An extremely rare and important Gold Leopard coin (florin) from the reign of Edward III (1327-77), dating from January 1344 and minted in 23 carat gold at the Tower of London, is to be offered by Dix Noonan Webb
in their auction of Coins, Tokens and Historical Medals on Tuesday & Wednesday, March 8 & 9, 2022 at their Mayfair saleroom (16 Bolton Street, London W1J 8BQ). Estimated to fetch £100,000 140,000, the coin which features a Leopard sitting upright wearing a banner, had a face value of three shillings or 36 silver pennies and was in circulation for just seven months before being withdrawn.
As economic historian Mavis Mate noted: In 1339 the financial situation appeared so serious that the magnates in Parliament voiced a fear that the shortage of silver coins might bring internal trade to a halt. This was coupled with Edward IIIs war with France which drained any remaining money from England and sent it overseas in an attempt to gain allies in his dispute with Philip VI of France.
Gold Florins were introduced in Florence in 1252, hence the name, and soon became an international trading currency throughout Europe. In 1290 Philip IV of France followed suite continuously issuing gold coins.
Nigel Mills, Consultant (Artefacts and Antiquities) at Dix Noonan Webb, comment: Edward III was keen to have a gold coinage to facilitate trade with our European counterparts, however the reasons for its failure are threefold. That the mint charges for the manufacture of the coins was too high. The denominations of the coins were awkward and did not fit into the domestic money of account, none being divisible either into the mark or the pound, and most telling perhaps is that the coins were overvalued in relation to silver. This advice came from the Italian Florentine bankers who were the foreign exchange dealers of the time, precisely the people with most to lose with the establishment of a successful English gold and silver coinage. Seven years were to pass before the correct ratio was applied.
Between January 1344 and July 1344 a total of £32,000-worth of gold was minted in the three denominations, double-leopard, leopard and helm, yet the surviving numbers are tiny: only three double-leopards, five leopards and five helms are currently known.
This coin was found by a metal-detectorist at a rally in north Norfolk in October 2019. A contemporary gold noble of Edward III was discovered nearby by a second finder and the two coins were declared Treasure Trove. They were disclaimed on November 18, 2021.
Nigel Mills continues: We are very pleased to be offering this important coin for sale in March. It is in very fine condition and retains light surface marks consistent with a field find. Only five are known to still exist and this is by far the finer of the two known specimens that have come to auction. The other three were all sold at auction before 1960 and two are now in the British Museum, and the third is at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.