The engraver Thomas Brock (1847-1922) was given the task of producing what would become known as the ‘widow head’, ‘veiled head’ or ‘old head’ bust of the monarch. The artist’s initials TB appear in relief in the field below the shoulder.
The Royal Mint decided to issue two separate sets: a 10-coin set including four gold coins (a five pounds piece, two pounds piece, sovereign and half sovereign) and a smaller six-coin set containing a silver crown, half crown, florin, shilling, sixpence and threepence.
Given that a total of 773 of the larger sets were issued and 539 of the smaller sets, these are not exactly rare. However, the coins are much admired and the £5 piece in particular has become increasingly expensive in the past decade.
In a strong market for the best-preserved English gold coins, it is not unusual for a good example to bring more than £20,000 – a tenfold increase on what it might have made at the turn of the 21st century.
All of which made the two complete 1893 proof sets offered by Roseberys (25% buyer’s premium) in London on November 17 appear rather good value at their estimates of £2000-3000 each.
They had good provenance too, having come for sale as part of an 85-lot consignment from the Schroder merchant banking family. Most had come from the descendants of Baron Bruno Schroder (1867-1940), the nephew of celebrated Victorian collector Sir John Henry Schroder.
Despite the lowly expectations, the presentation sets both sold well, taking £90,000 and £75,000.