An extremely rare 20 Won gold coin, which originates from the Korean Empire, is to sell as the lead lot in Bonhams' Coins & Medals auction, to be held on December 13 in New York.
The coin was first struck in 1906, with 10 and 5 Won denominations also minted as the nation's first gold coins. The coins were struck as the Korean Empire was coming to an end, just a few years before the annexation with Japan in 1910.
The vast majority of the coins were retained as backing for the subsequent gold notes, with nearly all of the reserve specimens melted following the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty. Just a few examples of the striking coins escaped the melt, due to the determination of numismatists such as HA Ramsden, who worked for the Japanese numismatic company Jun Kobayagawa.
According to Bonhams, 2,506 of the 20 Won coin were struck during 1906, however only a few examples are known in any grade today. Two examples - both graded extremely fine - have been sold at auction in recent years: one in 1982, bringing $25,000 and the other in 1996, which realised $34,000.
The present offering has been graded MS64 NGC, and is one of the most appealing of all the surviving examples. It boasts fully struck surfaces and devices with just a light amount of natural patina. It was previously sold in January 2010 for $155,250 and will now auction with a $150,000-180,000 estimate.
A similar 1909 example of the 20 Won coin sold for $632,500 as part of Heritage Auctions' sale of the Dr Jacobs collection in September 2011.
See our stock of rare coins for sale.