The coin at the centre of a royal family feud

The late 1930s was a tumultuous time for the Royal Family. Edward VIII announced his abdication on 11 December 1936 to the shock of the world and the outrage of the Royal Family.

Edward’s successor – his brother and our Queen’s father, George VI was furious at the abdication and made it his mission to see Edward as an outcast and deprive him of access to public monies.

That included a coin that has just been valued at 20 million times its own face value. It’s a coin that the brothers were still at loggerheads over up until George VI’s death early in 1952.

The coin that never was

The coin in question is a 1937 Penny, featuring the head of Edward VIII. Of course, Edward was no longer king in 1937, so The Royal Mint had to pull production of the coin at the last minute.

Such was the intense interest in Edward’s forbidden relationship with Wallis Simpson that the newspapers actually reported the news of The Royal Mint’s decision to drop the coinage.

Unbeknownst to the papers and the public though was that a proof presentation example of the coin had already been minted.

The royal feud

According to historical records, Edward asked for the 1937 penny soon after his abdication but his request was denied by his brother, the new King, George VI.

Historians say George was furious at what he saw as the selfishness of the abdication. Across a number of phone calls, he made it clear to his brother that he was determined to keep the famous penny out of hands.

Edward wouldn’t let it go though, with documents dated December 1951 showing that he was still making enquiries about his penny at the time, but would again be disappointed.

King George VI died on February 6, 1952, and though Edward survived him by 20 years, the penny would always elude him.

The mystery

How the penny came into the public domain remains a mystery, with the belief that The Royal Mint may have sold it to an American collector at an unknown date.

It appeared at auction in 1978, achieving a hammer price of £25,000 before being sold again in 2019 for £133,000.

Valued today at £200,000, it is now 20 million times more valuable than its own face value.

Being the only privately traded example of the coin that exists, the sky’s the limit for the 1937 Penny.


If you’re interested…

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