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Spink: Jean-Marie Vanmeerbeeck and Simon English Esq. Collections

Spink: Jean-Marie Vanmeerbeeck and Simon English Esq. Collections

Spink held an auction on 23 January 2022 of the Jean-Marie Vanmeerbeeck and Simon English Esq. Collections. These are outstanding collections with some high quality examples of rare coins. The full catalogue can be found here. In my selection of lots, the Henry VIII testoon did particularly well, fetching £42,000 against an estimate of £10,000 – £15,000.

There is a buyer’s premium of 20% (plus VAT) on the hammer price.

Featured Lots

Photo: © Spink

George III “Dorrien Magens” shilling

Mint: London
Estimate: £25,000 – £30,000
Hammer: £25000

The name for these shillings and their scarcity is tied up with the production of silver coinage and bullion prices in the 18th century.

Historical background

The minting of silver coinage had virtually stopped in the second half of the 18th Century as the bullion price had remained above the coinage price of 62d. The majority of the bullion arriving at the mint was captured silver, such as Vigo in 1702 and Lima in 1745. At the start of George III’s reign in 1760 silver coinage was scarce. Crowns and halfcrowns were particularly suited to melting down or hoarding and had virtually disappeared from circulation.

There were small issues in 1762 and 1763, mainly of threepences and in 1787 some shillings and sixpences. These, however, were not intended for general issue but merely for the customers of the Bank of England that wished to have new silver coins at Christmas. Eleven years later, nearly half were still in the Bank’s vaults and their lack of use is reflected in the unworn condition of so many of the surviving pieces. By 1797 the situation had become so bad that the government, under Pitt, had started issuing countermarked Spanish dollars.

Dorrien Magens

A favourable balance of trade in 1797 saw an influx of bullion which took its price temporarily below the coinage price of 62d by early 1798. This prompted a group of London bankers to take bullion to the Mint for coining. Dorrien Magens was the first to deliver bullion to the mint and his silver was the first to be melted. He was also was the most vociferous about getting paid, with the result that his name is now associated with the coinage.


The first delivery of bullion was made on 4 April 1798 and preparations for the new coins began. However, a few weeks later on 10 May a message was sent from the government that the coinage should be stopped. They were concerned that fluctuating bullion prices would lead to the new coinage being melted down again and they were already considering a change to the weight standard of silver coinage. At this stage only some of the silver had been minted into coins.

It wasn’t until July 1799 that the Mint delivered this silver, now remelted into ingots, to the Bank of England. Between 10 May 1798, when work stopped, and July 1799, it is thought that some 285 pieces may have gone astray. Nothing like that number now survive. Of the few of the coins that do survive only about half a dozen are in private hands.

Ref: THE DORRIEN & MAGENS SHILLING OF 1798 by G.P.Dyer and P.P. Gaspar, 1982


Selection of other lots

Photo: © Spink

Baronial Magnates penny in the style of Henry I

A detecting find from Radstock, Somerset on 18 April 2021. The auction listing says that while there is no known parallel for the reverse roundel, it “must therefore be considered with the sub-varieties of Baronial Magnate issues emanating from around the country in the chaotic middle decades of the 12th Century, albeit as a previously unrecorded type“
Estimate: £5,000 – £6,000
Hammer: £4000
Photo: © Spink

Obsidional Shilling from the siege of Carlisle

Carlisle was defended by the Royalist forces under Sir Thomas Glemham from October 1644 until the following June. This shilling was produced in the king’s name during that siege as shown by OBS for obsidional (“under siege”) and CARL on the reverse. Only 20 examples recorded.
Estimate: £15,000 – £20,000
Hammer: £17000
Photo: © Spink

Oliver Cromwell half crown

The edge of this Oliver Cromwell half crown is inscribed with • HAS • NISI • PERITVRVS • MIHI • ADIMAT • NEMO •  meaning “Let no one take these [letters] from me on pain of death” – a prohibition against clipping the coin.
Estimate: £6,000 – £8,000
Photo: © Spink

Henry VIII testoon

The portrait of Henry VIII is inspired by Hans Holbein’s portrait of 1537. Henry loved the image and encouraged many copies of the painting and has therefore become the image of him that many people have today.
Estimate: £10,000 – £15,000
Hammer: £42000
Photo: © Spink

Elizabeth I Milled Issue shilling

An Elizabeth I shilling of Mestrelle’s milled production with a provenance that goes back to an auction at Sotheby’s in 1802 when it was sold for £3.13.6.
Estimate: £10,000 – £15,000
Hammer: £30000
Photo: © Spink

George I “Prince Elector” Guinea

George I had so many titles that they continued from the obverse to the reverse of this guinea. On this first issue the last title shown is PR EL for Prince Elector of the Holy Roman Empire. This gives the coin its name as in his later issues the PR part was dropped.
Estimate: £8,000 – £10,000
Hammer: £15000
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