British 1703 coin made from gold seized from Spanish galleon sells for world record £845,000 


A 300-year-old British coin has sold at auction for a world-record price of £845,000.

The five guinea ‘Vigo’ coin dates to 1703 and was made using gold seized by the British from a Spanish treasure ship at the Battle of Vigo Bay.

Just 20 of the coins were struck, in celebration of the victory, and they are now among the most collectable pieces of coinage in the world.

The Queen Anne Vigo coin was sold by London auctioneers Baldwin’s of St. James’s.

It was eventually bought by a phone bidder for a hammer price of £703,000. With fees added on the total price paid for it was £845,000.

The whopping price is the highest ever shelled out for a British coin, smashing the previous record of £630,000 for an 1817 George III silver crown.

The series of Vigo coins were made out of 7.5lbs of gold captured from a Spanish galleon. After the British failed to capture Cadiz in October 1702, the fleet intercepted Spanish treasure ships laden with Aztec and Inca gold, coming back from America.

The British attacked the Spanish fleet in Vigo Bay and captured the gold and silver on board.

The booty was then returned to Britain where, desperate for gold, the Bank of England had it melted down and turned into coins.

The pieces feature a bust of Queen Anne on one side and coats of arms on the other.

Of the 20 coins struck 16 are known of. This coin spent many years with a private collector who decided it was the right time to sell it.

Stephen Fenton, director of Baldwin’s said: ‘We figured it would get a very high price like this because the market is so strong the moment.

‘These English five guinea coins are among the most desirable coins about and we had a lot of interest.

‘The history of the Vigo coins really appeals to collectors and even brings in a whole different market from Spain.

‘Because of the price there will always be a slight limit to how many people can buy them but on this occasion interest was incredibly strong.’

Mr Fenton added: ‘The coin is in amazing condition and has been given the highest grading possible by an expert.

‘It had been with a private collector but with the market as strong as it is at the moment, he decided it was the right time to place it in our auction.’

The price is vastly higher than similar sales in recent years. Two years ago a similar coin was sold at for just £225,000. 

That ‘Vigo’, sold at Boningtons in November 2016 was at the time only the sixth example of its type to be offered for sale in the last 50 years. 

Another example sold for £240,000 in Lewes in December 2012. And auctioneers Spink sold one in 2005 for £130,000 and an inferior example for £82,000 two years later.

The ‘Vigo’ coins are incomparably more valuable than equivalent coins from a similar period.

A two-guinea Queen Anne gold coin dating from 1713, which was similarly struck but without the ‘Vigo’ mark, sold for just £5,400 in 2016.


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