Among the most important consignments to the Stack’s Bowers Galleries inaugural C4 (part of the official November 2012 Baltimore Auction) is the fabulous John “Jack” Royse Collection of colonial and early American coins. A highlight of the Royse Collection is a very rare Sommer Islands (Bermuda) sixpence, earlier from the famous Roper Collection. The piece is described as a sharp VF, with all portholes visible, complete rigging on the ship, and with the hogge’s teeth and bristles “boldly apparent.” This is a rather nice description for any coin of this series, since the typical (if infrequent) appearance is that of a rather rough-looking example.
Despite intense interest in the numismatic community since the 19th century, very little seems to actually be known about the early history of these pieces. No documentation concerning the authorization or production of the Sommer Islands coins has yet surfaced.
According to James Smith of Jamestown fame, Bermuda had, “a certaine kinde of brasse money, with a hogge on one side, in memory of the abundance of hogges was found at their first landing.” This seems to be the earliest reference currently known for the series.
Sylvester Sage Crosby reported that some numismatists prior to his time regarded the Sommer Islands pieces as medalets rather than coins, but the discovery of stray finds of individual pieces in sizes corresponding to both the shilling and sixpence demonstrated to the satisfaction of 19th century numismatists that these pieces were actually used in day-to-day commerce on the islands.
The cataloger accounts for fewer than 20 known examples of the Large Porthole sixpence variety, as offered in our upcoming sale, and more than half of these are sequestered in the holdings of the Bermuda Monetary Authority and various other museum collections. Several of the examples in private hands are in lower grades and/or are flawed.
It is a delight to once again offer this specimen for sale. “Jack” Royse acquired the coin from our (Stack’s) sale of the Roper Collection in 1983, and it has been held by him since that time. The offerings in the Royse Collection are diverse and impressive, and are only a small sampling of the landmark colonial offerings to be offered by Stack’s Bowers Galleries this November. Undoubtedly, this sale will be regarded as one of the numismatic highlights of 2012, particularly where colonial and early American coins are concerned!