Helfenstein-Gundelfingen 1611 goldgulden Fr-1189a

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from the Stack's Bowers 2019 NYINC sale, lot 40237
Helfenstein SB119-40237r.jpg
city of Ulm in 1789, showing Helfenstein
This specimen was lot 40237 in Stack's Bowers NYINC sale (New York, January 2019), where it sold for $33,600. The catalog description[1] noted,
"Excessively Rare Goldgulden from Helfenstein, The Only Example Known in Private Hands. GERMANY. Helfenstein-Gundelfingen. Goldgulden, 1611. Count Froben von Mosskirsch (1593-1626). NGC EF Details--Rim Filing.

Obverse: Oval arms bearing two elephants, legend: "FROBEN. C. IN. HELFENSTEIN. BA.A. GVNDEL"; Reverse: Imperial eagle, titles of Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II. One of only two gold coins struck by Helfenstein, both EXTREMELY RARE, with only three copies known for this issue, this being the only example that appears to be in private hands. Struck in light yellow gold, the design is sharp on both sides, with even detail present within the highly unusual elephant-laden arms as well as the legends on both sides. Although entirely discreet and not detrimental to the appearance, several disturbances appear along the edges, their presence suggesting that this piece was once set in jewelry, likely in a proud display of loyalty. Even considering this shortcoming, it is impossible to deny this coin's massive numismatic significance. For a savvy collector, it may very well represent a possible once in a lifetime opportunity to acquire a supreme rarity of south German gold coinage!

The House of Helfenstein was a noble German family that traced its roots back to around the 12th century. By the 14th century, it had built itself up to noteworthy prominence, with its heads earning the title of Count. By the 17th century however, the house had fallen into financial turmoil, with the death of Count Froben essentially marking the extinction of the line. Today, the family castle still exists, located in the present day city of Geislingen an der Steige, not far north of Ulm.

Rather curiously, the family coat of arms displays elephants in two of its four quadrants. Origin unknown, it has been suggested that their appearance stems from a distant ancestor, Helfrich, who was a citizen of Rome, but served in a German legion that had once fought against military mastermind Hannibal who is famous for his parade of elephants. Another, far simpler explanation is that the coat is a namenwappen (coat developed from a name); that is, the similarity of sounds between Helfenstein and Elefanten helped create the arms."

This is the only issue listed in the SCWC for this insignificant state in Swabia. This example is the plate coin therein.

Recorded mintage: unknown but rare.

Specification: 3.25 g, .986 fine gold.

Catalog reference: Fr-1189a; KM-1.


  • Cuhaj, George S., and Thomas Michael, Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1601-1700, 6th ed., Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 2014.
  • 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, Kyle Ponterio, Matt Orsini and Cris Chatigny, The January 2019 NYINC Sale: Ancient Coins, World Coins & Paper Money, Santa Ana, CA: Stack's Bowers LLC, 2018.

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