A Victoria gold Proof “Una and the Lion” 5 Pounds 1839 PR66 Ultra Cameo NGC sold for $1,440,000, the most ever paid for the type and the second-most ever paid for a British coin at 2021 August World Coins Auction. Boasting great popularity and scarcity, the Una and the Lion 5 Pounds of William Wyon was designed exclusively for inclusion in Victoria’s delayed 1839 Proof Set. Only about 400 were originally minted, but soaring demand dictated that the Royal Mint had to produce to-order examples for nearly 50 years, until 1886.
Victoria gold Proof “Una and the Lion” 5 Pounds 1839 PR66★ Ultra Cameo NGC, KM742, S-3851, W&R-279 (R2), Marsh-F26 (R2). DIRIGE legend, medal alignment. Small lettered edge with 5 scrolls. By William Wyon. While well-regarded as a series chock-full of classic rarities and fiercely contested types, few issues within British numismatics have soared to the level of popularity and undeniable scarcity as the famed Una and the Lion 5 Pounds of William Wyon. Designed exclusively for inclusion in Victoria’s delayed 1839 Proof Set, the magnificent artistry presented with such precision here is well-known to have inspired as much renown when it was first produced 182 years ago, with demand far outstripping the 400 or so of these that were originally minted, making it necessary for the Royal Mint to produced examples to-order for almost 50 years until 1886. Although the imagery of the type–depicting the youthful Queen in the guise of Una from Edmund Spencer’s “The Faerie Queen”–has been well-discussed, encountering the coin in this quality offers a special occasion for us to stop and pause for closer examination. Even from an arm’s length, the quality of the offering is simply undeniable, its surfaces so perfectly and deeply cameoed against flawlessly rendered devices picked out in heavy mint frost as to almost appear more as a modern striking than an emission of the early to mid 19th century. Each fold of Victoria’s gown, down to the lace embroidery, the hairs of the lion’s mane, and the ornamentation on Victoria’s headband is painstakingly accurate and razor-sharp.
Although Wilson and Rasmussen note a total of 9 varieties for the issue, ranging in rarity from R2 to R7, these are essentially irrelevant given the desirability of the design on the whole, this confirmed by the skyrocketing auction results for the type in recent years–a PR64 Deep Cameo realizing $690,000 in our January 2020 Auction #3081, and a PR66 Ultra Cameo 984,000 Euros in October of the same year ($1.148 million at the time). At present the single finest example certified across either NGC or PCGS, and the only representative to be awarded the coveted “star” designation for outstanding visual quality, and as such an absolutely monumental occasion.
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