Welcome to our gold Sovereign information page. Gold Sovereigns are probably the most popular investment we deal with so we thought they deserved a page of their own. Listed below is a general history of the gold Sovereign, followed by a brief explanation of mintmarks and finally a full listing of mintages for each monarch.
To jump straight to a particular Sovereign, click one of the following links:
Victoria Young Head Shield Back 1837 - 1887 | Victoria Young Head St. George Sovereign 1872 - 1887 | Victoria Jubilee Head 1887 - 1893 | Victoria Old Head 1893 - 1901 | Edward VII Sovereign | George V Sovereign | George VI Sovereign |
|Gold Sovereign Information by Monarch|
|Victoria Young Head Shield Back 1837 - 1887|
|Victoria Young Head St. George 1872 - 1887|
|Victoria Jubilee Head 1887 - 1893|
|Victoria Old Head 1893 - 1901|
|Edward VII Sovereign|
|George V Sovereign|
|George VI Sovereign|
History of the Gold Sovereign
The gold Sovereign coin was first minted in the reign of Henry VII in 1489. It was not exactly like the coin we know today as the name Sovereign lent itself to five different coins throughout Henry VII's reign. Unlike his forbears, Henry was attempting to establish a gold coinage not known in England at the time and it is thanks to his metal engraver's ingenuity that the gold Sovereign legacy has remained in British culture today.
The first gold Sovereign depicted the King in full coronation regalia sitting on a Gothic throne, holding an orb and sceptre. On the reverse the coin hosts a large double rose (commonly known as the Tudor Rose) coupled with the royal arms of France and England.
From 1489, the gold Sovereign was minted every year until James I when their production fell out of favour with the new King, who opted towards the traditional Ryal, Laurel and Crown. It wasn't until the reign of George III that the gold Sovereign was re-introduced in 1817 to replace the troubled Guinea.
Following the successful re-introduction of the Sovereign and combined with the industrialisation of the expanding British Empire it was decided to introduce mintmarks. The following mintmarks were used during the Victorian era, and up to and including George V:
The first of Queen Victoria's Sovereigns has been affectionately named the Young Head Shield Back Sovereign which was first produced in 1838 until 1887.
In total, Victoria would have three other designs produced throughout British Empire. It wasn't until the Colonial Branch Mint Act of 1866 that the coins from the colonies would be recognised as legal tender outside of the domiciled country. After the ratification of the act, the Sovereign coin production expanded rapidly, establishing one of the most recognisable forms of gold bullion in modern history.
Young Head Shield Back Sovereign (22ct, 0.2354 t/oz, 7.98g) - there were two types of Young Head Shield Back Sovereigns - some with DIE numbers. DIE numbers are on the bottom of the coin just above the rose.
London Mint Type 1A Sovereigns (without DIE numbers)
Australian Shield Sovereigns - Type IC & ID
The second Victorian Sovereign, known as the Young Head St.George, saw the Shield emblem replaced by the original design of George slaying the dragon by Benedetto Pistrucci. The coins were first issued in 1871 and they ran concurrently with the previous "Shield Back" sovereign.
London Mint (No Mint mark) Type IIA St.George Sovereigns
The third Victoria Sovereign known as the Jubilee Head Sovereign was released to commemorate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee - fifty years on the throne.
The final Sovereign in Queen Victoria's reign is the Old Head Sovereign. The design of the veiled Queen was created by Thomas Brock of the Royal Academy, a notable sculptor of the age. The Old Head Sovereign, also known as the Widow Head, is the first Sovereign in the Victorian era that also features coins made in Australia's newly established branch in Perth.
Edward VII ascended the throne in 1901 but the Edward VII Sovereign was not struck until 1902. It was during Edward's reign that the Canadian House of Commons agreed to fund a branch mint in Ottawa. Although the branch was ratified in 1901, the building of the mint only began in 1905 with the first Canadian gold Sovereign coins struck in 1908.
In 1910 George V was crowned King but it wouldn't be until 1911 that the first issue of his gold Sovereign would be released. The new design of King George was created by Sir Edgar Bertram MacKennal originally from Melbourne, Australia. It is under George V that Great Britain and it's gold Sovereign coins would witness much change. It is during His Majesty's reign that the final two mints were established, one in what was then Bombay in India and the other in Pretoria in South Africa. These would be the last two branch mints established by a monarch. Aside from branch mints, at home there was much change occurring in day-to-day coinage. With the outbreak of the Great War in 1914 the government, underpressure from the stress of wartime Britain, issued Treasury Notes to the value of £1 and 10s. It was during the period that the British public were asked politely not to demand gold as forms of payment. Gold Sovereigns were continued to be made but were predominantly held by the Bank of England as part of their gold reserves. In time, these gold Sovereigns would be used to pay the US government for the considerable war debts accrued.
*Melbourne, Sydney and Perth Mint gold Sovereign coins between 1929 - 1931 feature the 'Small Head' of the King's bust.
*South African gold Sovereign coins minted between 1929 - 1932 feature the 'Small Head' of the King's bust.
George VI ascended the throne only a few years after the Great Depression and the UK economy was still in difficult waters. Furthermore it would not be long before Britain would be in yet another World War. It is then reasonable to say that George VI reigned during a turbulent socio-economic era and it is easy for us to imagine why gold Sovereign production was limited. In fact George VI has only one gold Sovereign minted in 1937 to commemorate his Coronation. All other gold Sovereigns made during his reign were George V Sovereigns all dated 1925. As noted before, during George VI's reign due to the socio-economic situation, it was decided they would not create new die to produce gold Sovereigns in George VI's bust.
1937 - These coins are the only coins featuring the bust of George VI. They were struck to proof standard.
1949/1951 & 1952 - Were all dated 1925 and featured the previous King George V as the monarch.