In December of 2019, the United Kingdom launched a series of commemorative coins based on the classic works of “The Great Engravers.” The inaugural issue features the classic “Una and the Lion” engraved by William Wyon. When this coin was first issued, you could find the 2-ounce silver version on e-bay for less than $500. From then on, the resale price has sky-rocketed. Recently, I saw an NGC PFUC-68 Una and the Lion on e-bay sell for $4000.00! Fortunately, I bought mine long before the numismatic community realized what it had in this coin. Subsequently, I had mine graded by NGC at PFUC-69. Obviously, I’m pretty happy that for a change, I hit the numismatic lottery! By the way, mine is not for sale!
The second coin in the Great Engravers series was issued a few weeks ago. It features “The Three Graces,” also engraved by William Wyon. This coin is taking no one by surprise. It is picking up where Una left off. The least expensive 2-ounce, 5-pound Three Graces coin I tracked was recently sold on e-bay for $2750.00. It’s quite a mark-up for a coin with a mint issue price of 250 pounds ($348)! Even the wannabe Alderney version of the Three Graces is selling for over $1000.00!
Now for a lover of classic numismatic art such as myself, this is quite a dilemma. Do I cough up the money for the new UK or Alderney coin? Or, is there another option? Thankfully, there is another option for me. There is a saying that goes like this, “The least expensive car you could buy is the one you already own.” For me, the cheapest coin or, in my case, the medal I could buy is the one I already own. Several years ago, I purchased a bronze fantasy coin featuring the Three Graces for less than $100. True, my fantasy coin is a wannabe of a wannabe, but this medal has everything I could want because, after all, it’s the art that I love!
For their 2001 auction, Spink & Sons commissioned INA ltd of Birmingham to strike various fantasy coins. Many of these fantasy coins featured designs that were never officially issued by any governmental entity. My medal is designed by Donald Golder and features an image of Queen Victoria on the obverse and the Three Graces on the reverse. This crown-sized (38mm) 1879 dated medal was struck in silver and bronze. The bronze version has a Krause catalog number of X#81a and a mintage of 790.
No crowns were officially issued by the UK in 1879. Furthermore, the likeness of Queen Victoria on my medal has never been used on a coin. It has, however, been used on a postage stamp. The 1840 one penny stamp, nicknamed “Penny Black,” is the world’s first adhesive postage stamp. It features a left-facing profile bust of Queen Victoria. The medal’s obverse legend combined with the reverse translated from Latin reads, “Victoria by God’s grace makes them become one.” The Three Graces on the reverse reinterpreted from Greek mythology by the original engraver, William Wyon, represent Ireland, England, and Scotland.
The 1801 “Act of the Union” united Great Britain (England and Scotland) and Ireland under the United Kingdom. William Wyon’s Three Graces was designed to appeal to a sense of national pride after the hard times relating to the UK’s defeat of Napoleon. His pattern coin dating 1817 was never issued. With only 50 known patterns, this coin is occasionally offered at auction in the six figures. Check out this beauty offered by Heritage. https://coins.ha.com/itm/great-britain/great-britain-george-iii-silver-proof-pattern-three-graces-crown-1817-pr65-ngc-/a/3096-30318.s?
Though my fantasy coin isn’t an exact replica of the original pattern, the imagery is the same. Instead of a rudder and palm frond, my medal displays a ship on the waters to allegorize English dominance over the seas. Instead of using a lyre to represent Ireland, this fantasy coin uses a shamrock.
In Greek mythology, the Three Charites or Graces were generally known for fertility. They are believed to be the daughters of Zeus and Hera. One is named Aglaia for Brightness, another is named Euphrosyne for Joyfulness, and the third Thalia for Bloom.
So there you have it. I might add the silver version of this medal to my collection should it become available, but the others? While I rather have the real McCoy, I just can’t pony up the money needed to purchase the others. CoinWeek has a great article on the modern coin rarity phenomenon that makes a lot of sense. Ultimately, the author makes a great point about the demand for classic designs. He maintains that if the market supports a fair price for these collector coins, then the worldwide mints should meet the anticipated public demand. US Mint, are you listening? https://coinweek.com/world-coins/the-coin-analyst-from-una-and-the-lion-to-the-three-graces-classic-royal-mint-motifs/
I am also posting the obverse of a 2010 San Marino two-euro coin featuring one of the Graces from a 1482 Sandro Botticelli painting entitled Primavera or “Allegory of Spring.” As for spring, I was ready for it weeks ago. Bring it on! Gary