Widow clearing out late husband's chest of drawers found 300,000 18th century gold coin made from captured Spanish treasure
Coin is one of just 20 Queen Anne 'Vigo' five guinea pieces made in 1703
Pensioner didn't know husband had it and says he had no interest in coins
19:13 GMT, 6 December 2012
A widow who found an old coin as she cleared out her late husband’s chest of drawers today sold it for nearly 300,000 at auction.
The unidentified woman had no idea her husband had the valuable treasure stashed away among his clothes.
It was only when an expert inspected it that it was revealed to be a ‘lost’ coin made from gold seized by the British from a Spanish treasure ship in 1702.
Lying in a drawer for years: The 'Vigo' gold coins were only bought by 'seriously wealthy' people in 1703
The unnamed pensioner, from Tunbridge Wells, was told the coin had an estimated value of up to 120,000, but today it was auctioned for more than double that following a tense stand-off between two telephone bidders.
The coin is extremely rare as only 20 were made from 7.5lbs of gold seized from Spanish treasure ships by the British in Vigo Bay, northern Spain, in 1702.
Even in 1703, when they were made by the Royal Mint, they would have been extremely expensive and bought only by the rich.
The whereabouts of fewer than 15 of the coins are currently known about, and they are in private hands.
The coin that was sold today is thought to have been inherited, rather than bought, by the woman's late husband, as he showed no interest in coin-collecting when he was alive.
Leslie Gillham, of auctioneers Gorringes, said: 'A client of ours asked to bring in some coins that she had found at home.
'I wasn’t really excited at the time because most coins we came across are worth very little.
Flip-side: The five-guinea piece bears the date 1703 and four shields with the arms of England, Scotland, Ireland and France on one side. On the other side is the bust of Queen Anne
'She produced from her handbag one or two old silver coins worth a few pounds. I flippantly said “It's a pity you haven’t got any gold ones” and she said that she had.
'With that she produced this 1703 five guinea piece. She said she had found it in her late husband’s chest of drawers and he died some years ago.
'She knew nothing about it at all and neither did her grown-up children. I thought that it must have been a fake. She left it with me to do some more research on.
'I sought a second opinion which confirmed it was genuine and I went and saw her to give her the good news.
'She was very cool over it.
'Her husband was a professional man and beyond that we have no idea how he came by it. He must have inherited it.'
The series of 'Vigo' coins were made out of treasure captured by the British fleet after they failed to take Cadiz in 1702 but managed to seize gold and silver from Franco-Spanish treasure ships coming back from America.
'This coin is in an extremely fine condition. It is very rare, and is one of the most desirable gold coins around.'
– Leslie Gillham, Gorringes auctioneers
The coins were made as part of an attempt to detract attention from the British failure at Cadiz, highlighting instead the haul of treasure they seized on their way home.
Mr Gillham said: 'The treasure was received at the Royal Mint by the Master of the Mint, Sir Isaac Newton.
'It was decided that the treasure had to be coined as part of a propaganda opportunity.
'About 20 of the Queen Anne Vigo five guinea coins were struck and they would have been bought by seriously wealthy people at the time and kept as part of the family treasure.
'This coin is in an extremely fine condition. It is very rare and is one of the most desirable gold coins around.'
The coin sold at Gorringes in Tunbridge Wells for a hammer price of 240,000, and with buyer’s premium and VAT added on, the total amount was 296,160.
CHURCH PAINTINGS FETCH ALMOST 1MILLION AT AUCTION
A set of four 14th century paintings which have hung on the wall of a village church for 150 years have fetched almost 1million at auction.
The paintings depicting Christ were found to be by Italian artists Niccolo di Pietro Gerini after cleaning work was carried out on them in the 1990s.
They had previously been hung at St Michael and All Angels' Church in Withyham, East Sussex, after they were donated by Edward John Ottley in the 1840s.
After their true value was discovered it was decided not to return them to the church due to security issues and conditions so the artworks – dating back to about 1390 – were transferred on loan to Leeds Castle in Maidstone, Kent.
They were sold yesterday at Sotheby's in London for 950,000.
Valuable: Two of the paintings which fetched almost 1million at auction