A RARE collection of British coins, amassed by an Archbishop of York three centuries ago, has sold for £700,890, including premiums. This is more than double its pre-sale estimate.
Dr John Sharp, who was Archbishop from 1691 until his death in 1714, told friends that he had begun the collection when he was rector of St Giles-in-the-Fields, in London, as “a good divertisment in the evening”. It has remained in the ownership of his direct descendants until now.
MORTON & EDEN AUCTIONEERS, LONDON“Iconic”: a 12th-century silver pennyJames Morton, the auctioneer who held the sale of more than 300 lots in London on Thursday of last week, said that the collection was significant, since it was one of the first to have been formed of English, Scottish, and Irish coins at a time when most numismatists were still concentrating on Ancient Greek and Roman classical examples.
“This was an exceptional collection with a highly distinguished and famous provenance, which thoroughly deserved the excellent and positive response accorded to it,” he said.
The collection included a 12th-century silver penny bearing a full-figure image of a knight wearing mail armour and a helmet, holding a raised sword. Mr Morton described it as “an iconic and excessively rare coin”. It sold for £28,800.
A Henry VIII gold sovereign sold for £37,200; and a scarce testoon — silver shilling — from the reign of Henry VII, bearing a clear portrait of the first Tudor monarch and dating from 1502, was bought by the Royal Mint Museum, in Llantrisant, South Wales. The museum paid a record £52,800 for a testoon; the previous best of £38,400 was achieved in 2015.
MORTON & EDEN AUCTIONEERS, LONDONTudor king: a Henry VII silver testoon (silver shilling)Sharp was a significant figure of his time, both as a collector and cleric. His 1698 work Observations on the Coinage of England was circulated among numismatists in manuscript form for nearly a century before being printed in 1785.
He was described as a “vehement preacher” whose eyes “flamed remarkably”. During his time as Rector of St Giles he became chaplain to the Roman Catholic King James II, but a sermon denouncing popery led to a ten-month ban and the suspension of the Bishop of London for not turning him out.
King William III, however, made him Archbishop of York. He preached at the coronation of Queen Anne, and became her Lord High Almoner and confidential adviser, eclipsing Thomas Tenison, the Archbishop of Canterbury.