03 January 2020
One of only two known surviving 1945 silver threepence coins has been discovered and certified as genuine by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation.
The silver coin, the ‘rarest British circulating coin in 200 years’, was one of 371,000 minted that year, all of which were supposed to have been destroyed.
The tiny silver coin was found in an ordinary Whitman folder, the type of cardboard booklet that young coin enthusiasts have filled with coin collections since the 1930s. The coin had been removed from the folder and placed in a plastic envelope, when it was brought to London auction house Baldwin’s of St. James’s.
Managing director Stephen Fenton said:
‘It was a coin I’d looked for for fifty years. I regard this as the rarest British circulating coin for 200 years. You see lots of rare coins, but this is something I’ve always hoped to see some day. It’s amazing proof that the rarest coins can emerge from the most humble of places.’
Despite the disruption caused by the Second World War, the 1945 silver threepence became rare for another reason. The coin had become unpopular because it was very small (a diameter of 16 mm and a weight of 1.4 grams). A bigger, heavier, twelve-sided nickel-brass threepence had been introduced in 1937 and was being minted every year.
The King George VI silver threepence was minted from 1937 to 1945, with a peak production of almost 8 million annually in 1940 and in 1941. But the wartime issues of 1942-45 were all shipped to the British West Indies.
The output of the coin’s final year of 371,000, apparently deemed redundant because of public acceptance of the twelve-sided nickel-brass coin, was ordered to be melted down, its silver used in other mint products.
A spokesperson for NCG said:
‘At least two coins escaped the crucible, and more of them might be sitting in jars or folders, waiting to be recognised for the rarities they are.’ The newly-found coin was certified by NGC and graded MS 63 on the 70-point Sheldon Scale.
Stephen Fenton added:
‘I had no doubt that this coin was genuine, but NGC certification will ensure that everyone has the same confidence.’
One survivor came up for auction in April 1970 at a Glendining & Co. of London sale. Its condition was described in the catalogue as About Very Fine and it realised £260 (about £4,000 in today’s money). Its buyer is unknown, and the coin has not resurfaced publicly since.
The new example is being offered at a Baldwin’s of St. James’s auction in March 2020, with an estimate of £15,000 to £25,000.
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