In this week’s installment, highlighting one of the coins from the Thos. H. Law Collection, we focus in on a 1656 Commonwealth Broad, or 20 Shillings featuring the portrait of Oliver Cromwell facing left on the obverse and a crowned shield on the reverse, with the legend PAX QVAERITVR BELLO (Peace is sought through war). It is referenced as follows: Seaby-3225; Friedberg-273; Scheider-367; North-2744; Wilson and Rassmusen-39 (Rarity-2); KM-PN25. An interesting piece that is considered by some to be one of the first Guinea coinages, as the value of a Guinea in 1663 was 20 Shillings.
This coin was struck during a tumultuous and war-torn period of British history. The English Civil War pitted pro-royalist forces against Oliver Cromwell and the pro-parliamentary group. After years of war Oliver Cromwell and his army were successful and King Charles I was beheaded. Oliver allowed the former kings family to sew the head back onto the body to allow for a decent funeral. A republic was formed, and years later Oliver Cromwell would take direct control of the government and establish “The Protectorate,” with himself as Lord Protector. Cromwell’s legacy is tarnished by his autocratic rule through his subordinate generals, the military state he enforced, and by his violent suppression of the Irish. These factors led to a backlash against Cromwell and the Protectorate after his death, in 1660. With the restoration of the monarchy, the coinage Cromwell produced became an easy target, and much of the extant Commonwealth coinage was sent to be melted and recoined into Royal issues.
The Law coin, purchased in 1984 from Spink & Son for £5,922, is one of the highly elusive Proof strikings, and is graded Proof-63 Cameo by NGC. Its attractive, highly reflective fields contrast with the frosted reliefs on both sides. Light hairlines account for the grade, but do not detract from the overall visual appeal. An unknown, but small number of coins were struck of this issue, most known are lightly circulated, and very few are known in the proof format. This lovely survivor is one of only five certified as Proofs by NGC (only three are Cameos), and their Census also includes 14 graded as circulation strikes; the highest graded is a pair of Proof-64 Cameo pieces (one of which realized $110,000 plus the buyer’s premium in a January 2013 auction).
A coin of great historical importance and rarity, the Thos. H. Law 1656 Broad has a great pedigree and will be actively pursued by interested bidders when the Law Collection is called to the dais in Chicago this summer, as part of the Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio official world and ancient coin auction sessions of the ANA’s World’s Fair of Money. We anticipate a “British invasion” of collectors and dealers, so if you want to add this special coin to your collection, you will have to be prepared to bid liberally when it is called to the auction block. The cataloging of this fabulous collection is currently being worked on by our staff of experts. If you have any questions about this or any of the coins in the Law Collection, be sure to contact either Bruce Roland Hagen or Lawrence R. Stack. 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, 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 2014 Hong Kong. Be sure to contact one of our consignment specialists to discuss your collection and which auction venue will be most appropriate.