Rare £1 coin sells for record £1m

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
The Royal Mint's photo of a rare Edward VIII Sovereign coin, featuring the Queen's uncle before he abdicated, which has been bought for £1m, setting a new record for the sale of a British coin. Photo: PA/Royal Mint

A rare, convention-breaking £1 coin featuring Edward VIII has sold for a record £1m ($1.31m).

The Royal Mint said on Friday it had facilitated the sale of the rare coin, which is dated 1937 and never entered circulation.

Edward VIII, the Queen’s uncle, abdicated in December 1936 to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson, so no coins bearing his face ever entered circulation. However, the Royal Mint was due to start production of Edward VIII coins in January 1937 and so ‘pattern’ coins were created to test possible designs. Only a handful exist.

As well as the coin’s scarcity, collectors are also drawn to its unusual design. Monarchs traditionally face a different way to their predecessor on coinage. However, Edward preferred his left side and so demanded his face left on the coin, the same direction George V faced on coins.

“The Edward VIII sovereign is one of the rarest and most collectable coins in the world, so it’s no surprise that it has set a new record for British coinage,” Rebecca Morgan, head of collector services, told the Press Association.

The rare Edward VIII coin. Photo: PA/Royal Mint

The 22-carat-gold coin was first sold in 1984 for £40,000 in Tokyo, then sold again in 2014 to a US collector for £516,000. The Royal Mint was contacted by a UK collector looking to purchase the coin and facilitated the sale.

“We were delighted to be able to locate such a special coin for our customer, and bring it back to the UK to make history once more,” Morgan said.

The buyer wants to remain anonymous but spoke to the BBC about the record purchase.

“When the opportunity came along, I felt I could not turn it down,” the collector told the BBC. “It was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

"I'm aware that [£1m] is a lot of money for a coin, but if I did not secure it now, I'd not get the chance again."

The Royal Mint said it only knows of a few Edward VIII pound coins in existence. The Mint holds three, one is on loan to the British Museum, one is held by the Royal Collection, and another is “thought to be” held privately, according to the Mint.

The reverse of the Edward VIII coin. Photo: PA/Royal Mint