Sometimes the former owner of a coin is just as interesting as the coin itself. This is the case with lot 33305 in our October 2023 Hong Kong Auction. While the 1863 Pattern Dollar is a major rarity in the early series of British colonial coinage for Hong Kong, this particular example was once in the collection of Sir Hercules Robinson, the 1st Baron Rosmead, who held many government posts throughout the British Empire, His time as the fifth Governor of Hong Kong, however, is most relevant to the rarity we are proud to offer.
Born on December 19, 1824 and passing on October 28, 1897, Sir Hercules Robinson served extensively in the administration of overseas British colonial possessions in the mid-19th century. He served as the Lieutenant-Governor of Saint Kitts from November 1855 to June 1859, when he was transferred to Hong Kong and, at age 35, became the youngest to serve that post in its colonial history. In the same month of his transfer Hercules Robinson was knighted. Under his governorship the British took control of Kowloon Peninsula and expanded the size of Britain’s Hong Kong territory. Sir Hercules has been called “the father of Hong Kong currency” and is recognized for setting the Dollar as the official unit and for the establishment of the Hong Kong Mint. Also during his administration, the banking giants HSBC and Standard Charted were established; both are still in operation today.
After his term in Hong Kong, Sir Hercules was appointed to the governorship of Ceylon in March 1865, and then from 1872 to 1879 he was the Governor of New South Wales. For a few months from October 1874 to June 1875 he concurrently served as the first British Governor of Fiji. For about 18 months, Robinson served as the Governor of New Zealand, and in 1880 he was sent to South Africa following the Anglo-Zulu War. He served as High Commissioner for Southern Africa from January 1881 to May 1889, and concurrently as Governor of Cape Colony. He returned to those posts from May 1895 until his death in 1897.
Sir Hercules Robinson had quite the impressive diplomatic and government role throughout his adult life, sending him to the far corners of the British Empire at the height of its Victorian prowess. While his name is not as famous as many other collectors through the ages, in their November 28, 1995 Auction of Coins, Medals, and Banknotes, Spink offered “A Property of a Gentleman.” They wrote the following:
FOUR HONG KONG PATTERN DOLLARS
Four pattern dollars struck at the Royal Mint, two of which are new pieces and previously unpublished. The group recently came to light, in England, having been in the possession of the descendants of Sir Hercules Robinson, Governor of Hong Kong from 1859-65. The coins were once mounted in a chain, but have been professionally removed.
This coin appeared as lot 450 and was plated on the back cover of the catalog. Stack’s Bowers Galleries is honored to be a part of this coin’s legacy as it offers collectors a chance to acquire this impressively pedigreed pattern dollar.