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Much Ado About Angels from the Thos. H. Law Collection

By Bruce Roland Hagen, Senior Research Numismatist

Author: Bruce Roland Hagen / Wednesday, June 26, 2013 / Categories: Crossing the Block

…Mild, or come not near me; noble, or not I for an angel…

 

Much Ado About Nothing II.iii.35.

 

 Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio is honored to sell the Thos. H. Law Collection of British Gold Coins from Edward III to the present day Queen Elizabeth II, this year in at the ANA World’s Fair of Money in Chicago. The diversity of the Law Collection provides an important opportunity for American and International buyers to obtain rarities that have often been off the market for decades. Mr. Law’s astute sense of history and culture is quite apparent across the collection, both chronologically through the British monarchs and thematically.

 

An interesting facet of the Law British Gold Collection is the group of remarkable coins that relate to William Shakespeare and his plays. It is apparent that the Tudor era coinage was among Mr. Law’s passions and his family interest in Shakespeare very relevant. Several Shakespeare plays make reference to coins of the period and the quote above even reflects a pun (‘’noble’’ and ‘’angel’’). The gold Angel denomination was first introduced in during the first reign of Edward IV (1461-1470) to replace the Noble and was valued at 80 Pence (80 grains of gold). The Law Collection does not include an Angel from that reign, but features an early Henry VI Restored Angel, which has seen some use, but has toned pleasantly and reflects an attractive character. The earlier Angels show St. Michael feathered and spearing the dragon; later, the Saint boasts armor breastplates instead. Though missing the elusive Edward IV Angel, the Law cabinet does contain an exceedingly rare and important ‘’Prince of the Tower’’ Edward V Angel. This is a key gold type from the hammered coinage period, issued in 1483 only by the uncrowned king who was later portrayed by Shakespeare and others as having been murdered on the orders of  the villainous Richard III. This rarity was one of several obtained by Mr. Law at the acclaimed Norweb sales held in London in 1985.

 

Among the Tudor period Angels in the collection are several rare and choice pieces from Henry VII to the reign of Elizabeth I. Noteworthy is a very rare Class IV Phillip and Mary Angel (1554-1558). Their joint reign, though short, was controversial with a foreign and Catholic King sharing limited power during an era in which persecution of Protestants resulted in 300 burnings of heretics and dissidents. Luckily for England, Phillip lived in Spain most of the time. This lovely coin was obtained in 1982 at Sotheby’s. Elizabeth I gold Angels are not very rare, but a beautiful late period Angel, nearly Mint State, is part of the collection and truly is a ‘’Shakespearean’’ era coin.

 

Gold Angels were often pierced after minting and used as “Touch pieces” or talismanic coins worn by royals and used in the touching ceremonies for the purposes of healing the sick. As anointed figures that derived their ruling powers from God, monarchs were believed to have healing powers, and this practice was used particularly against the disease scrofula, which manifested as a skin disorder. Though the custom originated centuries before, the Stuart rulers seem to be particularly remembered for this practice. Angels of this period were struck specifically for this use, and almost all were officially pierced in the center so the coin could be worn around the neck. The Law cabinet Angel of the ill-fated Charles I (1632-33) is nearly Mint State, but was pierced at the mint for ‘’touch’’ use.

 

These five coins and over 450 others from the Thos. H. Law Collection will comprise a memorable event within the Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio official world and ancient coin auction at the ANA’s World’s Fair of Money. We anticipate many distinguished collectors and dealers will be eager to add these and other Law coins to their collections. The crafting of this fabulous Law Collection sale catalog is nearly completely by our expert production team. If you have any questions about the gold Angels discussed here or any of the superb coins in the Law Collection, be sure to contact either Bruce Roland Hagen (bhagen@stacksbowers.com or 1-866-566-2580) or Lawrence R. Stack (through our New York office, 1-212-582-2580). If you are not currently on our mailing list and would like to receive a copy of the Law Collection catalog, be sure to contact one of our auction services associates. Finally, if you have a collection of rare world coins or an important individual rarity, we are currently accepting consignments to future Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio sales, including our November 2013 Baltimore, January 2014 New York International Numismatic Convention, and April and August 2014 Hong Kong sales. Be sure to contact one of our consignment specialists to discuss your collection and which auction venue will be most beneficial for realizing record prices for your significant coins and currency.