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It must be the finest accumulation since the dispersal in several sales of the celebrated Lockett collection at Glendining’s in the 1950s.

So as to be of more general interest it seems appropriate to report the most photogenic pieces. When in very good condition they can be almost painterly. Unfortunately the debasement of the coinage by Henry VIII followed by decades of neglect has rendered the best pieces very rare indeed. So great was this debasement and neglect that one of the proudest boasts of Elizabeth I was her restoration of the fineness of her coins and the introduction of new technology from France. So much so that this, along with the devastation of the Armada, is inscribed on her tomb.

The first English monarch, well, since Roman times, to have his actual portrait rather than a kingly image on the coinage was the commercially astute Henry VII. The shillings are very rare indeed. There was as fine an example that is probably available in this sale and it realised £7800 (estimate £5000-6000). However, more practical for most of us to acquire is the groat. There were several, and as it is a relatively common coin, perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing was estimated at just £100-120. It made £280.

What must be one of the most attractive examples of the Henry VIII facing portrait was estimated at £2000-3000. It made £4800. In the debased coinage the king’s nose became rubbed (not on this example) and the baseness of the metal showed through, which gave rise to some courageous wags of the time referring to Henry as ‘Old Copper Nose’ – but not at Court, of course!

The facing portrait of Edward VI on a shilling is always in demand. Yes, there was a nice one on offer. The estimate was £300-400, less nice ones go for much less. This one made £720.

Queen Mary is usually shown facing her husband Philip of Spain and consequently a good portrait is hard to come by. There is one of her as a young woman with flowing blonde hair, but the coinage was in circulation a long time and examples are generally worn. As demonstration of the rarity of aesthetically pleasing examples there was not even one in this sale. An unappealing example made £160. Good portraits of the Virgin Queen are easier to get. The French machine-struck sixpences occur from time to time in ‘art’ condition. There were a few here. The best was estimated at £300-400. It made £550.

Finally, it would be a shame to omit the 1601 pattern penny in silver. There are six known and four of them are in amiable institutional captivity. This is worth noting for the typography of the Elizabeth monogram. Estimated at £800-1000, it realised £2600. All this goes to show that normal prices, a general principle perhaps, do not apply to things which appeal outside their narrow field.

To complete the survey of portraits it is perhaps interesting that James III of Scotland (1460-88) beat his English rival; his portrait appears on a groat, due to French influence perhaps. There was one in a separate property in this sale. The estimate was £600-800. It required a bid of exactly £1000 to take it home.