A rare Victorian penny has fetched a record £37,200 after a fierce bidding war broke out at the London auction house Baldwin’s.
The 1882 Young head Bronze Penny has long been considered the most prized coin of its era. Before now, just one perfect specimen had ever appeared at auction, though whispers of a “lost twin” circulated for years, dividing the experts while adding to the coin’s folklore.
For enthusiasts, the coin’s allure stems from a peculiarity in its design. Nearly all pennies struck that year came from the Heaton Mint in Birmingham and featured a “H” below the Britannia emblem.
However, a tiny number of “No H pennies” minted in London were also produced, which collectors have obsessed about for more than a century.
Many had doubts one would ever be seen again, casting doubt on its very existence. Then, without warning in the summer, an elderly gentleman arrived in the London offices of Baldwin & Sons and produced the fabled coin from a leather purse.
The owner told his stunned audience of coin experts that he had acquired it in a private sale in the 1980s for just £1,000, and it had remained hidden in an underground vault for more than 30 years.
The coin — 30.8mm in diameter and weighing 9.4g — features a laureate bust of Queen Victoria on one side and a seated Britannia on the reverse. Baldwin’s panel of experts immediately recognised it as genuine
It was ultimately awarded a ‘Mint State 64 Brown’ grade by an independent appraisal specialist — meaning it is considered virtually flawless.
Bidding for the penny was brisk and attracted huge interest from overseas. In recent years, numismatics has proved attractive to investors who increasingly see rare coins as a blue-chip asset class comparable with fine art.
Though the coin was expected to fetch around £15,000, when the hammer came crashing down its price had soared to £37,200. The anonymous buyer was delivered his penny last week.
On a gram for gram basis, the price paid by the anonymous buyer made it around 100 times more valuable than gold, and 3.75million times its own face value. Bitcoin has averaged £35,000 over 2021 thus far.
Neil Paisley, MD at Baldwin’s, said: “Obsession with the ‘No H penny’ has driven treasure hunters to pour through collections and auctions for over a century hoping to find a flawless example of this special coin.
“Many gave up in frustration, with some even casting doubts as to whether we would ever see another perfect specimen. We were delighted to be able to assuage those doubts.
“Rare pennies like this can be worth more than Bitcoin, and who knows what treasures still lie hidden in people’s attics.”