Groat Achieves World Record Price|
October 20, 2011
This article was originally printed in World Coin News.
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When the hammer fell on Lot 65 of the Frank Brady sale at Spink’s Fall Sale, a new record price of £26,400 ($41,357 at a conversion rate of £1stg = $1.57) had been achieved for an English groat.
The coin in question was an example of the so-called light coinage struck in the reign of Henry IV, from 1412-13. It represents an important episode in the history of English hammered coins.
From the mid-14th century on, concerns had been growing about the quality of English coinage. Its standard was simply too high for the economy and a plague-decimated population to sustain.
Successive kings wanted to debase the coinage but Parliament was unwilling. Late in the reign of Henry IV, the matter became urgent. There was now insufficient amounts of bullion on hand to provide revenue for the monarchy.
In the end, Parliament came up with a compromise. The weights of England’s bimetallic coinage would be reduced, but on an experimental basis only and for just two years. If this proved to be unsatisfactory, the weights would revert.
The gold noble was reduced from 120 gr. to 108 gr. and the silver penny from 18 gr. to 15 gr. (or 0.972 g). In effect, this brought the new coins in line with those already in circulation. The older money may have been struck at a higher standard, but much of it was well clipped down.
The groat had become a major component of England’s currency since the recoinage of Edward III. It had been based on the French gros tournois, a coin of four deniers. In England, it became a 4-penny piece and in style resembled the penny, although its size allowed for more ornate workmanship.
In Henry IV’s light coinage, the groat was struck at a reduced 60 gr. (3.888 g). The design was more or less that of Richard II. English mints had been fairly inactive in preceding years and there was a shortage of skilled workmen. Older dies were given a makeover, and many were too large for the new, smaller flans.
All of this made the coin offered by Spink from the Frank Brady Collection highly desirable. The coin had been produced from entirely new dies and is an unusually well-struck, fully-round coin of 3.89 g (full weight). For a 600-year-old coin, its grade of gVF made it extremely rare. The catalog value for a VF example is listed as £7,250 ($11,357). The coin went to the block with a conservative estimate of £6,000-8,000, making the realized price over three times its estimate.
Full details of the fall sale along with prices realized can be found at www.spink.com.
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