First published in 1590 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser is an English epic poem – especially epic in the sense of its length as it is one of the longest poems ever written in the English language. Spread over six books, the latter three published in 1596, it examines many base virtues by following the the travails of some knights. A primarily allegorical work, it both praises and criticises Elizabeth without being overt.
A classic of English literature, one of the most iconic tales within it is that of Una and the Lion, of which you can read more about further down. In this bicentennial anniversary year of the birth of Queen Victoria, the East India Company have chosen the tale for its new limited series of gold coins. Why Victoria if the poem was Elizabethan? Well, because in 1837 Una & the Lion appeared on a British coin for the first time. With the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse, this is a clever and intriguing link between the three women that represent such a potent symbol of female royalty – each being a giant of their times.
The coin is gorgeous and will clearly have huge appeal for collectors of classic designs, like the Sovereign and the Britannia. A regal Una with her hand upon a quite fearsome looking big cat ticks all the jingoistic checkboxes, and short of including the Union flag, screams ‘Britain’. A border, perhaps a little wider than we’d like, frames the pair and carries the title, date and EIC privy mark. All told, we really like this one.
We’ve just described the 1oz coin, but there are 1/4oz and minigold (0.5g) versions as well. Rather than try to cram the whole design into these smaller canvases, the EIC have done what the NZ Mint have undertaken in the past with good success on Star Wars Classic, they’ve cropped and enlarged a portion of the artwork. The part chosen is perfectly judged and we’d consider this preferable to a tiny reproduction of the whole design – especially on the 11 mm minigold.
Mintages are pretty limited with the 1oz gold (£1,895) capped at 200 pieces and the 1/4oz (£535) at 499. The minigold (£49) will stop at 3,000 units. If you like the coins and want one, EIC are discounting the early batch by £100, £40, and £4.95 respectively. The first in a new annual series, we can’t wait to see what comes next. Available to order now, they will start to ship from 04 November.