Gold Coin Price Guide

 Half Sovereign

 History of The Sovereign Gold Coins

The year 1816 was a landmark for British coinage. The mint was moved from the Tower of London to a new site on Tower Hill and steam powered minting machinery built by Boulton and Watt replaced the old hand operated presses. Significantly, new coinage was produced with an intrinsic value substantially below the face value of each coin - the first official token coinage in the world.

In 1817, after an absence of 213 years, sovereigns were minted to replace the Guinea. The new coins, valued at 20 shillings (the same as the original rate of over three centuries earlier), were accompanied by half sovereign issues and pattern five & two pound pieces. All were minted to the 22 carat (91.6%) fineness standard previously used for the Guinea

Alongside half sovereigns issued with the shield type reverse, Bendetto Pistrucci's famous St. George slaying the dragon design appears on the new sovereigns. Throughout most of the 19th century, the Shield and St. George reverse designs were interchanged on sovereign and half sovereign coins, in many years both designs appearing for the same denomination.

The discovery of large quantities of gold in the Australian colonies in the 1850's, led to the establishment of the Sydney Branch of the Royal Mint in 1855. The first 'Sydney Mint' sovereigns and half sovereigns issued by this mint were unique in the history of the British Empire. In a situation which has not been repeated since, the coins carried a design which was completely different from that of the standard British issue. See the Australian Gold Rush article.

By 1871, the standard Shield and St. George designs had been decreed to be produced by the colonial mints. A small 'S' mintmark was placed below the shield to designate the Sydney Mint issues. On 'St. George' issues, the mintmark appeared on the Obverse below the bust. The Melbourne Mint commenced operations in 1872 ('M' mintmark) and Perth in 1899 ('P' mintmark).                                           St. George

A Jubilee head design of Queen Victoria was placed on the obverse in 1887. Colonial 'S', 'M' and 'P' mintmarks for 'St. George' gold coins were moved to the reverse on the ground just above the date. In 1908 (Edward VII's reign), the Canadian Mint ('C' mintmark) at Ottawa began producing sovereigns. For a single year in 1918, the Indian Mint ('I' mintmark) at Calcutta produced a sovereign. The last of the colonial mints to issue gold coins - Pretoria in South Africa ('SA' mintmark) - began producing sovereigns and half sovereigns in 1923 (George V's reign).

Britain's last circulating sovereign issues were dated 1925 and in 1932, the last of the colonial issues were minted in South Africa. A gold £5, £2 & Sovereign (£1) set was prepared for Edward VIII but his abdication on 10th December, 1936 ensured that they were never issued.

Proof £5, £2, Sovereigns (£1) and Half Sovereigns (£½) were issued to commemorate the coronation of George VI in 1937. A small number were minted in 1953 for Elizabeth II's coronation but they were not issued for collectors.

In 1957, Great Britain resumed the issue of sovereigns for the bullion and collector market. In 1989, 4 specially designed gold coins (£5, £2, £1 and £½) were issued to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Gold Sovereign.

Andorra - Sovereign issues in 1982 and 1983,

Gibraltar - Quarter, Half, One, Two and Five Sovereign issues in 1989 and 1990, and

Isle of Man - Half, One, Two and Five Sovereign issues since 1965.

The Decimal Pound

In 1971, Great Britain changed to a decimal monetary system where 100 new pence = 1 pound (the 'new' was dropped in 1982). In 1983 a nickel-brass pound coin was minted for circulation. The gold sovereign coin and its derivatives continue to be issued as a bullion and collector coin series.

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British Coin Price Guide

Text Box:  Updated 14/5/2017

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