George III gold Proof Pattern 5 Guineas 1773 PR64 Cameo NGC, KM-Pn52, Fr-350, S-3723, L&S-2, W&R-77 (R4), Schneider-Unl. Plain edge. By John Tanner. Few areas of world coinage inspire the same degree of admiration as do the emissions of Great Britain, and, among those, few can lay claim to the desirability surrounding the Patterns produced during the reign of George III. With George’s long reign–nearly 60 years, the longest prior to Queen Victoria–seeing a plethora of Pattern types from the 2 and 5 Guineas of Tanner and Yeo, to the Incorrupta and Three Graces Crowns, it seems difficult to place one issue above an another. That said, there is something quite singular about Tanner’s gold trials, which stand in a class of their own.
Produced when George was still a relatively young man of 30 to 35 years old, these pieces attempted to project the image of a strong King of England in a new sort of medium that had seen little use in 18th-century Great Britain. While single, half, and quarter Guineas had been issued almost immediately after George took the throne, as a consequence of speculation and the overvaluation of British gold at the time, gold was one of the few mediums that remained for domestic transactions, while undervalued silver and copper were sold abroad. This shift in the composition of the local money supply also meant that previously high-status gold coins now came into the hands of even the less well-to-do, and as a consequence became required for smaller transactions, a fact that led to the unprecedented creation of a 1/3 Guinea in 1797. Although several attempts were made in 1768, 1773, and 1777 to coin 2 Guinea pieces and in 1770, 1773, and 1777 to coin 5 Guinea pieces, the ultimately (and seemingly inappropriately) huge purchasing power of such coins meant that they were doomed to remain forever Patterns, until a new system of 2 and 5 Pounds was inaugurated in 1820, the year of George’s death.
Despite their failure in the monetary realm, the Patterns of this period represent a vibrancy of artistry that clearly paralleled the aspirations of the monarchy. Certainly, between the engravings by Tanner and those of Yeo, the products of the former show a clear superiority of style. George is presented as youthful and yet heraldic, his locks of hair falling in a stately fashion to his shoulders, crowned by a laurel wreath, while his gaze is stern and unperturbed. The execution is nearly identical to his 2 Guineas Pattern of 1768, though with a slightly broader truncation to accommodate the ample space afforded by the larger flan. In terms of overall preservation, the fields are positively aglow with full mint flash, die polish studding otherwise hard mirrors, and just a few traces of copper spots giving some indication to its nearly 250-year age. As is seen on most surviving examples, a small die imperfection appears between the denticles and the second 7 in the date, while a minor unevenness on the rim above the D in DEI seems to be the result of a loose collar.
Although Wilson and Rasmussen only designate the 1773 5 Guineas as R4, suggesting 11-20 specimens known, we can hardly emphasize just how rare the present coin is, and feel that there is some indication that it may be scarcer than this figure implies. According to NGC’s census, only this and one other specimen (surprisingly also a PR64 Cameo) have been certified, with none seen by PCGS, and auction results of the last 20 years have brought to light only 2 examples. From our research, we have been able to trace the following specimens, with the type notably absent from the Norweb, Brand, Garrett, Pittman, Kroisos, Hammel, Farouk, and LaRiviere collections:
1) The J. G. Murdoch specimen. Sotheby’s (March 1904, Lot 120); Rev. Edward John Shepherd Collection (Sotheby’s July 1885, Lot 454)
2) The Douglas-Morris specimen. Sotheby’s (November 1974, Lot 131); Lady Duveen Collection (Glendining September 1964, Lot 57); Whetmore Collection (Glendining March 1943, Lot 24); George Hamilton-Smith Collection (Glendining May 1927, Lot 149)
3) The Samuel King specimen. Spink Auction 5028 (May 2005, Lot 180); Herman Selig Collection (Spink Auction 131, March 1999, Lot 1107); J. G. Brooker Collection (Purchased by Spink in 1973) = W&R-77 Plate Coin
4) The Montagu specimen. Spink (October 1890, Lot 510); Ex. William Brice (likely via private transaction)
5) The Thos. H. Law specimen. Stack’s Bowers Auction 182 (January 2014, Lot 1003); The Zurich Collection (Stack’s October 1985, Lot 1150); Reportedly ex. Wayte Raymond, Charles Wormser, and J. P. Morgan. Certified PR64 by NGC as of 2014.
6) The Paramount specimen (this coin). Spink Auction 97 (May 1993, Lot 66)
7) Künker Auction 258 (January 2015, Lot 600)
From the Paramount Collection
Gold Spot: $1,733/oz (03-26-2021)
This piece was auctioned in 2021 March 25 – 27 The Paramount Collection World & Ancient Coins Signature Auction and sold at 750,000 dollars.
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