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Friday, April 24, 2015

The Band Wagon

This famous Una and the Lion British medal minted a year after Victoria's coronation to commemorate the coronation is currently available at the upcoming Hess Divo and Spink auctions.  Both medals are estimated at about $100,000.

It is certainly beautiful.  But for a medal, not all that rare.  With a mintage north of 400 pieces almost all 400 are accounted for and almost all in Mint State and they  turn up at auction about a dozen times a year at least.  All dozen are likely to bring much more than $100,000.  In fact, one went for $250,000 last year.

Why so much for a medal?  Well, this medal was able to get itself rebranded as a "pattern."

And, as it became more and more expensive, more and more collector/investors have become interested.

Compare this to the real Victoria Coronation Medal:

This medal in MS 62 went for $10,000 last year at Heritage Auctions.  The official mintage is 1360 pieces.  Three times the official mintage of the Una and the Lion.  Yet the gold coronation medal turns up at auction maybe once or twice a year in Mint State condition.  Some years none turn up at all.  In the current market it is far rarer than Una and the Lion, and with a much more elegant high relief portrait of Victoria engraved by famed Italian artist Benedetto Pistrucci.

Pistrucci and Wyon, who engraved Una,  competed for the most prestigious assignments at the Royal mint.  Pistrucci was generally considered the more elegant engraver, but because of his Italian descent and his stormy temperament, he never became chief engraver.

Also,take into account that while the Coronation Medal was distributed to VIP guests at the Coronation ceremony. the Una piece as strictly an item of commerce.  To quote from the Royal Mint: "They were primarily made for inclusion in the specimen sets of the first Victorian coins. These sets, dated 1839, were finally ready for distribution to collectors in 1843, but the Una in fact continued to be struck (for collectors) on occasion long after the sets had been completed."

Over time which would you rather invest in?  Especially at these current prices.

Now compare both of these to a much earlier Medal, the George I coronation medal:

This medal also boasts a beautiful portrait engraved by John Croker, under the direction of (and possibly designed by) none other than Isaac Newton.  The mintage was 330 pieces, all of which were distributed to VIP guests at the coronation ceremony. 

Newly discovered documents in the Royal Library reveal how extensively Sir Isaac Newton, as Mint Master, was involved in the design of the royal medals.  As one of the  leading intellects in world history, his medal must be considered to be amongst the  most fascinating and important artifacts of his (or any) era.

Whereas the original mintage is only a hundred pieces smaller than that of Una, you'd be lucky to see one at auction every three or four years.  A very tough, historically important gold medal.  And in MS 61 condition you may have to pay as little as $6000.  

Could you imagine the cost of a gold coin with a similar mintage, size, and pedigree and market rarity?  In most respects it is far more interesting and historically important than the Una and the Lion medal/coin.

Call it a pattern, if it makes you feel better, and helps you to get off the band wagon.

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