William Henry - Monarch Fable

My Favorite Things


My coin trading started on the streets of my native Rio de Janeiro. From an early age, I was curious to know what the people, denominations and dates on these small pieces of metal meant. I would collect 1982 World Cup soccer cards and trade them for Brazilian copper coins and even some small silver. By age 10, I had completed my first date set of Republic silver 2000 Reis, all nine dates at 50 cents to $1 each.

Later, the timing was perfect as I graduated from college just as eBay launched, provided the platform to start my coin business.

After 12 years as a dealer in Brazil, I joined Heritage Auctions in 2008. It’s amazing that now I get to put together, along with the Heritage team, coin auction catalogs featuring some of the world’s greatest rarities – from the Ancient to the four corners of the modern world. I live my childhood dream every day.

Coronation Peça of Peter I, Brazil, 1822

This is the crown jewel of Brazilian numismatics. It has all the features required to be a true No. 1 coin for a country with such a prolific numismatic history: a great back story and a bust of a newly crowned emperor of a newly independent nation. It broke the record for the most valuable Brazilian numismatic item when Heritage sold it in 2014 for $499,375. I’m confident this record will hold for a while.

Vespasian ‘Judea Capta’ Sestertius, Shoshanna Collection

The Shoshanna Collection was full of incredible rarities, but I was awestruck when I saw this fantastic 2,000-year-old bronze featuring Roman Emperor Vespasian that basically looked “as struck.” With a starting bid of $30,000 that soared to $262,900, it’s clear I wasn’t the only one amazed by it.

Meiji 13 (1880) Proof 20 Year

We recently sold the Meiji 13 Proof Set of Japan and the 20 yen is perhaps the most important issue of modern Japan. The pedigree of this coin dates to 1915. It’s an amazing piece of Japanese numismatic history which I am glad to report is returning to the county of the rising sun after 100-plus years. It sold for $305,500 in January 2017.

8 Escudos, Central American Republic, 1824

I am particularly fond of Spanish American colonial coins. Among these, perhaps my favorite is the beautiful 8 Escudos issue of the Central American Republic (what is today Guatemala). With its beautiful, shining sun over the Central American mountains, its simple yet majestic Ceiba Tree and the motto “Libre Cresca Fecundo” (Grow Free and Fruitful), this coin embodies much of the spirit of the new, and now mostly independent, America. It sold for $176,250 at a January 2014 Heritage auction.

Mexico Pillar Dollar, 1732

The first milled silver dollar struck in America is the 1732 8 Escudos, struck at the Mexico City mint nearly 300 years ago. Although not a particular rarity, 1732 Pillars are extremely elusive in mint state, which makes this an incredible specimen. Look closely at the two “Pillars of Hercules” wrapped in banners and you’ll see why some historians believe the dollar sign ($) originated with the coin. This piece realized $152,750 at an August 2016 Heritage auction.

CRISTIANO BIERRENBACH is executive vice president of international numismatics at Heritage Auctions. He can be reached at CrisB@HA.com.


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