The Fabled “Una and the Lion”

Though the Augustana Collection in our upcoming Summer 2022 Global Showcase Auction features a tremendous array of rare gold denominations from the former nation of Czechoslovakia, the English selections it contains are also incredibly impressive and expansive, ranging from the late medieval period all the way up to the 20th century. The capstone of the English section—be it in this collection or any extremely impressive collection of coinage from the British Isles—is the “Una and the Lion” 5 Pounds pattern striking in gold.

Designed as a proposal by William Wyon just after the coronation of the youthful Queen Victoria, the pattern presents a very recognizable rendition of the queen’s “young head” on its obverse, but diverges strongly from the more usual coinage with respect to its reverse. Taking inspiration from The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser, Wyon features Victoria (her facial and hair features clearly understood) as the poem’s character Una, who represents the True Church (as in, the Church of England). Una is accompanied by a stately lion (representative of England herself) as she attempts to locate the Redcrosse Knight (he having been separated from Una on account of the deceitful sorcery of a figure representative of the Roman Catholic, and thus false, Church). Ultimately, with an assist from King Arthur, Una frees the Knight from captivity, whom she betroths. In this sense, Victoria has bound herself with her realm—she being emblematic (and head) of the Church of England. Though richly allegorical and full of lore, it is believed that this somewhat helpless portrayal of the new queen as Una would have been in poor taste, as one instead would inherently want to project an attitude of strength for this nascent reign.

Though sadly unadopted, this evocative design has lived on in the minds of countless collectors over the years since it was proposed, with its desirability enhanced by the scant production of prototypes. So sought after is its neoclassical flair that the design has been reissued in modern commemorative coinages, exhibiting the strength of the desire to own such an iconic rendition. Featured in a previous Coins in Motion posting in order to show off all of the glistening brilliance and staggering appeal that it has to offer, this monumental coin in our upcoming Summer 2022 Global Showcase Auction—graded an NGC PROOF-64—should generate tremendous enthusiasm from those seeking a crowning jewel for their cabinets.

To view our upcoming auction schedule and future offerings, please visit our Stack’s Bowers website where you may register and participate in this and other forthcoming sales.

We are always seeking coins, medals, and paper money for our future auctions, and are currently accepting submissions for our Official Auction of the 2023 NYINC next January and our ensuing Hong Kong auction next spring. Additionally, we are continuously accepting submissions for our Collectors Choice Online (CCO) auctions, the next of which will be in October (and is rapidly filling up). If you would like to learn more about consigning, whether a singular item or an entire collection, please contact one of our consignment directors today and we will assist you in achieving the best possible return on your material.

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