Rare testoon fetches £9,000 at Baldwin's


15 August 2023
The sale of Ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine Coins, British and World Coins, and Commemorative medals at Baldwins on 5 July included a rare testoon from the reign of Henry VIII (1509–47) (lot 341).

With a nominal value of 12 pence, the coin had been issued at the Tower mint and came from the third coinage of the king’s reign (1544–47).

A realistic facing crowned bust of Henry VIII in a ruff featured on the obverse side, with a cross on the crown breaking the inner linear beaded border. The legend read ‘HENRIC 8 D GRA AGL FRA Z HIB REX’ (‘Henry the Eighth by the Grace of God King of England France and Ireland’).

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The reverse showed a crowned Tudor rose, with ‘h’ and ‘R’ flanking and the legend ‘POSVI DEVM ADITOERIVM MEVM’ (‘I have made God my helper’) around.

Realistic royal portraits on British coins had only replaced stereotyped images under Henry’s father, Henry VII, in his testoon portrait.

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In Henry VIII's first coinage (1509–26), he continued to use his father’s effigy, however, in the smaller coins of his second coinage (1526–44) his own young bust appears.

For his third and final coinage (1544–47), a testoon was struck with an image of his older self, a bearded crowned rugged bust facing forward, an image reminiscent of the famous Holbein portraits.

Due to the frequent debasement of the time, the thin silver coating on the coin would often erode on the high points revealing the base core, giving Henry the nickname ‘old copper-nose’.

Described as an extremely fine and problem-free example, this coin sold for £9000.