It was twice the previous high for the coin and considerably more than had been bid earlier in Coinex week for the full 1839 proof set.
Ranked among the beautiful and most-wanted of all British milled coins, the gold five pounds was part of the first coin issue of Queen Victoria created in 1838, shortly after she had come to the throne.
The obverse displays the famous ‘young head’ portrait of Victoria by William Wyon while the reverse portrays her as Una leading the lion. It occurs with two small variant reverse legends, based on Psalm 119:133 and translates as ‘May God Direct My Steps’.
There is little evidence these coins were made for general circulation with most collected as commemorative issues. In March this year a ‘Una and the Lion’ five pounds coin (with some minor surface marks) left its estimate far behind when it fetched £170,000 at rival London saleroom Dix Noonan Webb.
Deemed a “good, extremely fine” example, the coin at Baldwin’s of St James’s ‘Premier’ sale on September 22 carried an estimate of £150,000-200,000. Bidding came down to just two bidders, who went toe-to-toe for at least five minutes before the hammer finally came down at £340,000. The price was more than double the original estimate of £150,000 and record for a British five pounds piece.
The previous week, on September 14, a proof set of the full array of the ‘Una and the Lion’ coins from 1839 (featuring the five pounds to the farthing) sold for £220,000 at Dix Noonan Webb.
The set of 15 coins was in virtually mint state and housed in the original contemporary fitted case. This set had been in a private collection since February 1938 when it had been bought at Spink for £37.