The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 22, Number 52, December 29, 2019, Article 22


A recent post on the NGC blog discusses an extremely rare British coin which recently surfaced and was submitted for grading and encapsulation. -Editor

1945_GBritain_3P_Silver obverse slab 1945_GBritain_3P_Silver reverse slab

The silver coin, the "rarest British circulating coin in 200 years," was one of 371,000 minted that year, all of which were supposed to have been destroyed.

The "rarest British circulating coin in 200 years" has been certified as genuine by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation® (NGC®), the world's largest third-party certification, grading and encapsulation service for rare and collectible coins.

The tiny silver coin — only the second known example — was not discovered in a buried hoard. The 1945 Silver Threepence was found in an ordinary Whitman folder, the type of cardboard booklet that young coin enthusiasts have filled with coin collections since the 1930s.

The coin had been removed from the Whitman folder and placed in a similarly humble plastic envelope, or flip, when it was brought to Baldwin's of St. James's, managing director Stephen Fenton said.

But it caused an immediate sensation even so.

"It was a coin I'd looked for for 50 years," Fenton said. "I regard this as the rarest British circulating coin for 200 years.

"You see lots of rare coins, but this is something I've always hoped to see someday. It's amazing proof that the rarest coins can emerge from the most humble of places."

Though the Nazis showered London with V-2 rockets in 1945, it was a more mundane reason that led to the 1945 Silver Threepence coin becoming almost extinct. The Silver Threepence had become unpopular because it was very small — a diameter of 16 mm (six-tenths of an inch) and a weight of 1.4 grams (five-hundredths of an ounce). A bigger, heavier, 12-sided nickel-brass threepence had been introduced in 1937 and was being minted every year.

The King George VI Silver Threepence was minted from 1937 to 1945, with a peak production of almost 8 million annually in 1940 and in 1941. But the wartime issues of 1942-45 all were shipped to the British West Indies. And the output of the coin's final year of 371,000 — apparently deemed redundant because of public acceptance of the 12-sided nickel-brass coin — was ordered to be melted down, its silver used in other mint products.

Every 1945 Silver Threepence was supposed to have been reduced to ingots, their inscriptions and profile of the king on the obverse and a St. George's cross over a Tudor rose on the reverse, destroyed.

But at least two coins escaped the crucible, and more of them might be sitting in jars or Whitman folders, waiting to be recognized for the rarities they are.

The new example is being offered at a Baldwin's of St. James's auction scheduled for March 2020, with an estimate of £15,000 to £25,000 ($20,000 to $30,000 USD), Fenton said.

How did it survive?

The owners, who Fenton declined to name, said they received the Whitman folder containing the coin from a relative who worked at the Royal Mint.

David Lange of NGC writes:

WGB3dB3 cover Reportedly, it was found within a Whitman blue folder for that coin series. I'm in the midst of scanning my collection of these folders for my book about Whitman products, so I thought I'd send in a few images of the folder in question.

On the end flap of this title is a brief history of this coin series, in which it's noted that "The entire 1945 issue was melted by the mint and never released." Whitman's usual practice for rare coins was to include a removable plug reading RARE for that particular opening. When this folder was first issued in 1961, that step was overlooked for the 1945 threepence, but the next printing in 1965 did include a removable plug with the words NOT ISSUED.

WGB3dB3 - 3rd page detail
WGB3dB5 - 3rd page detail

To read the complete article, see:
One of Only Two Known Surviving 1945 Silver Threepence Coins Surfaces (

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Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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