend examining this coin before your viewing experience is finished, it will be unforgettable!
If you have any questions regarding this lot (1933 $10 PCGS MS-66 CAC Approved Lot# 1638), or any other lots in our upcoming auction, please feel free to live chat with us on our website (www.goldbergcoins.com) or call our offices directly (800-978-2646). We look forward to speaking with you!
Recently, the finest known example of the very rare 1796 Sheldon-96 variety was discovered in England. The discovery was made by Thomas Paul of American Heritage Minting (AHM), Jenkintown, PA. This is not the first significant discovery made by AHM, but it is the first major discovery by Thomas. Thomas’ father, William P. Paul, traveled extensively in Europe over many years looking for coins, and he was able to repatriate numerous significant US rarities, especially in the area of Early American Coppers. But after William passed a couple years ago, his wife and son (Thomas) took over the business and the hunt. This cent testifies to their continued success.
The S-96 is the rarest of the numbered varieties of 1796 with about 2 dozen examples known. And most of those are in very low grade. Until this discovery the two finest known pieces were no better than net F12 with significant defects. Even the finest collections had to “settle” for a substandard coin. Not anymore. This new discovery is graded by NGC as MS63BN. It’s the finest known of this rare variety by over fifty points.
How the coin came to be brought to England and secreted in an obscure collection for over 200 years will likely remain a mystery. Now, 200 years later, it has passed into the hands of a young man whose father made a career of finding such hidden gems. Some people will call that a coincidence. Or maybe not.
This new 1796 S-96 will be sold in the upcoming May 31st Pre-Long Beach Sale held by McCawley & Grellman and the Goldbergs. It is estimated at $200,000, but that’s just a guess. Nothing comparable is known to exist.
If you are excited about new discoveries in the numismatic world, please take a look at the following article:
It’s a privilege to be a part of this amazing experience! Special thanks to Scott Mitchell, Ira and Larry Goldberg, and PCGS.