The Double Leopard

Arguably the most famous and valuable hammered coin is the Edward III "Double Leopard" sold by Spink on 29th June 2006 for 460,000 pounds.


                                   Image Courtesy of Spink


History of the Coin


This coin is the third known specimen of its kind. The two other examples, found in the bed of the river Tyne in 1857, are now both in the British Museum. No other specimens were known until this coin was discovered and dug up earlier this year by a metal detectorist in the south of England. This is therefore the only example in private hands. It is a slightly different variety to either of those in the British Museum.


The Gold Double Florin, authorised on 14 December 1343, was to circulate at a value of six-shillings.  The first coins were struck in early 1344, but the coinage was not a success.  The Double Florin was replaced by the Gold Noble, authorised on 9 July 1344, and therefore this magnificent coin was only legal tender for a brief seven months.

The obverse shows a full length portrait of Edward III enthroned beneath a Gothic portico.  The King is crowned and holds an orb and sceptre. Two crowned Leopards sit at either side, and the surrounding fields are decorated with fleur de lis. The reverse is filled by a floriate cross with crowns at the four points, within a quadrilobe with four Leopards in the angles.

The Double Florin was the first large gold coin of England.  It was intended primarily for foreign trade. The denomination was based on the gold Florin of Florence, and the design was derived from a French gold coin ("masse d'or") of Philip IV of France (1285-1314).

Edwards issue of large gold coins was emblematic of the might of England during his reign (1327-77). Edward ruled not only England but also much of France which he claimed through his mother Isabella, daughter of Philip IV. It was Edwards brilliant son, the Black Prince, who secured English interests on the continent with his stunning victories at Poitiers and Crecy.


Images and articles courtesy of Spink.