The world’s ‘most beautiful coin’ is coming up for sale in specialists Dix Noonan Webb’s Coins, Tokens and Historical Medals auction in London this March.
The gold British ‘Una and the Lion’ Proof Five Pounds dating from 1839 will be one of the highlights of the sale and is expected to fetch up to £100,000.
Una and the Lion are characters in Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene written between 1590 and 1611. The reverse of the coin designed by William Wyon depicts Queen Victoria as Una guiding the British lion. The design is an unusual one which has given the coin its familiar name of the Una and the Lion Five Pound piece. The obverse of the coin has William Wyon’s famous Young Head portrait of Queen Victoria. There is no evidence that these coins were ever struck for circulation. All the indications are that they were only intended to be proof coins and were primarily made for inclusion in the specimen sets of the first Victorian coins.
Only a few hundred were struck and a number of different variations can be found among the surviving pieces. There are different types of edge, differing patterns of ornamentation on the queen’s hairbands and the reverse can read either DIRIGE DEUS GRESSUS MEOS (May the Lord direct my steps) or DIRIGIT instead of DIRIGE (The Lord directs my steps). The coin to be auctioned at Dix Noonan Webb reads DIRIGE, has a plain edge and, apart from some minor
surface marks, is otherwise virtually as struck. The estimate is £80,000 to £100,000.
Another of the sale’s highlights is a gold George V Proof Crown from 1935, estimated at up to £40,000. Only 30 of these are known to have been struck, five being consigned to museums and the remaining 25 balloted for in accordance with the practice of the time. This example has minimal surface marks and is otherwise virtually as struck. It is estimated at £30,000 to £40,000.