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EM17222

Elizabeth I milled Half-Pound finest graded of type MS62+

Elizabeth I (1558-1603), gold Milled Half-Pound of ten shillings, struck in 22 carat crown gold on a 28mm diameter flan, milled issue (1561-70), Bust E with serrated borders (1567-68), finely engraved crowned bust in elaborate dress left, all within Latin legend and outer toothed border surrounding both sides, initial mark lis (1567-70) both sides, ELIZABETH. D'.G'. ANG'. FRA'. ET. HIB'. REGINA, with curly Z in legend, rev. crowned quartered shield of arms, hatched interior to crown, E to left, R to right, SCVTVM. FIDEI. PROTEGET. EAM, weight 5.49g (Schneider 760; Brown and Comber L5; Borden and Brown 6, O1-R1; N.2019/4; S.2543). Exquisite red tone with a few flecks, superb, has been slabbed and graded by NGC as MS62+, currently the finest graded of this milled type and mint mark at both services, very rare.

NGC Certification 5880691-006.

We note currently as of November 2020 that this coin is a full six steps and plus in grade higher than anything else listed at both grading services.

We note this variety with Bust E and serrated border was struck during 1567-68 on the milled machinery of Elloye Mestrelle, and that for this latest milled Half-Pound issue only one die pairing was used with the lis mint mark.

The abbreviated Latin legends translate as on the obverse "Elizabeth by the Grace of God, Queen of England, France and Ireland"; and on the reverse "The shield of faith shall protect her."

Elloye Mestrelle likely arrived from Paris with his family in 1559, and along with his sibling Philip was already a skilled engraver. It is thought that he came to England to sell his skills to the Mint, as the Queen was concentrating her energy into the recoinage, having ascended the throne the year before. He may well have lost employment engraving in France, as the first mention of him is in a pardon by Queen Elizabeth of 24th March 1561 where he is forgiven for any treasons, felonies or offences before his arrival at the Mint dating before 1st March 1559. He seems to have secured a contract during 1560 at the Mint and was known to be acquiring materials for his machinery in June of that year, with the first fruits of his experimental machine-made labour appear in late 1560.

To make such milled coins metal ingots were first cast and then a cutter was employed to cut individual blanks, which turned out to be 10% overweight. Therefore, the individual blank flans had to be adjusted by hand cranking through roller presses to flatten them out. The eventual coins were struck by a screw press method and the first denominations were the undated silver Shilling, Groat and Half-Groat, and a limited number of gold Half-Pounds and Crowns perhaps produced to celebrate the Queen's visit to the Mint in July 1561. The silver at least features in a Pyx trial of October 1561, but not the gold. These silver denominations were then dropped in favour of new silver Sixpences, Threepences, Three-Halfpence and Three-Farthings, as of a new Proclamation issued 15th November 1561, all featuring the rose behind the bust, and Elloye was awarded £25 from the Queen.

Elloye worked within the Mint for the next eight years, but fortunes changed on 1st September 1568 when his brother Philip was arrested for counterfeiting Burgundian Crowns and Elloye was implicated in the crime. Philip was subsequently hanged after his conviction of 12th January, and Elloye though once again pardoned on 2nd May 1569 returned to the Mint in 1570; but not in as much favour as previously as he now had only limited access to letter punches for engraving. The Under-Treasurer Stanley suddenly died in December 1571 and the change in master-ship to John Lonison meant changes were afoot. It was decided the experimental machinery would be put to the test against the hammermen in 1572, and its production rate of a mere 22 blank Sixpence sized flans an hour could not compete with the hammermen's 280 in the same timeframe and theirs were more accurately hewn. Therefore, Lonison denied Elloye further access to the Minting area in the Tower though he remained in lodgings with his family, and not much more is known for the succeeding years and months. That is until in October 1577 when Elloye is arrested in London and later appears at the Norfolk Assizes charged with counterfeiting and is convicted. His possessions and family are evicted from the Tower, and alas it seems he met the same fate as his brother Philip in Spring 1578.

For further reading see the article in the British Numismatic Journal 1983, volume 53, "The Milled Coinage of Elizabeth I" by D. G. Borden and I. D. Brown.

Provenance:

Ex Ian Ure Collection, offered as "gentleman" by Mark Rasmussen Numismatist, List 2, Spring 2002, item C37.

Ex Christopher H. Comber Collection, Part I, Baldwin of St James Auction 50, 15th October 2020, lot 45.

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