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A long journey ends.

DennisHDennisH Posts: 13,959 ✭✭✭✭✭
edited July 8, 2023 2:48PM in World & Ancient Coins Forum

It started in January 2002 as a hunt for a memento of fond visits to one of my ancestral homelands. A perfect choice turned up in an eBay auction by a seller in France, for a raw Scotland 1567 James VI Ryal or “Sword Dollar” (face value 30 shillings) that I upgraded last year. When it arrived I was captivated by the big, crude, hammered coin – but especially its history. It soon triggered the cluelessly naïve thought that, “I only need seven more for a complete set.”


The first coin in my set was a 1567 James VI located in France.

Finding all eight turned out to be a marathon test of patience. Two types of Ryals were involved: those issued under Mary Queen of Scots in 1565-66-67 whose main design element is a tortoise climbing up a palm tree (don’t even try to make sense of that), and those issued under her infant son James VI in 1567-68-69-70-71 whose main motif is a sword.

If Ryal mintage records were ever kept 450+ years ago, they haven’t been found yet. My personal hunch is not many were made; maybe a couple thousand or less of each year and type. Even if I am close, there’s likely a bigger reason why Ryals are so scarce today: Rapid Inflation during and after the time of issue pushed their silver bullion value far above face value, resulting in widespread melting.

A leading expert on Mary Ryals estimates the total surviving number for all three years of that type is just 575. He has no estimate for James VI Ryals, but my own research tracking down the sales of 203 Ryals since 2002 suggests the surviving number may be equally tiny. The breakdown is 97 Mary coins and 106 James VI coins. Interestingly, the smallest single year totals are both James VI dates – 1569 and 1568.

Once the set began (it is the only Scotland coin set of any kind in the PCGS Set Registry program) it soon became clear that the biggest obstacle to finishing it was that Ryals seldom came up for sale, or at least in places I knew about. I only saw four of them in all my years of attending Long Beach, FUN and ANA shows (two were auction previews), none at smaller shows, and filling out want lists was useless. I once went seven years between purchases, and five years another time.

But – hooray! – my persistence finally paid off last month. The last coin is now in hand: a 1568 James VI Ryal. Fittingly, my journey ended the same way it began, with a raw coin in Europe.

Besides being the last coin, the 1568 is extra-special because it resulted from a tip from the Ryal expert, who lives in New Zealand. We have never met or spoken; just corresponded to share information. His email arrived during Heritage’s special VAM sale in late June, letting me know where it was available in England. I quickly went to the dealer’s website, located the coin, bought it, and went back to watching the auction.

Talk about a small coin world, not to mention the joy of numismatic networking! Although I got shut out at Heritage that day, I still feel like I was the biggest winner of all.

Now just two steps are left: sending in the 1568 for grading so all 8 coins will be in PCGS holders, and have the set pedigreed. Fingers crossed; I’m thinking VG10.

By the way, the hammered coin specialist dealer I bought the 1568 from told me that mine is the only complete Ryal set he has ever heard of.

P.S.: A remarkable part of this coin’s story is the time it took to be delivered (no extraordinary shipping method; just a padded package via UK Royal Mail with International Tracking & Signature):
– Ordered June 27
– Mailed from England June 28
– Arrived in Northern Ireland June 29
– Arrived at New York Customs July 2
– Handed off to USPS July 4
– Arrived in Denver July 5
– Arrived in Salt Lake City July 6
– Arrived in Boise July 6
– delivered to me July 7

When in doubt, don't.

Comments

  • SaorAlbaSaorAlba Posts: 7,458 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I own a 1566 Mary Ryal and a 1569 James VI example with the 1578 counterstamp. And yes, such large denomination coins were skintly struck in Scotland during the time. And later on, the 1580's the 30/- examples are reported in the single digit numbers for some years, the 1586 example I purchased about 18 years ago is one of three known from that year. It is possible they were struck in larger quantities, but as you noted inflation made the metal worth more than the denomination and plenty hit the melting pot fairly early on.

    As for the tortoise climbing the palm tree, it was the crest of Mary's husband Henry Darnley - seems out of place with a tropical theme on a Scots coin!

    In memory of my kitty Seryozha 14.2.1996 ~ 13.9.2016 and Shadow 3.4.2015 - 16.4.21
  • Bob13Bob13 Posts: 1,412 ✭✭✭✭✭

    What persistence! Can you share the set?

    And…. What’s next!?

    My current "Box of 20"

  • TomBTomB Posts: 20,608 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Spectacular post and acquisition! Congratulations!

    Thomas Bush Numismatics & Numismatic Photography

    In honor of the memory of Cpl. Michael E. Thompson

    image
  • pruebaspruebas Posts: 4,276 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Fantastic! This is what numismatics is all about!

  • scubafuelscubafuel Posts: 1,713 ✭✭✭✭✭

    That’s excellent! Thanks for taking us along on the journey.

  • PillarDollarCollectorPillarDollarCollector Posts: 4,595 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Very cool and congrats!!!

    Collecting interests: Mexico & Peru early milled 1 reales + 1796-1891 US dimes

    Sports: NHL & NFL

    Thank you Lord for another beautiful day!!!

  • DennisHDennisH Posts: 13,959 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited July 9, 2023 6:36AM

    @Bob13 said:
    What persistence! Can you share the set?

    And…. What’s next!?

    I plan to get TruViews of all coins when I send the set in to get pedigreed. I will post a link when that happens, presumably this fall.

    Thanks everyone of your comments; they mean a lot.

    As to what comes next, I'm thinking about maybe getting a single example of both 1/3 and 2/3 Ryals, so I'd be able to show what all the denominations look like. I've learned my lesson about doing a full set, though. :D

    When in doubt, don't.
  • MrEurekaMrEureka Posts: 23,830 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Great project! I've been tempted to collect Scottish ever since B&R sent me a copy of the Dundee catalog in early 1976. And I always try to buy something when a nice collection comes out, but I'm pretty much going nowhere with it. I think I have three coins at this point. LOL.

    Andy Lustig

    Doggedly collecting coins of the Central American Republic.

    Visit the Society of US Pattern Collectors at USPatterns.com.
  • TwoKopeikiTwoKopeiki Posts: 9,503 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Congratulations and thanks for bringing us along over the years!

  • davewesendavewesen Posts: 5,674 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Very nice. What is the size compared to a Morgan dollar?

  • DennisHDennisH Posts: 13,959 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Dave:

    Being hammered coins, Ryals often vary a bit in size. I like to tell people "they are mostly round." I've seen auction catalog and reference works that say everything from 41 mm to 44 mm, which is crazy. I always figure more like 42.3 mm. Morgans are 38.1 mm. Ryals, by the way, are 30.46 grams and .917 fine.

    When in doubt, don't.
  • DennisHDennisH Posts: 13,959 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I received the coin back from PCGS yesterday. Grade is higher than I expected!

    Now I have to deal with the Registry Department to get the entire set reholdered with consecutive serial numbers, uniform holder types, and a pedigree, and get everything imaged. I say "deal with" because the last email I sent (a month+ ago) has never been answered). So I printed out everything I had sent and mailed it by USPS – but no reply to that either.

    When in doubt, don't.
  • pruebaspruebas Posts: 4,276 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @DennisH said:
    I received the coin back from PCGS yesterday. Grade is higher than I expected!

    Now I have to deal with the Registry Department to get the entire set reholdered with consecutive serial numbers, uniform holder types, and a pedigree, and get everything imaged. I say "deal with" because the last email I sent (a month+ ago) has never been answered). So I printed out everything I had sent and mailed it by USPS – but no reply to that either.

    I’m intrigued. I like the idea of all the slabs consistent, but is there a particular reason (other than OCD)?

    Good luck!

  • DennisHDennisH Posts: 13,959 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited September 6, 2023 2:18PM

    The 1567 coin I recently crossed over as an upgrade was, for some inexplicable, unnecessary, unrequested and massively disliked reason, put into one of the extra-thick PCGS holders (bottom coin in this photo).

    When in doubt, don't.
  • CrustyCrusty Posts: 1,060 ✭✭✭✭✭

    This is inspiring! Great collection 😎

  • RSPRSP Posts: 63 ✭✭

    An upgrade in an extra thick slab? That sounds like a wonderful problem.

  • GotTheBugGotTheBug Posts: 1,518 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Posts like this are inspirational and also serve as a reminder of the virtues of being patient.

    Congratulations!

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