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The Thos. H. Law Collection: Practical Political Correctness Created the House of Windsor

By Bruce Roland Hagen, Senior Research Numismatist

Author: Bruce Roland Hagen / Thursday, August 01, 2013 / Categories: Paper Money of the Week
For several weeks we have enjoyed placing the many Thos. H. Law English gold coins being sold at the ANA World’s Fair of Money in Chicago sale into their historical context. They were acquired as such and displayed in award winning ANA exhibits for that and other reasons. The catalog has now been mailed to our worldwide clientele and all 459 lots are currently available for viewing and bidding on our website (www.stacksbowers.com). The handsome full-color catalog is not only a testament to Thos. H. Law’s brilliantly constructed cabinet, but also contains an overview of the English monarchy from Plantagenet King Edward III until the currently reigning Windsor, Queen Elizabeth II (60 plus years and heading strongly towards Queen Victoria’s record tenure).

Queen Elizabeth II is the matriarch of the House of Windsor; mother of Prince Charles (first in line to succeed) and grandmother of Prince William (second in line). This week’s current events have put the House of Windsor on the front pages for a happy reason -- the royal birth of an infant boy who now will be third in line to the succession of the British throne. Of course tabloid readers and TMZ watchers can toss the Windsor name about, but many have no clue to its actual creation. In reality, the House of Windsor is the politically correct moniker for the former House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. The entire family descends directly from Queen Victoria, widowed from Prince Albert, whose son Edward VII became King in 1902, assuming this house name patrilineally. In 1917, with World War I raging in Europe against Germany and others, King George V had the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha family name changed to the House of Windsor, and abandoned German titles for family members and relatives, realizing this was the only practical course due to political circumstances.

Twentieth century English gold coinage from the Law Collection is highlighted by many of the Proof Set only coins from Edward VII (1902-1910) onward. Regular issue Sovereigns and Half Sovereigns were still minted for circulation during the first quarter-century, but were gradually phased out due to monetary policy (just as the United States ceased minting gold coins in 1933). Proof coins prepared for the 1902 Edward VII coronation year Proof Set were prepared with a matte surface. A 5 Pounds Proof, lot 20413, purchased in a set in a 1976 Glendining’s sale, illustrates the surface difference from the previous and future mirror Proofs struck by the Royal Mint. Proof sets were minted again in 1911 for George V, but with the traditional mirror finish, and our sale features an attractive 2 Pounds Proof, lot 20430, graded NGC Proof-62. Perhaps, King Edward VIII is the most famous Windsor of all due his controversial nature. He reigned just 11 months in 1936 after the death of his father, George V, but his brother succeeded him rapidly as George VI when Edward insisted on marrying American divorcee’ Wallis Warfield Simpson. The Law Collection includes an unofficial medallic Crown in Gold, lot 20438, to illustrate this reign. George VI Proof Sets were minted in 1937 and Mr. Law owned two sets to help display obverses and reverses in exhibits. Over the years, the Sovereign coin in this set has always carried a premium and lot 20443 is a delightful NGC Proof-63 example with pleasing cameo frost. Elizabeth II gold coinage is primarily Proofs and sets minted for collectors. Mr. Law included these in his cabinet to represent the monarch and types. Perhaps the most relevant set made was in 1989 for the 500th Anniversary of the Gold Sovereign (lot 20456 and lot 20457), with denominations from Half Sovereign, Sovereign, Two Pounds and Five Pounds. The common design for each is styled like the ca.1489 Henry Tudor Fine Sovereigns, with Queen Elizabeth seated on King Edward’s Chair and on the reverse the Royal Arms on the Tudor Rose.

These 20th century gold coins and sets are among the 459 lots from the Thos. H. Law Collection that will be part of 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 eager to add these and other Law coins into their collections. If you have any questions about the coins discussed here or any of the other 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 to be added. Finally, if you have a collection of rare world coins or an important individual rarity, we are currently accepting consignments to our 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.