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Lot 30723

Image Information

Type Coin
Title Lot 30723
Date 1799
Country Great Britain
Service Catalog # 661000
Denomination 1/2C
Description George III/IV silver Pattern Halfcrown 1799, by John Milton for Col. Fullerton, plain edge, PR67 NGC. Rare, and especially so in this fabulous state of preservation, essentially as fine as the day it was struck, only now with gorgeous silvery gray toning having rich hues of bluish gold iridescence. The die-engraving was deep, meaning that the images and legends appear in relatively high relief, and the mirrored fields offer a pleasing contrast to the frosted portrait. A stunning example of this private pattern. Continuing our comments begun under the sixpence of this style, this Regency Period coin was originally designed during the difficult time when George III was suffering from the porphyria which he inherited from his Stuart bloodline. In the day, King George was thought to be mad, but his odd personality quirks actually resulted from an endocrine disorder that can be traced back to Mary, Queen of Scots. Instead of the king, we see here (most likely) a portrait of the Prince Regent, the future George IV, and his regalia, including the Welsh plumes, on the reverse side. It is believed that the prince himself commissioned Fullerton to create an elegant set of patterns for his future coinage. Whether the portrait was intended to be that of the prince or the king remains undetermined and was likely meant to be, as will be explained shortly. The Latin titles abbreviated after GEORGIUS are surely not the king's but neither do they make any claims to power for the prince. It is thought that the prince's idea was to celebrate his person with a coinage that might circulate in Scotland prior to his coronation. Fullerton assigned the task of designing and engraving the dies to the talented engraver John Milton, who was official medallist to the prince, and he seems to have created a lifelike portrait, with flourishes suggestive of a Roman emperor. His clothing is armored. The project was a private commission but it was doomed to failure. All went well, with various dies finished and ready to be used, when the king's great friend and confidant, Sir Joseph Banks, one of the wealthiest men in England, interceded. After he objected that it was little short of treason to produce a coinage showing the prince while the king still drew breath, all efforts to produce these coins in 1799 immediately stopped. The king himself was thought to be mad, but Joseph Banks was not, and no one dared oppose his wishes. Sadly for collectors today, only a small number of samples of the dies were struck off contemporaneously, and only in copper -- so as not to risk a charge of counterfeiting (copper being a base metal not worthy of money, as it was seen in the day). When the venture ceased, all of the dies were put away and forgotten until Matthew Young "rescued" them some years later and struck off pieces such as the halfcrown seen here. Mintages are unknown but small. Most were struck in silver and all in proof state. The largest denomination made was the halfcrown. So, owing to a series of good intentions, mistaken concepts of the legality of coining, and fortuitous rediscovery of the dies, we have today these charming coins that are the very image of the Regency Period. Realized $2,820.00. Description courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

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