There are extremely rare occasions when this “hobby of kings” allows one the chance to actually own something that was once held by royalty. In an impressive lot in our spring Hong Kong auction, such a chance will present itself. A seemingly unique four-piece gold proof set from 1900 will cross the auction block for the first time since it was sold in a Superior sale in the final month of the 1980s.
This set was once a part of the fabled King Farouk/Palace of Egypt Collection sold in 1954. It features specially produced planchets referred to in the native French as “flan bruni”—an aspect rarely encountered for the larger two denominations (the “Winged Genius” 100 and 50 Francs), and otherwise unknown for the smaller two denominations (the “Marianne/Rooster” 20 and 10 Francs). What’s more, the 100 and 50 Francs each represents the highest grade for their specific types within the PCGS census, further attesting to the set’s unrivaled appeal.
The specific reasoning behind such a precise level of manufacture is not fully understood, though when observing the years (1889 and 1900) in which any “flan mat” and “flan bruni” examples are known, one sees a rather obvious pattern: the World’s Fair. In each of those years, the “Exposition Universelle,” as it would have been known domestically, took place in the city of lights herself—Paris. It seems rather likely that, while Paris was at the center of the world’s stage, one of the globe’s most advanced mints would display their seemingly unrivaled minting capabilities for all to see. In the case of the 1889 exposition, a coining press was in fact set up at the grounds for such a function. Further tying the mint and this event together is the fact that the Marianne obverse design of the 20 and 10 Francs was designed by Art Nouveau master, Jules-Clément Chaplain, who also designed the nearly-identical award medal for the 1900 fair. With the sublime craftsmanship displayed by a set such as this, the mint’s stunning exploits were undoubtedly fully realized. Taking into account the apparently unique nature of these four pieces, their sheer beauty, and their magnificent provenance to the World’s Fair and King Farouk’s vast collection, it is difficult to predict the lofty heights to which it could soar when it crosses the auction block at our Spring Hong Kong auction. Only one lucky bidder will be able to add four crown jewels to their regal cabinet.
To view our upcoming auction schedule and future offerings, please visit StacksBowers.com where you may register and participate in this and other forthcoming sales.