1885 Trade Dollar sells for $3.96 million – coin auction round-up


24 May 2019
A rare US Trade Dollar and a replica of the world’s largest coin are just two of the coins that have gone to auction this month, as we reveal in our auction round-up.

Aethelstan penny

Spink recently sold the fourth and final part of the Allan Williams Collection, this time focusing on Anglo-Saxon and Norman coins. Highlights of the London sale included a very rare penny of Aethelstan (924/5-939). Weighing 1.608g the coin’s obverse featured a crowned and draped bust facing right, breaking a solid inner circle. The reverse reads: ‘otic moneta vvin ci’, and featured a small cross pattée, with additional small cross above, in solid inner circle.

SOLD FOR: 5,500

World’s largest coin replica

A 19th-century replica of the world’s largest coin, measuring 13.5cm and weighing 900g, featured in the auction of Coins, Tokens and Historical Medals at Dix Noonan Webb recently. The original coin was made for Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan I, was discovered in Patna in the 18th century and was last seen in the 1840s. A similar specimen is also in the British Museum and both are clearly copies of the same original. The auction catalogue explained: ‘The specimen, worth 200 mohurs, in the British Museum was formerly in the collection of the India Museum in London, which closed in 1879. Mughal multiple-mohur coins are known to have been struck in denominations up to 1,000 mohurs, probably for presentation purposes; very few are known to exist today, as most were probably melted down at some point.’

SOLD FOR: £4,400

Trade Dollar

The finest-known 1885 Trade dollar – described as being ‘among the rarest and most enigmatic issues in all of American coinage’ – recently sold for $3.96 million at Heritage Auctions. So rare is an 1885 Trade dollar that none of the great institutional collections at the Smithsonian, the American Numismatic Society, or the American Numismatic Association owns one of the five specimens. According to the auction house: ‘Information on the origin of the five pieces remains one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in numismatic history. Indications are that the coins were struck in the Philadelphia Mint, and the lack of documentation indicates they may have been struck clandestinely. 

‘The very first trade dollars were struck in 1873, and the majority of the coins were sent to China to compete against other nations’ large silver coins. The issues were not officially discontinued until 1887, so it is still possible that the five 1885 Trade dollar coins were produced for some legitimate purpose, such as inclusion in the proof sets of that year.’

SOLD FOR: £3,011,184

James I coin

The recent Warwick and Warwick Coins Auction featured 525 lots for keen bidders to choose from, including a good range of hammered coins in the British coins section. Amongst the highlights was a James I, third coinage, laurel which sold for £1,500.

SOLD FOR: £1,500

Indian medals

The auction of Ancient, Indian and Islamic, British and Foreign Coins and Commemorative Medals at Spink saw an India States, Mysore, Tipu Sultan (1783-99), Double-Rupee (Haidari) go under the hammer. The lot was described as ‘good very fine, scarce’. 

SOLD FOR: £2,600


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The recent Dix Noonan Webb sale featured a British Iron-Age Stater from the Catuvellauni tribe ruled by Tasciovanus. The beautiful coin featured two crescents back-to-back across a cruciform wreath pattern, annulets and pellets in angles, and on the reverse, a horse facing right, alongside a solar motif and bucranium above. The item was described as being ‘excessively rare’.

SOLD FOR: £6,000

Royal token

London Coins recently sold a token celebrating the birth of Prince Charles in 1720. The bronze piece measured 42mm in diameter and featured conjoined busts and, on the reverse, Providence, leaning against a column, indicating to an infant in her arms the territories of Britain and Ireland.

SOLD FOR: £140

Quarter ducat

A Friedrich August I quarter ducat minted in Dresden in 1696 recently went under the hammer at Gorny & Mosch in Germany. The coin was produced to mark the departure of the Saxony leader for for the Turkish campaign and was produced by coin master Johann Koch.

SOLD FOR: £5,169

Rare drachm

A rare drachm from the Greek colony of Naxos on the isle of Sicily, c.461-430 BC, was recently sold for $250,000 (not including buyer’s premium) by Classical Numismatic Group (CNG) in teh USA. The drachm measured 19mm and weighed 4.32g, and featured a bearded head of god Dionysos facing right, wearing tainia decorated with an ivy branch. On the reverse the coins shows Silenos, a companion and tutor to the god, nude and bearded, squatting half-left, holding kantharos in right hand and resting his left on his knee. The coin was described as ‘among the finest examples of the type, with a choice pedigree.’

SOLD FOR: £190,213

QUICK LINK: A guide to collecting Indian coins