Gold Maltese piece from a golden era of coin design sells for $340,000

Earlier this week, Numismatica Ars Classica held two sales of fine and rare coins with some exciting results.

The first of these was the sale of the Restelli collection, subtitled Coins and Medals from the Knights of St. John (Rhodes and Malta). This was a truly spectacular collection by any standards and bidders pulled the stops out to get their hands on the 480 lots.

There was one standout lot however: A 12 Zecchini gold piece dated to 1725.

The obverse of this coin shows the cuirassed bust of the Grand Master (Antonio Manuel de Vilhena 1722-1736) facing right, inside a broken circle, wearing large perruque, whilst the reverse shows, within a broken circle, a crowned and framed oval shield with arms of the Grand Master quartered with those of the Order.

This is not only the most expensive coin in the Restelli collection, it is also the most spectacular. This coin has never before been offered for sale at an auction.

Antonio Manuel de Vilhena gold coin
Antonio Manuel de Vilhena gold coin

It was under the rule of Vilhena that Malta undertook to reform its coinage. The result is a multitude of splendid portrait coins, in both gold and silver. The 12 Zecchini might have been the one presented to the Grand Master himself, who appears to have shown a great personal interest in the production of coins.

Restelli-Sammut states that "the Grand Mastership of Vilhena marks an era in which the art of mintage in Malta reached an artistic level of high merit" The Restelli collection contains the most complete selection of Vilhena coins, ever assembled.

Unique and of utmost importance, this is the largest gold coin ever to be struck in Malta. It has a lovely reddish colour and is in extremely fine condition, which was simply too much for collectors and investors to pass up. The piece doubled its 150,000 Swiss Franc estimate to achieve 340,000 Swiss Francs (roughly $340,000).

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