Benedetto Pistrucci's 1818 Crown coin

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14 October 2019
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Find out more about the iconic 1818 Crown coin, design by Italian artist Benedetto Pistrucci, one of the most attractive coins in the British series.

The crown piece of 1818 is widely regarded as one of the most attractive coins in the British series, writes Dr Kevin Clancy, Director of the Royal Mint Museum. 

Apart from the designs of the obverse and reverse, which display all the power and poise of the neoclassical spirit of the time, the care that was taken over the coin’s production has had dealers and collectors puzzling over the difference between proof and ordinary versions ever since.

By way of introduction, Humphrey Sutherland’s beautifully observed book Art in Coinage might help to explain what we are dealing with here. He described the crown piece of 1818 as probably the best coin that the Italian artist, Benedetto Pistrucci, designed.

For him the character of George III was powerfully realised, the king’s personality brooding, the treatment of the heavy eye and sensuous twisted lips contrasting with the easy classical grace of his curling hair.

And he went on to reflect upon the reverse design which was for him, if anything, even more remarkable, because of the break that it represented with the past traditions of English numismatic design. Instead of heraldry or formalised equestrian figures, we see St George slaying the dragon, a motif borrowed from Italian coins of a much earlier period.

In this composition Sutherland saw ‘a reversion to complete classical idiom, and, with its naked Greek-armed horseman mounted on a Parthenon-style horse, [the coin] breathes the whole essence of the classical revivalism of the times’.

And although revivalist, for him it stood out as one of the noblest innovations in English coin design from 1800 to modern times.

Discover the story surrounding this coin, the troubles that were encountered in setting high standards of production, the strain that was placed on relationships within the Mint and how officials almost came to blows, in Dr Clancy's in-depth article in Issue 6 of Coin Collector magazine, available to download or order right now

Buying the 1818 Crown 

The 1818 Crown of George III usually catalogues for between £40 (for examples in ‘Fine’ condition) to £800 (for uncirculated examples).

Of course, there are many varieties that demand different prices. London Coins (www.londoncoins.co.uk), for example, recently sold a LIX 1818 Crown for £520. The lot description stated: ‘the A of TVTAMEN very weak and only just visible under magnification, ESC 214, Bull 2009 EF and attractively toned with some contact marks’.

1818 CrownRight at the other end of the scale, Heritage Auctions sold what was thought to be Pistrucci’s very own crown, a George III silver Pattern Crown from 1817, for a whopping $84,000 (approximately £67,210)!

For the more affordable, the worn example (illustrated here) was recently offered on eBay by dealer Leamington Spa Coins for £20. One wonders how William Wellesley Pole and Benedetto Pistrucci would have reacted to seeing the ‘perfect’ coin in such condition.

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