The British Gold Sovereign is the official coinage of English royalty. First issued in 1489 under King Henry VII, it has since been issued for both Kings and Queens throughout the nation’s rich history.
The Sovereign coin was first produced as a testament of national strength and wealth – the term ‘Sovereign’ itself implying a sense of prestige associated with the king’s self-imposed grandiosity.
This first rendition of the now world-famous coin featured the full face of the king sitting on a throne on one side, while the reverse displayed the Royal Arms of England and a Tudor double rose.
Following this significant entry into the world of bullion, the gold Sovereign underwent various changes as the British Empire evolved and adapted. At one point, this coin even became known as ‘the chief coin in the world’. Arguably no other gold bullion coin comes with the same certainties of value.
Surviving retirement, rebirth and reform, the gold Sovereign is now a modern classic that we’re lucky enough to witness hit the markets once again with a brand new edition for 2019. But before you get your hands on this excellent coin that is now in stock, let’s take a look at the unique legacy behind the coin.
Origins of the Gold Sovereign
First minted over 500 years ago, it’s no surprise that the 2019 gold Sovereign is one of the most important and interesting coins on the market. Surviving a chequered history that spans huge changes to the British Empire, it now stands as a symbol of quality that is respected by precious metal investors, collectors and anyone interested in UK history.
The very first gold Sovereign coin was struck on the 28th October 1489 and was the largest in value at 23 carats (95.83 per cent) gold. This new coin was requested by King Henry VII and featured a portrait of the king himself dressed in full coronation regalia.
While succeeding in offering a global statement of England’s power and stability, it didn’t go much further than this and production of the coin eventually came to an end in 1604.
The rebirth of the gold Sovereign
The coin was eventually struck again in 1817 after England’s defeat of Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo in 1815. During this period Britain’s finances were unstable, and it was believed that the ‘Great Recoinage’ currency reform would be the solution.
With a monetary denomination of 20 shillings (one pound), the new Sovereign was designed to be a stable and standard form of currency to bolster the national economy.
The new 22 carat gold coin was much smaller in size and could be used more practically than the original. And weighing in at 7.98 grams, these are still the proportions used when striking the coin today – as can be seen with the gold Sovereign weight of the 2019 version of the coin.
St George and the Dragon
Here entered the iconic symbol of St George and the Dragon that many of us closely associate with the coin and now featured on the Royal Mint 2019 gold Sovereign. Designed by engraver Benedetto Pistrucci, we can still see adaptations of this image used today to symbolise unwavering bravery and loyalty, as suggested by the ancient tale.
Pistrucci’s design is featured on most Sovereign bullion coins of the 20th Century and enjoys an elevated reputation in the market, representing the highest standards of the coin maker’s art recognised across the globe.
Queen Victoria was one of Britain’s most famous and popular monarchs. Therefore, it follows that during the 1800s, coinage reflected this with numerous unique and specific designs dedicated to her.
The two most distinct versions of these coin designs are the ‘Young Head’ (1838 until 1887) design and the veiled ‘Old Head’ (1893 to 1901) design. The former depicted her youthful visage during the start of her reign while the latter focused on the ageing, beloved queen engraved with a veil over her headdress.
There was also the ‘Jubilee Head’ (1887 to 1893) design that was the second major portrait of Queen Victoria used on gold Sovereigns. This depiction portrayed Queen Victoria as a matronly and imperious figure, reminding the world of her strength and political power as the British Empire stretched across the world.
As part of the gold Sovereign’s rich history, the Royal Mint built branches in various places across the British Empire. This included three Australian cities – Sydney, Melbourne and Perth – as well as India, South Africa and Canada, many of which are still in operation today.
To distinguish between each of the various Royal Mint locations, gold Sovereigns had to be marked with a distinctive symbol to indicate the city or country of their origin. Collectors can spot these marks if they look closely enough!
War and peace
The start of WWI effectively ended the circulation of gold Sovereigns for a short time; until it was reintroduced in 1957 when demand for the coin grew again.
The government used the coin to pay off its international debt, support the Bank of England’s reserves and essentially finance the war to the tune of an estimated £100,000,000.
As the British government appealed directly to the people, gold coins were taken out of circulation and citizens were encouraged to trade in their coins for new Treasury notes. People responded in their thousands and these new notes eventually replaced gold coins.
The outcome was that by the end of the First World War, most silver and gold coins had been withdrawn from circulation and notes had taken their place as a common currency.
The 2019 gold Sovereign
In 1957, the Royal Mint began manufacturing Sovereign coins again as bullion coins. But no longer circulating as a coin for everyday use, the gold Sovereign, including the 2019 gold Sovereign coin, is today predominantly used by collectors and investors in precious metals.
Yet, as the coin’s rich history has proven, it will always represent an important part of the nation’s development. With the addition of the 2019 gold Sovereign to the market, investors, collectors and British history buffs can get their hands on the nation’s premier coin at an important stage in the country’s history as it defines its relationship with the European Union.