Baldwins’ auction room at 399 Strand was the venue for one of the most important numismatic events in recent years as the 1933 Pattern Penny smashed through the World Record for a copper or bronze coin sold at auction.
The 1933 Lavrillier Pattern Penny that sold for a World Record Price for any copper or bronze coin sold at auction when it reached a price of £72,000 in our salesroom on 4th May 2016.
The coin, one of only four Patterns ever made, garnered bids from all over the world, and was finally wheedled down to just two telephone bidders who went toe-to-toe for over five minutes before the hammer came down on a price of £72,000.
The currency version of the 1933 Penny is well documented, but the Pattern version sold on Wednesday 4th May is even rarer. In 1932 the Royal Mint had a surplus of pennies, so no more currency versions were produced. In fact, only seven pennies with the 1933 date were minted for ceremonial and record purposes.
The Standing Committee on Coins Medals and Decorations decided in late 1931 to re-design the penny, with the likeness of George V the key development. A sculptor and medallic artist from France by the name of Andre Lavrillier was recruited to design the coin, and his Patterns were presented to the committee in December 1932.
They were met with some resistance, with the committee feeling that the new designs were not of superior quality to the existing product. Whilst Lavrillier would go on to design a number of coins for the French mint (coins that were still in use as late as 1969), his designs for the 1933 penny were dismissed, leaving only in existence the four patterns presented to the committee.
Of these four, one is held in the Royal Mint Museum, whilst the other three are in private hands – hence why when one such example comes up for sale it is an important numismatic event.
This was shown by the immense interest in this particular coin – Baldwin’s received requests from as far afield as Australia, United States, New Zealand, with potential bidders flying in from all over the world to view the auction live. For most of those hopeful arrivals, however, it was to ultimately end in disappointment, as the coin was sold to a private collector for a price that was out of reach for most everyday collectors.
This World Record joins a number of such records held by Baldwin’s, which include the Hong Kong Gold Proof Dollar (£222,200) and the most expensive Ancient Greek Coin ever sold at auction, the Pantikapaion Gold Stater which sold in 2012 for $3.2 Million at our auction in New York, as well as the most expensive modern Greek coin, the 1876 100 Drachma selling for £216,000 in 2014; the highest value Australian coin, the 1920 Sydney Sovereign selling for £780,000; and the world record for a British coin with the Edward VIII gold Proof Sovereign selling for £516,000 in 2014.
This new world record realisation, however, stands as testament to the current strength in British numismatics, and shows that there are still those who understand the true value of extreme rarity. Lavrillier himself may have been disappointed that his presentation to the Committee was resoundingly dismissed, but we’re sure were he alive today he would have been rather pleased to learn that his creation is one of the most sought-after and expensive coins in the UK. And now a world-record breaker to boot.