A rare coin worth 20 million rupees (£200,000) that was fought over by Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor, and His Imperial Majesty George VI will be offered to the public next week by a website Showpiece that allows fractional ownership of antiques.
The 1937 King Edward VIII Penny was never mass produced as he renounced the throne. The website is selling a “proof coin” to the general public. The company release says that more than half of the buying interest comes from Indians.
The 1937 King Edward VIII Penny is thought to be the first item of royal memorabilia to be fractionally owned, a program that allows regular citizens to buy shares for as little as 5000 rupees or £50.
Shortly after abdication, George VI turned down Edward’s request for the coin as the first shot in a royal quarrel that has been compared to the contemporary schism between Prince William and Prince Harry. Records suggest that the two remained at odds over the issue until George’s death 15 years later.
Experts claim the coin’s attraction originates because it never went into circulation. Edward was so concerned with his hair parting that he insisted on breaking with centuries-old Royal tradition, which required the Monarch’s depiction to face the opposite direction as their predecessor.
The Royal Mint planned to release King Edward Penny at 8 a.m. on January 1, 1937, but the plans were quickly scrapped when Edward abdicated the throne — and his title of Emperor of India — on December 11, 1936, amid a deepening constitutional crisis over his relationship with American socialite Wallis Simpson.
Wallis Simpson was a divorced woman, and Edward had been banned from marrying Wallis as head of the Anglican church. The incident prompted a bitter split in the monarchy and often compared to William and Harry’s feud over Meghan Markle in recent years.
Following Edward’s abdication, his title was changed to Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor, and his brother George became King of the United Kingdom — and Emperor of India. The decision of the Royal Mint to discontinue currency was widely publicized in the press of the time. King Edward VIII was not featured on any Indian banknotes or coins.
Only a few people knew, however, that a presentation sample of the penny — known as a “proof” in numismatic circles — had already been produced.
Edward’s effigy, which should have faced away from his predecessor George V, who gazed left, is an anomaly in the coin’s design that has added to its rich history. According to archivists at the Royal Mint, Edward was concerned that including his right side would break up an otherwise solid fringe of hair. He was adamant that his left side would make a more seductive portrait.
According to the Royal Mint’s records, Edward requested the cent shortly after his abdication but was denied. George, no longer under his brother’s influence, personally rejected the request, and the penny was never recognized legal because it had never passed through the Royal Proclamation.
It may be the start of a terrible conflict between the two men would eventually portray Edward as an outcast. Historians believe George was enraged by what he perceived as abdication’s selfishness. In future phone calls to his brother, he made it evident that he would deny him access to public funds, including the famous penny.
Surprisingly, documents discovered at the Royal Mint show that the two brothers were still at odds over the matter just weeks before George died. According to the archives, Edward was still inquiring about his penny in December 1951, but he would be disappointed once more. King George VI, who had lost the title of Emperor of India with the Indian Independence Act in 1948, died on February 6, 1952. Although Edward outlived him by 20 years, the penny eluded him.
It’s unclear what happened to the penny throughout the years, but historians believe it was purchased from the Royal Mint by an American collector at an unknown period.
It first surfaced at auction in 1978, fetching £25,000, before being sold for £133,000 in 2019. According to the most recent £200,000 appraisal by London coin dealer A. H. Baldwin & Sons, the coin’s value has increased by another 50% in just two and a half years.
The current price tag makes it 500 times more expensive than gold on a gram-for-gram basis and 20 million times more valuable than its face value, weighing 9.36g and measuring 3.08cm. It is the only example of a coin that is privately traded.
The collectibles platform Showpiece has acquired the Edward VIII Penny, and royal collectors will be able to possess a piece of the mythical coin beginning March 8. The company’s ownership has been divided into 4000 pieces, or shares, which may be purchased for roughly 5000 rupees.
Fractional ownership has changed the world of fine art and renowned collectibles in recent years. Banksy’s paintings and the £6.2 million One-Cent Magenta stamp were among the most recent offerings. Each object is usually given its trust, which is subsequently divided into fractions. Owners can vote on whether to accept or reject future offers and are then paid out pro-rata. The iconic penny is limited to a 10% stake for buyers.
“While we anticipated the coin would be in high demand in the UK, we didn’t fully appreciate the level of interest we’d receive from India until we started looking more closely at our data,” said Dan Carter, co-founder of the website.
“Our numbers reveal that India accounts for 55% of registered overseas interest in the coin, and we expect this to show up in the sales figures on March 8.”