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1806 G. Britain Proof ½ Penny P-1371 Skinner Collection with Original Soho Shells





Coin Details

Origin/Country: GREAT BRITAIN 1707-1815
Item Description: 1/2P 1806SOHO G.britain Peck-1371
Full Grade: NGC PF 63 BN
Owner: coinsandmedals

Owner Comments:

Although this is not the rarest variety of the series, the fact that it has remained paired with its original silver-lined bronzed shell casing makes it somewhat unique. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Matthew Boulton was a man of many talents. In addition to striking some of the highest quality pieces the world had ever seen at the time, he also produced numerous trinkets and novelties that were highly sought after by the upper class. It should be no surprise that he was able to put his substantial talent to use to preserve further the coins he produced. Matthew Boulton took great pride in the proof coins he created, and on special occasions, he would make tightly fitted pressed silver-lined brass cases (often called shells) to house them in. These particular example has remained paired with their original shells for at least the last 200 years. It is exceedingly difficult to find specimens still paired with the original shells. Part of this is because, without the context of the coin, the shells are nondescript and have little meaning. However, when paired with the coin, the shells attest to the detail and attention paid on behalf of Boulton. The majority of the Soho pieces that have been sold paired with their original shells came from the sales of either the Boulton or Watt family holdings. Although it would be enticing to say these coins came from either of those collections, I can make no claim in one direction or the other. These pieces were described at auction as part of the Walker Collection. The following is the excerpt from the auction catalog:

“The following coins are part of the estate of the late Miss Pamela Joan Walker, daughter of Robert Cecil James Walker. Her father’s collection was accumulated in the 1920s and ’30s, his enthusiasm for coins, perhaps being inspired by his duties with the Midland Bank Ltd. in the City of London. Details of many of the coins are noted in his meticulous manuscript on individual mini-envelopes, reflecting his researches as a member of a north London numismatic society. After his death in 1938, the collection was retained intact by his daughter.”

His collection was assembled sometime before the bulk of the Boulton and Watt collections came up for sale, and as such, it is unclear where Mr. Walker obtained this piece from. To any extent, I am very proud to have this coin in my collection. Peck lists this variety as scarce. As of 11/18/2019, this is there are two other (both graded higher) at NGC and no specific examples recorded at PCGS.

George III is depicted on the obverse, and unlike some of its counterparts, his lips are distinctly separated. He is facing right adorned with a wreath of 10 leaves, which is tied behind his neck by a riband of two loops and two loose ends that point down and run along the back of his neck. A brooch of 8 jewels (the 8th is noticeably smaller than the rest) on the right shoulder catches the drapery. The lowest fold of the drapery is “obliquely striated” (i.e. a series of lines titled to the left), which is superimposed by “K .” (note the period is spaced from the “K”). The legend which is contained within a thin raised rim and beaded border and is as follows: GEORGIUS III · D: G · REX. with the date appearing at the bottom below the bust. Excluding the obverse spot, the obverse fo this coin is beautiful.

Britannia is depicted facing left wearing a close-fitting drapery sitting on a rock surrounded by waves. Her right arm is extended, and her hand holds an olive-branch with ten leaves and three berries. Several leaves are detached from the twig. Her left arm is down with a trident clasped in her hand, of which the middle prong points just right of the second limb of the 2nd “N” in Britannia. An oval shield that adorns the crosses of St. George and St. Andrew (heraldically colored) is to her left side. To the right of the shield is a banner with the Soho mint mark which reads “SOHO”. Please note that a line is present under the mintmark. To the left of the shield is the letter K. A 3 masted warship appears in the sea in front of her. Peck notes that the ship has very long pennants at the mastheads and incuse gunports. The sea is not curved like that of the 1799 halfpennies but is instead straight, leaving a clear exergue. The legend BRITANNIA is contained within a thin outer rim and a beaded border (even spacing). There is a double-cut border between the “B” and “R”.

Edge: Grained

Notes: With the exception of the slightly distracting spot behind George III’s head, this coin is very pleasing in hand. As expected for Soho proof strikes, this coin is boldly struck, emphasizing some of the most minute details. The quality of the strike is impressive, but when paired with the deeply-mirrored watery chestnut brown surfaces and hints of purple and neon blue toning, the coin pops out at the viewer. Taken these physical characteristics alongside the silver-lined Soho Mint shells makes for quite an impression when viewing the coin in hand. I wrote this part while the coin was at NGC for grading, and now that I have the coin in hand, I am once again bewildered by the magnificent toned and deeply mirrored fields. This coin nothing short of spectacular.

Acknowledgments: I have used NGC for almost all of my grading needs over the better portion of a decade, and not once have I been disappointed. I came to NGC as a humble collector with a simple goal of preserving what I thought was an exciting piece of history. I wanted the shells to be preserved alongside the coin so that there was no risk of the shells being lost. This request was complicated and created a series of unique and challenging obstacles, mainly the use of a multi-coin holder that was not designed to accommodate my request. To my surprise, although in hindsight, I should not have been given the level of service I have experienced, NGC was accommodating and worked diligently to fulfill my request. Now, thanks to the dedication and hard work of NGC, the unique history told by the silver-lined Soho Mint shells will be preserved alongside this coin for future generations to enjoy. I could not be happier with how this turned out. I want to personally thank Mr. Scott Heller and the entire NGC staff, who helped make this wishful idea a reality.

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