Cope Collection of Rare British and Roman Coins to be Auctioned in Zurich

Cope Collection of Rare British and Roman Coins to be Auctioned in Zurich

An outstanding collection of British and Roman coins will be put up for auction in Zurich in May and October 2024 in collaboration with leading coin firms Numismatica Ars Classica, Classical Numismatic Group and Numismatica Genevensis. The Cope Collection contains exceptionally rare coins, including three rare coins depicting British Kings and a Roman bronze collection with a bronze sestertius of Emperor Hadrian commemorating his visit to Britain in AD 122.

The collection was amassed over fifty years by noted numismatist Geoffrey Cope, and is made up of 170 ancient Roman bronze coins and over 800 British coins and medallions, which are in a remarkably high state of preservation, with a significant number considered to be the finest known examples in existence.

Highlights of the May sale include a trio of coins (lead image) documenting kings of England and a bronze Roman sestertius commissioned by Emperor Hadrian upon the completion of Hadrian’s Wall in 130 AD.

The Charles II Petition Crown

The most valuable of these coins is the Petition Crown of Charles II, the highest independently graded of only 16 known in existence and estimated at $750,000.

Struck by celebrated medallist Thomas Simon, it was created in 1663 to ‘petition’ the King to rehire Simon as the sole Chief Engraver at The Royal Mint. Making use of new mechanical technology, Simon printed a message around the edge of the coin, entreating the King to “compare this his tryall piece with the Dutch”.

The coin features a striking portrait so detailed that even the veins on the King’s neck can be made out.

Another key piece in the sale is a King Henry VIII Testoon, which depicts the King in an imposing, frontal portrait. The coin was struck in 1544 and was likely modelled on the famous painting by Hans Holbein the Younger.

The coin represented a key moment in Henry VIII’s reign when a lack of funds in the treasury led the Tudor government to manipulate currency by introducing cheap metals into coins previously made of sterling silver- known as the Great Debasement. This particular specimen is regarded to be the finest of those in existence and is one for which Cope himself spent his whole life searching.

The Charles I Oxford Crown

A third highlight of the British collection is the famous Oxford Crown depicting King Charles I by Thomas Rawlins, struck in 1644. The coin captures the presence of King Charles I in Oxford during the English Civil War.

The two central spires belong to All Saints Church- reconstructed since the time of Charles I, and now Lincoln College library- and the University Church of St. Mary on the High Street. Only eleven specimens are known, eight of which are in museum collections.

An important part of the collection is a group of Roman bronzes in a remarkably high state of preservation. Most notable of these is the sestertius of Hadrian celebrating his legions stationed in Britain. On display for several years at the British Museum, the coin presents on one side an accomplished portrait of Hadrian and, on its reverse, the Emperor in the act of addressing his army.

The quality of the artistic engraving and the state of conservation is such that the portrait on the reverse is recognisable even on such a minute scale. It is believed that the occasion which prompted the issue of this coin could have been the completion of Hadrian’s Wall in 130 AD. This important masonry construction was commissioned by Hadrian on the occasion of his visit to Britannia in 122.

A selection of the Roman Coins

Other Roman coins of particular note include a sestertius of Agrippina, issued by her son Caligula to commemorate the death of his mother- the reverse depicting a funeral carriage drawn by two donkeys- and a sestertius of Vespasian commemorating the successful campaign in Judaea.

Other British coins to be auctioned as part of the Cope Collection include a gold Angel of Richard III found near the site of his death at Bosworth Field, an example of the first English shilling depicting Henry VII, the first coin on which a true likeness of an English monarch is found; the only half-crown of Mary Tudor and Philip II in private hands; a gold ship Ryal of James I showing the King on the deck of a contemporary man-of-war and a silver crown of Queen Anne in mint state.

Arturo Russo, Director of Numismatica Ars Classica, said, “Assembled over a lifetime by a connoisseur and passionate advocate for numismatics, the Cope Collection is a truly remarkable collection containing some of the finest Roman and British specimens in existence.

These coins are spectacular not only for their artistic representations of important moments in Roman and British national history but also for their pedigree. We are thrilled to present the opportunity to museums or collectors to acquire a piece of history at our auction in May.”

Some of the rare British coins

Giuliano Russo, Director of Numismatica Ars Classica, added, “Discerning coin collectors know that bronze is the metal in which Roman engraved art can be best admired thanks to its patinas and generously sized denominations. Bronze is also the metal in which it is most unusual to come across specimens in such good condition, and this is what really sets this collection apart. The fact that the Cope Collection comprises almost exclusively coins in an exceptional state of conservation makes this a unique, rather than rare, collecting opportunity.”

David Guest, Director of Classical Numismatic Group, said, “The sale of the Cope Collection is one of the most significant dispersals of British coins in decades. Every era of coin production in the British Isles is represented in the collection. Among many great rarities, the Petition Crown of Charles I stands out, which, in the centuries since its production, has developed a mythic status amongst numismatists and coin collectors for its sheer artistry.”

The Roman coins and the first part of the British collection will be offered in a sale in Zurich on 8th May 2024. The second and final part of the British collection will be offered in Zurich in October 2024.

Charles I coins

Viewings will take place at the London offices of Classical Numismatic Group (British) and Numismatica Ars Classica (Roman) in early April and again in September, prior to the auctions in Zurich. It is the first time these three leading numismatic firms have collaborated on an auction.

Collectors can register for the auction by visiting

Cope Collection of Rare British and Roman Coins to be Auctioned in Zurich 2

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