England (1554-58) angel Fr-196

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Ponterio sale 176, lot 20094
Eng c1554 angel rev P176-20094.jpg
Heritage sale 3030, lot 24072
England c1554 angel rev H3030-24072.jpg

The first specimen was lot 20094 in Ponterio sale 176 (Chicago, August 2013), where it sold for $49,938. The catalog description[1] noted, "GREAT BRITAIN. Phillip and Mary (1554-1558). Angel, (1554-1558). Lis. Longer Winged Class 4 Angel St. Michael, longer wings, spearing dragon within beaded circle. Class 4. Annulet stops. Rv. Ship with shield at center. ‘P M’ at top. Another very rare type that is not broken down by North. Not that far from being as made, but some natural flan edge roughness is noted from 5 to 7 o’clock. Some tooling marks and fine scratches can be seen around the legs with scrutiny. Overall the presentation is strong for this seldom offered type. Very Fine Details. Ex: Lubbock, 1985."

The second specimen was lot 24072 in Heritage sale 3030 (New York, January 2014), where it sold for $25,850. The catalog description[2] noted,

"The Rare Golden Angel of a Catholic King & Queen Philip & Mary (1554-58) gold Angel ND, Lis mm, AU58 NGC, a choice coin having residual luster and lovely reddish gold toning, each die just slightly off center but solidly impressed, resulting in sharply defined legends, much detail on Saint Michael and the writhing dragon below him; on reverse, the ship is generally sharp down to the water-line, the waves indistinct, but the tiny images of leopards and lis forming the royal shield are crisp, as are the royal initials 'P M' split by the cross/mast, which itself actually shows its wooden grain. The Lis initial mark on each side is quite bold as well. The images on this historic coin are stark and archaic, and the coin is exceptionally well preserved for the issue.

Mary Tudor, only surviving child of Henry VIII and his first wife, the Catholic queen Katherine of Aragon, became Queen Mary upon her brother's demise on July 19, 1553. She ruled alone until July 25, 1554, the date of her union with Philip of Spain. All of her gold coins, which are very rare today, were made of nearly pure gold (.995 fine, or 23 ct 3.5 grains), continuing the mint's attempt to regain confidence in the money which had been lost in the final days of Henry VIII and during the early days of her brother's short reign. When Mary ruled alone, much of the coinage in gold consisted of Angels. Not many have survived the ages. However, her Angels struck with her husband's name added to hers were made in much smaller quantities, and today they are very rare in any state of preservation. Only one type exists, using the abbreviated Latin legend on its reverse which in full would read A DOMINO FACTUM EST ISTUD ET EST MIRABILE IN OCULIS NOSTRI (Psalm 118:23), meaning 'This is the Lord's doing and it is marvelous in our eyes.' It was not the standard legend used on Angels. Its first appearance on any English coin was on the reverse of Mary's fine Sovereign, as seen in bold letters on an accompanying coin from this collection in our auction. Mary was the first female monarch of England since Matilda (daughter of Henry I) in the early 12th century, but Matilda was not queen of a united country; hers was an era of civil war. Mary of course took the throne only after her infamous father attempted to have a male heir by numerous women, resulting in only one son, the ill-fated Edward VI. Upon her brother's death from tuberculosis, what had been unthinkable to her father took place: she became Queen Regent. Hers was not a happy life. Her father had declared her illegitimate in his zeal for a male heir. This was reversed a decade later but then Edward caused the same declaration when he became ruler, fearing her Catholicism would throw the country back into civil strife. When the throne was finally hers, she installed bishops across the land, restored the Papacy as the official church of England, and reinstated ancient heresy laws. She also married into the Spanish royal house. Now two Catholics ruled an unhappy land. If a person was found guilty of heresy, he or she was also by dint of law guilty of treason, defined as being of a faith not that of the monarch. The royal pair were opposed and disliked by many aristocrats. She and Philip took action against such dissent, causing some 300 Protestants to be burned at the stake, acts which gave her the nickname of Bloody Mary. While all of this was developing, Mary sought to become pregnant so as to leave a Catholic heir. She believed herself to be with child as her belly swelled, even though Philip rarely saw her as he seldom left Spain. Nor would he grant to Mary any rights to the wealth being mined in the New World. Devout, disliked by her subjects, feared by her political opponents, Mary Tudor died of stomach cancer -- the bulge in her belly she hoped was a child -- on November 17, 1558. The kingdom passed to her younger sister, the Princess Elizabeth, whose politics and religion brought union back to the nation, and whose genius as a queen brought great wealth to her subjects and to the Crown's treasury, much of it in the form of new gold coins showing Elizabeth's likeness, in her name, but curiously retaining most of the old Latin legends of Christian faith. The times changed dramatically after 1558. The Renaissance arrived in England in full force. The styles of the coins were mostly different, presenting more lifelike images of the new queen. The populace wanted to forget the Catholic threats and their queen's brief alliance with the hated Spanish monarchy. As the many bent and defaced silver coins, and the rarity of the gold, of Queen Mary clearly attest, her money would mostly disappear with her memory. Well-preserved golden Angels such as we see here are truly rare survivors of this tragic royal era."

The angel was worth ten shillings. This type is substantially rarer than the angels of Mary I alone (Fr-194).

Recorded mintage: unknown.

Specification: gold, 80 grains; the first specimen 79.6 grains.

Catalog reference: Schneider-726, S-2496B; North-1965; Fr-196.


  • Friedberg, Arthur L. and Ira S. Friedberg, Gold Coins of the World, From Ancient Times to the Present, 7th ed., Clifton, NJ: Coin and Currency Institute, 2003.
  • [1]Ponterio, Richard, and Bruce Roland Hagen, Ponterio sale 176: The Thos. H. Law Collection of English Gold Coins, Irvine, CA: Stack's Bowers, LLC, 2013.
  • Lobel, Richard, Mark Davidson, Allan Hailstone and Eleni Calligas, Coincraft's Standard Catalogue of English and UK Coins, 1066 to Date, London: Coincraft, 1995.
  • Skingley, Philip, ed., Standard Catalogue of British Coins: Coins of England & the United Kingdom, 46th edition, London: Spink & Son, 2011.
  • [2]Bierrenbach, Cristiano, Warren Tucker and David Michaels, Heritage World and Ancient Coins Auction 3030, featuring the RLM Collection, the Isaac Rudman Collection, the Hans Cook Collection and the Collection of Donald E. Bently, Dallas, TX: Heritage Auction Galleries, 2013.

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