The ‘Vigo’ coins were famously struck from bullion captured by the British fleet at the Battle of Vigo Bay in northern Spain on 23 October 1702 – exactly 314 years ago today. They are now among Britain’s rarest coins.
Although they failed to take the city of Cadiz, the British managed to seize gold and silver from Franco-Spanish treasure ships coming back from the Americas. A year later, around 20 five-guinea coins were made from 7.5lbs of gold seized from the treasure ships – the treasure had been delivered with full pageantry through London and received at the Royal Mint by the Master of the Mint, Sir Isaac Newton.
The ‘Vigo’ coin at Boningtons is only the sixth example of its type to be offered for sale in the last 50 years. Another example sold for £240,000 at Gorringes in Lewes in December 2012. Spink also sold one in 2005 for £130,000 and another slightly inferior example for £82,000 two years later.
The coin has been consigned by a local vendor who received it from his grandfather many years ago. He had no idea of its value until he approached the auctioneers and the coin was identified by Boningtons’ coin specialist, Gregory Tong.
According to the vendor, his grandfather had travelled all over the world during his working life and had collected many coins
“He gave me bags of coins to play with (I was into pirate treasure) throughout my early years,” said the vendor. “My little boy has been playing with this coin as I did all those years ago.”
The auctioneers are hoping the coin will break their house record of £200,000 set by the sale of a painting by Sir Winston Churchill earlier this year.