The coin is rare as it was made as a trial in 1936 but never released for circulation as a result of Edward VIII’s abdication in December of that year to marry American socialite and divorcee Wallis Simpson – ending his 10-month reign.
The sovereign is one of just two examples known to exist in private ownership, the remaining four examples are in museums and institutions.
The Royal Mint’s team of specialists negotiated a deal with the former owner of the coin in the US to sell it to the UK private buyer.
It was last sold in 2014 and first appeared at auction in 1984 (see below). In May 2014 it sold for a hammer price of £430,000 at Baldwin’s (or £516,000 including buyer’s premium) when it was sold from the Hemisphere Collection of Gold Sovereigns (part of a three-day 2663-lot sale in London).
The price is also an illustration of the continuing strong market for the best British milled coins.
The current auction record for a British coin was set in New York in January 2019 when a 1703 Vigo five guineas piece sold at $900,000 (£703,000) – $1.08m (£845,000) including premium – at a sale conducted by Baldwin’s of St James’s.
A UK auction record for a copper coin was set in September 2019 when another Edward VIII 1937 coin – this time a pattern penny (made of copper) - sold at Spink & Son for £111,000.
A set of Edward VIII pattern coins were added to the royal collection, but the remainder were stored in a safe of the deputy master of the Royal Mint. In the 1950s a second set of coins was created. Some were given to the British Museum and the Royal Mint and a few privately transacted with collectors. Edward, then the Duke of Windsor, also asked for a set of ‘his coins’ but his request was declined by the king.
Matt Curtis, in The Royal Mint’s collector services, said: “The Edward VIII sovereign is part of numismatic legend – belonging to a series of coins that were never meant to exist, and were hidden from the public for decades.”
The sale history of the Edward VIII Sovereign
- 1981 First recorded transaction - a private sale brokered by Spink & Sons
- 1984 Auctioned for £40,000 by Spink & Sons
- 2014 Auctioned for £516,000 (including premium) at Baldwin’s
- 2019 Privately sold for £1m by The Royal Mint