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Beautiful Italian 5 Lire of 1914

This week, I focus my attention on a more modern crown, a beautifully designed type that closely resembles the silver coins of ancient Sicily. In the early part of the 20th century, the numismatist-King of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele III reigned from 1900-1946. The coin designs initiated in 1908 and running through the end of the First World War, depict beautiful allegorical representations of the strength and wealth of Italy. The silver crown-sized 5 Lire was issued for only three years (1901, 1911 and 1914), and examples range from scarce to extremely rare. Despite a published mintage of 273,000 pieces, many of these must have been hoarded during the war, and melted down.

The 1914 design features a bold portrait of Vittorio Emanuele III facing right in a military jacket and order chain around his neck. The reverse, engraved by the legendary Attilio Silvio Motti, and designed by the famous artist Davide Calandra, depicts the goddess Minerva (perhaps representing Roma) standing on a quadriga being pulled to the left by four impressive steeds. This design is reminiscent of the tetradrachms and dekadrachms issued in the ancient Syracuse on the island of Sicily. The military themes of the design perhaps represent the preparations Italy was taking to enter the conflict.

The intricate details are boldly struck throughout this important design. The NGC MS-63 grade ranks it among the finest graded by either PCGS or NGC (tied with five others with only two finer combined at both services). A light gold halo can be seen on the obverse and soft luster brings life to the surfaces.

Vittorio Emanuele has been referred to as the “numismatist-King,” having assembled an impressive cabinet, said to contain over 100,000 coins. The Corpus Nummorum Italicorum was one of his legacies to numismatics, a 20-volume reference covering the entire body of Italian numismatic history. For the King, numismatics was his life’s passion and he freely admitted that fact. He was elected as an honorary member of the New York Numismatic Club in recognition of his numismatic achievements, and a gold medal dated 1919 and featuring his portrait was created in his honor from gold from melted down coins provided by J. Sanford Saltus, an officer of the club.

This lovely coin is featured as lot 1224 of our official 2015 NYINC auction, and will be sold on the evening of Saturday, January 10. We look forward to seeing you there! The entire auction is available for viewing and bidding on our website at StacksBowers.com.

 

 

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