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The ‘Long Cross’ coin minted in London by the king’s goldsmith William of Gloucester, c.1257, is thought to be the best of only three in private hands. It came to Heritage Auctions as part of a private collection offered in a sale that closed on January 21.

First catalogued by British numismatists of the 18th century, the gold pennies of Henry III (with a face value of 20 pence) were among the first coins struck as gold returned to European commerce after a hiatus of five centuries. Previously any need for coins worth more than one medieval penny (a silver coin) was met by the use of Byzantine or Arabic coinage which circulated among merchants and traders.

The images of a bearded monarch enthroned is considered to be the ‘true’ first portrait of an English king on the coinage prior to the Tudor issues of Henry VII. The so-called Long Cross verso was designed to prevent ‘clipping’.

Four die pairings are known but the issue was ultimately unsuccessful as the coins were undervalued (London merchants petitioned the king that their value as gold was closer to 24 pence). Accordingly most were melted down.

This coin, a finely struck and unique die type, had a provenance dating back to the early 19th century and had last appeared for sale as a cover lot at a Spink- Christie’s sale in July 1996 when it sold at £145,000. The estimate 25 years later was $250,000-500,000.