The Strickland Neville Rolfe rare coin Collection heads to auction

This unique numismatic collection has remained in the hands of Rolfe's descendents since his death and brilliantly represents a snapshot of the tastes and interests of an educated English country gentleman of the Victorian era.

Strickland Charles Edward Neville Rolfe was born in 1789, eldest son of General Neville of the Royal Artillery.

He assumed the name and arms of Rolfe by Royal Warrant in 1837, upon receiving the bequest of the estates at Heacham and Sedgeford, from Edmund Rolfe, a distant relative who had no issue.

Educated at Wadham College, Oxford, BA 1812, MA 1816, he was ordained in 1814.

He became domestic chaplain to the Duke of Kent in 1814 and to the Duke of Somerset in 1825. He was appointed vicar of Heacham in Norfolk in 1838.

His first wife, Agnes, was the only daughter of Henry Fawcett, MP for Carlisle.

They married in 1814 and had five sons and four daughters. In 1833 he married Dorothy, widow of the Rev TT Thomason, Chaplain to the Honourable East India Company.

It is known that he was an enthusiastic collector and invested time in both natural and archaeological items, as well as having a keen interest in art.

Rolfe had had a number of artists staying for long periods to study artistic endeavours at Heacham Hall.

It is said that he had a large coach built in which he took these artists on excursions to draw and paint buildings or articles of interest in and around the area.

He was especially interested in the area of Norfolk and part of his collection of portraits of Norfolk celebrities, original drawings, topographical and antiquarian, were sold by Sotheby's.

Some of these pieces were used to extra illustrate 'Blomefield's History of the County of Norfolk' (compiled by Francis Blomefield and published in 1805).

Later, in 1929, a number of water-colour drawings from the collection were also used to illustrate a publication compiled by his great grandson, Clement Rolfe-Ingleby, and entitled 'A supplement to Blomefield's Norfolk.'

Strickland Rolfe died in 1852. Heacham Hall was destroyed by fire in 1941, whilst being occupied by the RAF.

The English coins from the collection span three centuries and include some key rarities, such as the pattern "Incorrupta" crown (lot 1405), one of only eighteen known to have been struck, with an estimate of £10,000 - 15,000.

Lot 1406 £10,000 - 15,000
Lot 1406 £10,000 - 15,000

Another key lot is the "Three Graces" crown (lot 1406, pictured above), one of the most important and majestic coins of the English series, again with an estimate of £10,000 - 15,000.

Both the "Incorrupta" and the "Three Graces" crowns were struck by the renowned medallist, William Wyon.

Wyon was born into a family of engravers and medallists and was the official Chief Engraver at the Royal Mint from 1828 until his death in 1851.

He is well known amongst the numismatic collecting world for the prolific amount of work he produced and for his artistic ability.

Wyon's portrait of Queen Victoria was also adopted for the Penny Black; the world's first pre-paid postage stamp in 1840.

Heavily influenced by relief sculpture he was an obvious advocate of Neo Classicist Vogue and was elected to the Royal Academy in 1838.

These coins were probably acquired by the Strickland Neville Rolfe Collection soon after they were issued, which would account for their remarkable state of preservation.

There is an interesting selection of colonial coins in the collection including a number of East India Company coins from India and the Far East and St. Helena.

It is possible that these were gifts from relatives who travelled overseas as it is known that Strickland Charles Edward Neville Rolfe's second son, Henry Fawcett Rolfe, served in the Royal Navy, and died in the Far East.

There were Rolfes amongst the early settlers in America, notably as successful Virginia tobacco farmers and amongst the colonial coins are some superb early American coins, most notably a pewter Continental Dollar (lot 1589), some stunningly preserved Rose Americana coppers (lots 1590-1593), and a magnificent Virginia halfpenny (lot 1594).

Perhaps the most extraordinary part of the collection is the series of Norfolk and Suffolk 17th Century tokens (lots 1474-1486).

This is a substantial collection of 365 pieces, formed with obvious pride and dedication, as is confirmed by the meticulous notebook kept by Rolfe for the Norfolk part.

There are numerous rarities for both counties, many in remarkably high grade.

The sobering thought is that this collection was unknown to the key researchers and cataloguers of this series in the 19th and 20th Centuries, William Boyne (1858), George Williamson (1889) and latterly, Michael Dickinson.

The Rolfe Collection will be sold alongside The Michael Hall Collection of medallic art and the Bishop's Wood Hoard of Roman coins by Baldwin's in May.


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Image: Baldwin's


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