☆ Gold Sovereigns.

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The sovereign was unique among coins in that it had no denomination, or currency value printed on the coin. Its value was tied to the pound Sterling, which was tied to the gold standard of £3/17s/10 1/2d for a standard ounce of gold. It contained one pound’s (£1) worth of gold (20 shillings), or, 22 carat gold weighing 0.2354 troy oz, a fraction under 1/4 oz. For this reason, it rapidly became an accepted and preferred means of payment by the various merchants around the world, such as the Chinese silk traders, American tobacco sellers and Indian spice merchants.
When the price of gold rose in the 1920s, the gold in sovereigns was worth more than the coin’s face value. This value rose to 28 shillings in 1932. In 1931 general production of sovereigns ceased worldwide, and 1933 was the first time in more than 100 years that no sovereigns were produced anywhere in the Empire.
Gold coins of Australia (1852 to 1931) were also struck from 22ct gold. The 1852 Adelaide Pound, Australia’s first gold coin, has an actual gold weight of 8.68 grams (Type 1) or 8.81 grams (Type 2). Australian Gold Sovereigns struck between 1855 and 1870 feature the “Sydney Mint” design. From 1871 through 1931, Imperial Sovereigns minted in Australia are identical to those struck elsewhere, except for the distinctive Sydney (S), Melbourne (M) or Perth (P) Mintmark. Australian Sovereigns are the rarest and most sought-after Sovereigns in the world today, with institutions such as Rothschilds in London taking the time to piece together a complete collection.
Sovereign Gold Coins are recognized worldwide and have been used as “emergency money” for decades. Allied World War II pilots carried British Gold Sovereigns in their survival kits. Even in Desert Storm, American pilots and British SAS troops carried these historic gold coins as their emergency money in case they were downed in Iraqi territory. Genuine Sovereign gold coins are private, portable, and offer you instant liquidity worldwide.

  • Sovereigns are a quality investment. If you can pick up historic sovereigns at around bullion prices you cannot go wrong in the long term.
  • Because a Sovereign is 22 carats, it’s actual weight is just over a quarter of an ounce. Either way, it offers more divisibility than the typical 1oz coins.
  • Sovereigns represents excellent value and premium and overtime may even go up in value due to their numismatic value.
  • Sovereigns are recognized, trusted, bought and sold in every far-flung corner of the earth.
  • Because the premiums are low you can buy them readily for pretty close to spot price.

New sovereign are reddish and new Gold Sovereigns are more Yellow, Why?

Newer gold sovereigns exhibit a more pronounced yellow hue compared to their older counterparts. This distinction arises from the shift in composition: post-2000 sovereigns incorporate a higher proportion of copper as the primary alloy, resulting in a rose gold appearance, whereas older sovereigns boasted a higher concentration of silver, lending them a more traditional yellow gold color. This disparity in coloration stems from the varying ratios of silver and copper within the coins.

Image : https://www.thesilverforum.com/topic/54118-red-v-yellow-colour-gold-sovereigns-silver-v-copper-alloy-content/

Additionally, alterations in manufacturing processes contribute to the divergence in appearance. Previously, up until the halting of the “pickling” method in 1983, sovereigns underwent a process involving sulfuric acid to eliminate surface copper ions, thereby preserving the classic golden hue. However, contemporary manufacturing eschews this practice, allowing the copper tint to persist. It’s worth noting that the pickling method, an ancient technique credited to the Romans, was primarily employed with silver to achieve a lustrous silver finish on coins with high copper content.

Despite these changes, both old and new sovereigns maintain the same gold content, adhering to the 22-karat gold standard (91.67% gold). The difference lies in the additional metals; older sovereigns contained approximately 4% silver alongside the gold, while modern counterparts employ copper as the sole alloy, contributing to their rose gold tint. Although some may prefer the pastel pink hue depicted in official advertising, the actual appearance of modern sovereigns remains rooted in their copper-rich composition.

Gold Sovereign Mintages, from 1817 to Present.

Mintage figures do not always act as a guide to rarity for gold sovereigns, other factors must also be taken into account.
For example, in 1893 the Royal Mint undertook a policy of “continuous re-coinage” which meant old, worn and damaged sovereigns were “recycled” into new coins. Also in the 1930’s, the United States, having made ownership of foreign gold coins illegal, melted down and made into gold bars the huge volume of sovereigns it received from Britain and the Commonwealth countries as payment for supplies and munitions during World War I.

King George III gold sovereign.

YearBullionProof
18173,235,239Rare
18182,347,230Rare
18193,574
18202,101,994Rare

King George IV Laureate Head gold sovereign.

YearBullionProof
Sovereign coins 18219,405,114Rare
Sovereign coins 18226,356,787
Sovereign coins 1823616,770
Sovereign coins 18243,767,904
Sovereign coins 18254,200,343 *

King George IV Bare Head gold sovereign.

YearBullionProof
Sovereign coins 1825*Included In AboveRare
Sovereign coins 18265,724,046450
Sovereign coins 18272,266,629
Sovereign coins 1828386,182
Sovereign coins 18292,444,652
Sovereign coins 18302,387,881

King William IV gold sovereign.

YearBullionProof
1831598,547225
18323,737,065Rare
18331,225,269
1835723,441
18361,714,349
18371,172,984

Queen Victoria Young Head Shield gold sovereign.

1851 Queen Victoria Shield Reverse Sovereign

The Royal Mint issued the Shield Back gold sovereign from 1838 to 1887. Most of them have been melted down to produce new coins. In fact, it’s quite difficult to find this coin well preserved. The Melbourne and Sydney branches produced this shield back sovereign from 1871 to 1887. Gold Sovereign Victoria (Young Head – Shield Back)

YearBullionProof
Sovereign coins 18382,718,694Rare
Sovereign coins 1839503,6951,230
1841124,054
18424,865,375
18435,981,968
18443,000,445
18453,800,845
18463,802,947
18474,667,126
18482,246,701
18491,755,399
18501,402,039
18514,013,624
18528,053,435
185310,597,993Rare
18543,589,611
18558,448,482
18564,806,160
18574,495,748
1858803,234
18591,547,603
1859 Ansell167,539
18602,555,958
18617,624,736
18627,836,413
Die Numbers Introduced
18635,921,669
18648,656,353
18651,450,238
18664,047,288
18681,653,384
18696,441,322
18702,189,960

Queen Victoria Young Head St George gold sovereign.

The first portrait for Queen Victoria was the “Young Head”, which was used on sovereigns from 1838 to 1887 inclusive. It was refined and modified a number of times during this period. In the case of Shield reverse, the date appears below Victoria’s portrait (With the St George reverse, the date appears on the reverse. )

Queen Victoria”Young Head” St George Gold Sovereigns, Volume and Mint

YearLondonSydneyMelbourne
Sovereign coins 1871 Proof (1)Extremely Rare
Sovereign coins 18718,767,2502,814,000
Sovereign coins 187213,486,7081,815,000748,180
Sovereign coins 18732,368,2151,478,000752,199 (1)
Sovereign coins 1874520,7131,899,000 (1)1,373,298
Gold Full sovereign 18752,122,0001,888,405 (1)
Gold Full sovereign 18763,318,866 (1)1,613,000 (1)2,124,445 (1)
Gold Full sovereign 18771,590,0001,487,316 (1)
Gold Full sovereign 18781,091,275 (1)1,259,0002,171,457 (1)
Gold Full sovereign 187920,013 (1)1,366,0002,740,594 (1)
Gold Full sovereign 18803,650,080 (1)1,459,0003,053,454
Gold Full sovereign 18811,360,0002,234,800
Gold Full sovereign 18821,298,0002,465,781
Gold Full sovereign 18831,108,0002,050,450
Gold Full sovereign 18841,769,635 (1)1,595,0002,942,630
Gold Full sovereign 1885717,723 (1)1,486,0002,967,143
Gold Full sovereign 18861,667,0002,902,131
Gold Full sovereign 18871,000,0001,916,424
 (1) St George Reverse Only
Introduction of St George Reverse, mintage figures indicate total for both types issued, no separate figures were kept. London only issued both types until 1874 whilst the branch mints continued until 1887

Queen Victoria Jubilee Head gold sovereign.

A special Sovereign was issued for the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. This was a little staider and more conventional than the Young Head Sovereign. This was struck at both the London and the Australian mints. Queen Victoria ” Jubilée Head ” Gold Sovereigns. Gold Victoria Jubilee Head Sovereign coins

YearLondonSydneyMelbourne
Gold Full sovereign 1887 Proof797Extremely Rare
Gold Full sovereign 18871,111,2801,002,000940,000
Gold Full sovereign 18882,777,4242,187,0002,830,612
Gold Full sovereign 18897,267,4553,262,0002,732,590
Gold Full sovereign 18906,529,8872,808,0002,473,537
Gold Full sovereign 18916,329,4762,596,0002,749,592
Gold Full sovereign 18927,104,7202,837,0003,488,750
Gold Full sovereign 18931,498,0001,649,352
Jubilee Issues only have St George Reverse

Queen Victoria Veiled Head gold sovereign.

The Victoria “Older Head” or “Veiled Head” Sovereigns had an elegant head engraved on her sovereigns and this was used until her death in 1901. In 1896, Queen Victoria became the longest reigning Monarch in English History. This event was put off at her request until 1897 to coincide with her Diamond Jubilee. Victoria Veiled Head Gold Sovereign

YearLondonSydneyMelbournePerth
Gold Full sovereigns 1893 Proof773Rare
Gold Full sovereigns 18936,898,2601,346,0001,914,4000
Gold Full sovereigns 18943,782,6113,067,0004,166,8740
Gold Full sovereigns 18952,285,3172,758,0004,165,8690
Gold Full sovereigns 18963,334,0652,544,0004,456,9320
Gold Full sovereigns 18972,532,0005,130,5650
Gold Full sovereigns 18984,361,3472,548,0005,509,1380
Gold Full sovereigns 18997,515,9783,259,0005,579,157694,937
Gold Full sovereigns 190010,845,7413,586,0004,305,9041,927,484
Gold Full sovereigns 19011,578,9483,012,0003,987,7012,969,947

King Edward VII gold sovereign.

The Sovereign had a value of £1 sterling (the equivalent at the time of the value of the gold in the coin.) Each coin weighed 0.2354 troy oz just under ¼ of an ounce. Edward VII Sovereigns were minted from Queen Victorias Death until 1910.
The Australian Sovereigns bore the usual mintmarks of S for Sydney, M for Melbourne and P for Perth. The Gold Sovereign was popular in commerce in all countries where the British traded. Edward VII Gold Sovereigns

YearLondonSydneyMelbournePerthCanada
Gold Full sovereigns 1902 Proof15,123Extremely RareExtremely Rare
Gold Full sovereigns 19024,737,7962,813,0004,267,1574,254,861
Gold Full sovereigns 19038,888,6272,806,0003,521,7804,678,569
Gold Full sovereigns 190410,041,3692,986,0003,743,8974,596,205
Gold Full sovereigns 19055,910,4032,778,0003,633,8384,854,698
Gold Full sovereigns 190610,466,9812,792,0003,657,8534,803,230
Gold Full sovereigns 190718,458,6632,539,0003,332,6915,028,807
Gold Full sovereigns 190811,729,0062,017,0003,080,1484,926,537633 (1)
Gold Full sovereigns 190912,157,0992,057,0003,029,5384,526,27016,300*
Gold Full sovereigns 191022,379,6242,135,0003,054,5475,646,04928,020*
 (1) Satin Proofs only, extremely rare.

King George V gold sovereign.

Struck between 1911 and 1936, this George V gold coin reached 123 million copies produced. Like all sovereigns, this gold coin weighs 7.99 grams for 22 mm in diameter, its fine gold titration is 917‰. This currency was minted in the workshops of London, Australia (Sydney, Melbourne and Perth), Ottawa in Canada and South Africa and finally India. George V Gold Sovereign Coins

YearLondonSydneyMelbournePerthCanadaSouth AfricaIndia
Gold Full sovereigns 1911 Proof3,764Extremely Rare
Gold Full sovereigns 191130,044,1052,519,0002,851,4513,413,474257,048
Gold Full sovereigns 191230,317,9212,227,0002,469,2574,390,672
Gold Full sovereigns 191324,539,6722,249,0002,323,1804,689,7493,717*
Gold Full sovereigns 191411,501,1171,774,0002,012,0294,771,65714,900*
Gold Full sovereigns 191520,295,2801,346,0001,637,8394,334,135
Gold Full sovereigns 19161,554,1201,242,0001,272,6344,107,7056,119 *
Gold Full sovereigns 19171,014,7141,667,000934,4694,116,84058,875*
Gold Full sovereigns 19183,716,0004,969,493 (1)3,725,961106,5701,294,352
Gold Full sovereigns 19191,835,000514,2572,852,156135,957
Gold Full sovereigns 1920360,000530,2662,533,542
Gold Full sovereigns 1921839,000240,1212,320,530
Gold Full sovereigns 1922578,000608,3062,256,187
Gold Full sovereigns 1923 Proof655*
Gold Full sovereigns 1923416,000511,1292,129,026719*
Gold Full sovereigns 1924394,000278,1401,428,9842,660*
Gold Full sovereigns 19253,520,000 (2)5,632,0003,311,6621,868,0076,086,624
Gold Full sovereigns 19261,031,050211,1071,297,62511,107,611
Gold Full sovereigns 1927310,1561,305,42016,379,704
Gold Full sovereigns 1928413,2081,399,10218,235,057
 (1) 5 Different guides have five different figures ranging between 4,807,000 to 4,969,000.
(2) See George VI bullion issues for additional numbers
YearMelbournePerthSouth Africa
Gold Full sovereigns 1929436,938 (3)1,588,35012,024,107
Gold Full sovereigns 193077,5881,773,91410,027,756
Gold Full sovereigns 193157,8091,173,5678,511,792
Gold Full sovereigns 19321,066,680

King George VI gold sovereign.

King George VI gold sovereigns were minted between 1937 and 1952. The coin features the portrait of King George VI on the obverse and the classic St. George and the Dragon design on the reverse. Like all sovereigns, the coin weighs 7.99 grams with a diameter of 22 mm and a fine gold content of 917‰. The mintage figures for King George VI sovereigns vary depending on the year and mint, with some issues being quite rare. The London mint and several other branches, including Australia, South Africa, and Canada, produced these gold coins.

YearBullionProof
1937 (sovereigns 1925 restrikes)5,501
1949 (sovereigns 1925 restrikes)138,000 (1)
1951 (sovereigns 1925 restrikes)430,000 (1)
1952 (sovereigns 1925 restrikes)318,000 (1)
 (1) George VI bullion issues are all 1925 restrikes, which dismayed collectors of the time as it was considered scarce until then.

Queen Elizabeth II gold sovereign.

In 1957 the Royal Mint began producing gold sovereigns again to meet world demand and stop counterfeit production which had become rife since the Royal Mint had stopped production in 1917. They were not however reintroduced into everyday circulation. Prior to 1979 only gold bullion coins had been issued and it was in this year that the first gold proof sovereigns were issued.  Between the years of 1983 and 1999 the Royal mint ceased producing gold bullion sovereigns and only minted gold proof sovereigns. Gold bullion sovereigns were re-introduced in 2000.

Queen Elizabeth II Young Head gold sovereign.

YearBullionProof
Gold Full sovereigns 1953None for Collectors
Gold Full sovereigns 19572,072,000Rare
Gold Full sovereigns 19588,700,140Rare
Gold Full sovereigns 19591,358,228Rare
Gold Full sovereigns 19623,000,000
Gold Full sovereigns 19637,400,000
Gold Full sovereigns 19643,000,000
Gold Full sovereigns 19653,800,000
Gold Full sovereigns 19667,050,000
Gold Full sovereigns 19675,000,000
Gold Full sovereigns 19684,203,000

Queen Elizabeth II Decimal Portrait gold sovereign.

YearBullionProof
Gold Full sovereigns 19745,002,5660
Gold Full sovereigns 19764,045,00560
Gold Full sovereigns 19786,550,0000
Gold Full sovereigns 19799,100,00050,000
Gold Full sovereigns 19805,100,00091,200
Gold Full sovereigns 19815,000,00032,960
Gold Full sovereigns 19822,950,00022,250
Gold Full sovereigns 1983021,250
Gold Full sovereigns 1984019,975
Proof mintages above include coins issued as part of gold sets as well as those individually issued.
Arnold Machin Obverse.

Queen Elizabeth II Third Portrait gold sovereign.

YearNo Bullion IssuesProof
198517,242
198617,579
198722,479
198818,862
198923,471
19908,425
19917,201
19926,904
19936,090
19947,165
19959,330
19969,110
19979,177
Proof mintages above include coins issued as part of gold sets as well as those individually issued.
Raphael Maklouf Obverse.

Queen Elizabeth II Old Head gold sovereign.

YearBullionProof
199811,349
199911,903
2000129,06912,159
200149,46210,806
200275,26419,440
200343,23016,220
200430,68812,685
200545,52415,458
200675,00015,000
Proof mintages above include coins issued as part of gold sets as well as those individually issued

Production at the Royal Mint stopped in 1917, although some were minted again in 1925. The branch mints continued to produce sovereigns, Ottawa in Canada until 1919, Bombay in India in 1918, Sydney Australia until 1926, Melbourne and Perth Australia until 1931, and Pretoria South Africa until 1932.

The Gold Sovereign is a highly collectable investment coin.  Introduced in Britain in 1489 at the request of King Henry VII, the modern version first appeared in 1817 featuring the now iconic image of St George slaying the dragon engraved on the reverse. Today’s sovereign contains 0.235421 ounces (7.315 grams)of gold and is sought after the world over.

Gold sovereigns were re-introduced as legal tender in 1817 as part of a major coin reform led by the then Master of the Royal Mint, William Wellesley Pole. A young Italian engraver, Benedetto Pistrucci, was appointed to create the reverse design of the new sovereign coming up with the beautiful image of St George slaying the dragon. This design has seen many alterations over the years but is essentially the same.  As a testament to its greatness, it still appears on sovereigns today. Other reverse designs have at times been used during the reigns of William IV, Victoria, George IV and Elizabeth II. A royal shield design, as used on the first sovereign of 1489, has often been used in various different formats. The obverse of the sovereign followed the trend established for the original sovereigns and portrayed an image of the reigning monarch which remains the case even today.

The gold sovereign in Circulation years (1817–1914)

History of the Sovereign from 1489 to the modern day.

The first gold sovereign was struck in 1489 for the then King Henry VII. It depicted Henry VII on the obverse and a Tudor rose and the royal shield on the reverse. No value was shown on the coin. Sovereigns continued to be issued by monarchs up until the end of Elizabeth I’s reign in 1603. The name sovereign is thought to originate from the fact that the reigning sovereign always appeared on the obverse of the coin. The name was also thought to derive from the fact that Henry VII wanted to demonstrate Britain’s power and splendour.

The first modern Sovereign.

Pistrucci’s George and Dragon design

Pistrucci’s original sketch depicted the Saint George and Dragon design, which would later feature on the reverse of the sovereign. The design shows Saint George on horseback, with his left hand holding the horse’s bridle and his right hand wielding a sword. He wears minimal armor, with only his lower legs and feet protected, and a helmet that has a plume of hair flowing behind on early issues. The knight is cloaked in a chlamys, which is fastened by a fibula, and his right shoulder has a balteus for suspending the gladius, the sword he grasps. Surprisingly, Saint George is depicted as naked except for the armor, which John Ruskin, an art critic, later found odd. The horse appears to be both attacking and retreating from the dragon, which is wounded by the knight’s spear and is shown in its death throes.

The sovereign is a gold coin that replaced the guinea, and Pistrucci’s design was adopted for its reverse. Originally, the design featured the saintly knight carrying a broken spear, but this was later changed to a sword, and the plume of hair behind George’s helmet was removed in 1821. The design was modified several times in later years, with the plume being restored, modified, and eliminated at various points.

Pistrucci’s design is in the Neoclassical style, which was popular in London at the time. He may have been influenced by the Elgin Marbles, which were on display from 1807 and which he likely saw soon after arriving in London. The sovereign’s design is unique among British coins of the 19th century in that it does not feature a heraldic design, as Pole wanted it to look distinct from the guinea.

Gold sovereigns were withdrawn from circulation at the start of World War I in 1914 although production continued at the Royal Mint until 1917. They however continued to be produced in other mints of the British Empire but at lower quantities than before.  Sovereigns not produced at the Royal Mint in London carry a mintmark to show which mint they were produced in. Production of sovereigns in other mints stopped in 1932.

1989
To celebrate the 500th anniversary, a special 500 commemorative design was produced, showing Queen Elizabeth II seated facing on a throne. This was only issued as a proof and demand  has grown steadily over the past few years, because as a single-date type coin, it is in demand by both date collectors and type collectors.

2005 – New Modernistic design.
In 2005, the Royal Mint issued another new sovereign designed by Timothy Noad a herald painter at the Royal College of Arms actually a modernistic version of Saint George slaying the dragon with the shield as a focal point. This coin was issued in both normal circulation (bullion) and proof versions for 2005 only

2007 – 2010.

The Royal Mint have used re-cut dies to take the design back almost two centuries to portray Pistrucci’s St. George and the dragon in its neo-Classical glory

Types of Sovereign.

Aside from the full sovereign, the Royal Mint today produces the following sovereigns in gold proof and gold bullion versions for general sale: quintuple (£5) sovereign, double (£2) sovereign, half sovereign and for the first time ever, 2009 saw the general release of a quarter sovereign.

Sovereign designs and dates.

MonarchObverse designReverse designDates
George IIILaureate headSt George and the dragon1817-1820
George IVLaureate headSt George and the dragon1821-1825
George IVBare headShield1825-1830
William IVBare headShield1831-1833, 1835-1837
VictoriaYoung HeadShield1838-1839, 1841-1866, 1868-1887
VictoriaYoung HeadSt George and the dragon1871-1887
VictoriaJubilee HeadSt George and the dragon1887-1893
VictoriaOld HeadSt George and the dragon1893-1901
Edward VIIBare headSt George and the dragon1902-1910
George VFirst Type (large head)St George and the dragon1911-1928
George VSecond Type (small head)St George and the dragon1929-1932
George VIBare headSt George and the dragon1937 coronation proof set only
Elizabeth IIFirst portraitSt George and the dragon1957-1959, 1962-1968
Elizabeth IISecond portraitSt George and the dragon1974, 1976, 1978-1984
Elizabeth IIThird portraitSt George and the dragon1985-1988, 1990-1997
Elizabeth IISovereign portraitShield and Tudor rose1989
Elizabeth IIFourth portraitSt George and the dragon1998-2001, 2003, 2004, 2006-2009
Elizabeth IIFourth portraitShield2002 Jubilee
Elizabeth IIFourth portraitModern St George and the dragon2005

Technical specifications of modern sovereigns (post 1817)

Quintuple sovereignDouble sovereignSovereignHalf SovereignQuarter sovereign
Purity22 carat gold22 carat gold22 carat gold22 carat gold22 carat gold
Weight (grams)39.9415.987.993.991.997
Diameter (mm)36.0228.4022.0519.3013.50
Actual gold content (troy ounces)1.17710.47080.23540.11770.0588

Gold sovereigns, to invest or not to invest?

As one of the oldest coins in the world the British gold sovereign is highly sought after by both investors and numismatists alike. As with all gold coins, the price of sovereigns fluctuates with the price of gold due to the gold content of the coin. However, the price of sovereigns is not entirely based on its gold content alone.  British gold sovereigns generally fetch a higher premium than the price of gold for the same gold content. For example, the 2009 gold proof sovereign retails at about £299 for 0.23 ounces of gold. The current price of an ounce of gold is around £680 therefore the price for 0.235 ounces is around the £160 mark. Therefore the 2009 sovereign is worth almost twice as much as the price of gold.

The premium of a sovereign obviously depends on its quality and whether it is easily available or not.  Some sovereigns fetch a much higher premium than others.

Which sovereign too look for low premiums

Fractional low premium gold coins in the USA.

This distinction blurs further when bullion dealers like JM have a category for old European gold labeled “European Gold Sovereigns,” encompassing francs and coronas alongside the traditional sovereigns. Both the American Gold Eagle and Sovereigns have approximately the same purity. Sovereigns, however, come with a smaller premium. They are comparable in size to a 1/4 oz AGE but have a much lower premium, making them akin to a fractional coin with less premium than a full ounce. For example, the premium on a 1/4 oz AGE can exceed 20%, while a Sovereign typically has a premium around 6% for the major US online Dealer.

In the US, many Local Coin Shops sell old European gold at or just slightly above spot prices. Some shops even offer rates marginally below spot value, such as 1.5% over spot on 20 Francs, and slightly higher premiums like 3.5% on Sovereigns and half Sovereigns, or 4.5% on 1/4 oz Krugerrands and Pandas. UK famous Bullion Dealer Chards presents an appealing offer with a consistent premium of 3.35% across all quantity breaks for gold sovereign coins with poor grading

Sovereign: The Premium Choice for Fractional Gold in the UK

Moreover, UK Sovereigns hold a unique advantage as they are exempt from Capital Gains Tax (CGT) in the UK. Their premium, around 4.5%, stands out as remarkably low compared to other 1/4oz fractional gold coins. This makes them the most cost-effective option for purchasing fractional bullion in the UK. In the UK, the premium on Sovereigns (~4.5%) is super low compared to other 1/4 oz fractional coins. It is the cheapest way to buy fractional bullion here, bar none. Both the American Gold Eagle and Sovereigns have approximately the same purity.

On the other hand, in the UK, Chards presents an appealing offer with a consistent premium of 3.35% across all quantity breaks for gold sovereign coins, making it an attractive option for investors seeking competitive prices.

Certain gold sovereigns carry additional premiums beyond their bullion value. For instance, die numbers play a role in determining the premium value of some sovereigns. Examples include Ansell sovereigns, Inverted A Victoria sovereigns, several Canadian sovereigns (from 1911 to 1919), and numerous Sydney sovereigns from 1920 to 1926. Even the 1989 proof sovereign is highly sought after among collectors. Victorian sovereigns are widely available, with earlier editions commanding a slightly higher premium due to their historical significance. For exemple, the 1894 Gold Sovereign stands as a comon piece among late Victorian Sovereign coins, highly sought after by collectors for its distinctive design. It holds a special place in numismatic circles, commanding a premium slightly above its intrinsic gold value.

This particular Sovereign features Queen Victoria in what is commonly referred to as the ‘Old Head’ design, representing the third iteration of her portraits featured on coins. Queen Victoria’s reign saw multiple portrait changes, and this particular rendition adds to the allure of the 1894 Sovereign.

Also, King Edward VII’s Sovereigns from this era remain quite accessible and readily available for purchase in the UK. These coins often maintain a modest premium above their gold content.

Delving into specifics, the 1957 Gold Sovereign, while not of the same era as the 1894 coin, also commands a moderate premium due to its historical significance and gold content. Its value reflects a balance between its collector’s appeal and the inherent value of the gold it contains.

One notable advantage of sovereigns, particularly in the UK, is their current exemption from capital gains taxes. Moreover, in the UK, there are outlets where you can sell sovereigns without requiring identification, allowing for relatively straightforward transactions. Contacting reputable bullion dealers such as Chards, Bairds Goldline, and Hatton Garden Metals can yield opportunities to acquire sovereigns below spot price, especially during promotions like eBay Bucks sales, where members may receive discounts. However, it’s important to note that these transactions typically involve bullion rather than coins with significant numismatic value.

Best Value Gold Sovereign by Sovereign Saurus.

A prevalent belief persists among collectors that newer coins, having had less time to be counterfeited, hold greater appeal. While any coin’s metal content can be verified, older, high-premium coins, such as a Sydney mint Sovereign, pose concerns for potential counterfeits. Nevertheless, purchasing from reputable sources and subjecting coins to additional verification can substantially mitigate these risks.

  1. Dealer Relationships: Emphasizes the value of building trustworthy relationships with dealers, potentially leading to unique acquisitions or early access to new arrivals, both in local coin shops and online.
  2. Buying Channels: Compares the advantages of purchasing from reputable online dealers, offering reliability, with local coin shops that allow hands-on inspection before purchase, minimizing potential shipping issues.
  3. Caution in Purchases: Advocates for cautious buying behavior, ensuring authenticity and accurate orders, while discouraging impulsive decisions, prompting a thorough understanding before acquisition.

Examining a spectrum of coins, including Shields, often reveals specific pieces carrying a slight premium over their counterparts offering the best value. Opting to purchase from smaller, specialized dealerships might yield a more personalized experience, fostering relationships conducive to acquiring unique finds. While reputable online dealers are reliable, local coin shops offer the advantage of a tactile inspection, circumventing possible shipping issues.

In dealing with coin shops, the pillars of reliability and reputation remain paramount. Cultivating a trustworthy relationship with a dealer might unlock opportunities for unique acquisitions or early insight into new arrivals. However, in locales where local shops are sparse, reputable online dealers stand as solid alternatives. Exercise caution during purchases, ensuring authenticity and accuracy, although reputable sources seldom face such issues. Avoid impulsive decisions, instead prioritizing a comprehensive examination and understanding of your acquisitions.

The journey of procuring gold and silver bullion involves myriad considerations, from choosing between old and new coins to nurturing dealer relationships and ensuring authenticity. These aspects contribute to a fulfilling expedition into the world of collecting precious metals. Your insights on any missed facets would be greatly appreciated!

6 Hacks to Buying the Best Value Gold Sovereign Coins by Physical Gold Ltd.

  1. Age Commands Premium: Sovereign coins’ value often rises with age due to historical significance and rarity. Yet, focusing on newer releases can secure these coins at lower premiums, especially when avoiding year-end purchases when supply dwindles, leading to higher prices.
  2. Exploring Alternatives for Value: Consideration of larger coins like the quintuple Sovereign or nearly new Sovereigns (3-10 years old) offered at discounted rates can offer better value propositions, provided dealers aren’t imposing added premiums.
  3. Market Dynamics and Patience: Monitoring market trends during periods of low demand for gold allows for reduced premiums. Exhibiting patience during these times can yield discounts, providing a potential one to two percent off regular prices, illustrating the importance of timing in purchasing Sovereigns.

In the realm of Sovereign coins, the age factor often wields a commanding influence, elevating the value and making it prudent to focus on the most recently minted editions. It’s wise to avoid year-end purchases when premiums surge due to dwindling supplies gearing up for the forthcoming year’s release. Early acquisition of the current year’s Sovereigns ensures access to wider availability and potential bulk purchase discounts, securing coins at more favorable prices.

While the traditional full Sovereign represents a smaller quarter-ounce coin, considering the quintuple Sovereign, or the five-pound gold coin, presents an alternative strategy for amplified value. It’s crucial to ascertain that dealers aren’t levying commemorative issue premiums on these coins, potentially allowing for advantageous deals owing to their larger size and lower production cost per unit.

Exploring another avenue, nearly new Sovereigns—typically three to ten years old—emerge as discounted options offered by gold dealers seeking to clear their inventory. These “best value Sovereigns” lack substantial historical value but serve as opportunities to acquire sizable gold holdings at more accessible price points.

Keeping an eye on market trends, purchasing Sovereigns during periods of subdued gold demand often leads to reduced premiums. Patience becomes paramount here, offering potential discounts of one to two percent off regular website prices during quieter market phases.

Cultivating relationships with reputable dealers brings personalized service and the chance to be notified when specific coins become available at reduced premiums. Temporary dips in premiums for older Sovereigns, resulting from increased supply, present occasions to capitalize on these fluctuations for increased value.

A notable disparity exists between ‘bullion’ Sovereigns and those carrying additional numismatic (collector’s) value, especially concerning ease of resale. Unveiling the added numismatic worth of rarer coins can be a meticulous and time-consuming process.

In essence, this diverse market landscape features varying premiums across Sovereign coins, demanding a nuanced strategy to secure optimal value. The interplay between historical value and immediate market dynamics creates both challenges and opportunities for astute investors aiming to curate a Sovereign coin portfolio.

Are older sovereigns worth more?

Whilst there is no official grading system in existence, sovereigns are generally graded in the following manner in the UK:

  • FDC/proof – perfect quality
  • UNC – uncirculated
  • EF – extra fine
  • VF – very fine
  • F – fine

Whilst older sovereigns were produced in much larger quantities than those produced today it is much more difficult to source a good quality sovereign from these times. Sovereigns from the reigns of George III, George IV and William IV are extremely rare in good quality

  • EF quality coins can be found but are quite rare and as such would fetch a high premium. 
  • FDC and UNC coins are extremely rare for these periods and when sold fetch very high premiums. 

A George IV sovereign from 1825 made £14950 in a sale in March 2004. Early Victorian shield sovereigns are also highly sought after and therefore an EF quality coin would fetch a high premium whilst extremely rare FDC and UNC coins would fetch incredibly high premiums. Later Victorian sovereigns are less rare than the earlier coins in good condition, however they are again fairly rare in top condition therefore sovereigns of UNC and FDC grade would fetch a high premium.

Edward VII and George V sovereigns are also fairly easy to obtain in EF condition and were produced in very large numbers so do not fetch such a high premium.  As with later Victorian sovereigns, it is more difficult to find UNC and FDC grade coins and these would therefore fetch a higher premium. 

No sovereigns were issued for Edward VIII; however, a few official pattern coins were produced. If any of these were ever to be sold, they would fetch an incredibly high price due to their extreme rarity. 

During the reign of George VI, no sovereigns were issued apart from a very limited number of collectors sets to commemorate his coronation. This was a gold proof set and as such can be found today in FDC condition. This set would today fetch around double the price of a 2009 4-piece gold proof set. 

When gold sovereigns were reintroduced during the reign of Elizabeth II, they were produced at much lower quantities than for other monarchs as they were no longer in everyday circulation. However, despite the fact that much fewer coins were produced they were all of FDC or UNC quality.

The majority of coins were released during Queen Elizabeth II’s reign and are not difficult to find in top condition. For this reason, they fetch a lower premium than UNC or FDC coins from earlier periods, although they are still worth investing in as they do fetch a higher premium than the price of gold and are likely to become more sought after in the future.

Certain sovereigns are much rarer than others, some that are worth looking out for include: 

  • 1817 sovereign – the first modern sovereign and any other UNC or FDC coins from the reigns of George II, George IV and William IV (or even EF graded sovereigns from these periods),
  • 1838 the first Queen Victoria sovereign,
  • 1841 the rarest Queen Victoria sovereign,
  • 1917 London minted sovereign (very few in existence as it was the year London stopped producing sovereigns)
  • Elizabeth II sovereigns the 1989 special commemorative 500th anniversary sovereign.  

British sovereigns are an excellent investment choice and will continue to be so. For as long as Britain keeps its currency, it seems inevitable that the Royal Mint will continue issuing sovereigns every year for collectors, investors and enthusiasts.  However, if the UK joined the Euro would this signal the end for this iconic coin? If that were the case gold sovereigns would surely become more sought after than ever and consequently represent an even greater investment opportunity.

How to spot a fake.

Many fake sovereigns have been produced over the years.  In order to avoid buying a fake you should always buy from a reputable source. We have however, created a list of key things to look out for to avoid buying a sovereign forgery:

Buying Sovereigns on ebay these days is a very risky business, if you know nothing about them. The number of fakes is staggering, and is better and safer to buy only from good dealers such as chards. Assuming the sovereign was issued in a valid year and valid mint, it is sufficient to verify its authenticity by the three measurables: weight, diameter and thickness?
Sorry, that is not correct many years ago yes, but not now. There are some very dangerous fakes out there, that are so good, even top experts have been caught out. I have collected these pieces for over 40 years, and consider myself to be pretty good at spotting them, but even NGC and PCG slabbing have been caught out. weight diameter and thickness and mint mark are the basic tests, but there is a lot more then that believe me. Unless you know what to look for in a genuine Sovereign, buy only from such as Chards, and other good top bullion dealers. But always remember, even the best can slip up, people are only human, but at least they will replace it if found to be fake.
  • The feel of the coin – fakes are often very smooth or can have sharp edges
  • Be wary of coins that are too shiny and where the details are blurred. It’s the sign that they have been cleaned and worn away some gold
  • Dates – check for missing dates or check that sovereigns were actually produced in the year stated in the design shown
  • Mintmarks – if there is no mintmark check that the London mint produced sovereigns in that year, if there is a mintmark check that the mint in question produced sovereigns in that year
  • Weight, size and depth – check these correspond with official figure

How to Collect Gold Sovereigns

Gold Sovereigns are one of the longest running series of gold coins in the world. They are .2354 ounces of gold and are about the size of a U.S. nickel. The British have been minting them since 1489 when they issued a sovereign with a portrait of Henry VII. They were replaced by unites and guineas from 1604 to 1816 but returned in 1817 with a portrait of George III. He was the king of England when the United States won its independence. From George III until the present is considered the age of the modern sovereign. Since earlier sovereigns can be prohibitively expensive, modern sovereigns are the most widely collected.

  • Collect by monarch. Gold sovereigns always feature a portrait of the reigning king or queen. The most basic way to collect gold sovereigns are by monarch. In the age of the modern sovereign the portraits are of George III, George IV, William IV, Victoria, Edward VII, George V, George VI and Elizabeth II. Collecting one of each king and queen is easy to do and within the resources of most collectors. Edward VIII was king for less than one year before he abdicated the throne. No sovereigns were made with his portrait. In 1989 a special sovereign was made to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the coin. It has the image of Queen Elizabeth II sitting on her throne instead of a portrait.
  • Collect by reverse design. Most gold sovereigns have the reverse design of St George slaying the dragon. On several occasions through the years a shield reverse was used. There were different shields for George IV, William IV and Victoria. Elizabeth II has had a shield reverse in only two years. They were in 1989 for the 500th anniversary of the sovereign and in 2002. A different design of St George slaying the dragon was used on the 2005 sovereign. Collecting gold sovereigns by reverse design is simple and won’t cost much.
  • Collect by portrait variations. Many of the kings and queens had several different portraits on gold sovereigns during their reigns. These variations are the next logical way to expand a gold sovereign collection. George VI had one portrait with a laureate on his head and one without. Victoria had four portraits: young head with date, young head without date, jubilee head, and old head. George V had a large head portrait and a small head portrait. Elizabeth II has five portraits: first portrait, decimal portrait (second), third portrait, sovereign portrait (1989 only), and fourth portrait.
  • Collect by mint mark. In the past, some sovereigns were made at mints in British Commonwealth countries. A mint mark is a tiny letter indicating where the coin was made. On most sovereigns the mint mark is above the date. On some the mint mark is beneath the portrait or on the reverse. An “S” stands for Sydney, an “M” for Melbourne, a “P” for Perth, a “C” for Canada (Ottawa), an “I” for India (Bombay) and an “SA” for South Africa (Pretoria). It is relatively easy to collect one of each mint mark. If there is no mint mark then the sovereign was made in London. Since 1932 all sovereigns have been made in London.
  • Collect by date. This is a very ambitious way to collect. Modern sovereigns were made most years since 1817. The only significant multi-year gaps occurred during the reigns of George V, George VI and Elizabeth II. Unfortunately, these are the least expensive sovereigns. The older and more expensive sovereigns were made just about every year. It will be very expensive to collect every year. Since some years are very rare, they may be impossible to buy at any price. The ultimate sovereign collection would include every year and every mint mark. Few collectors have ever achieved this.

How to grade a Sovereign gold coin.

Grading is probably the most controversial and by far the most important area of coin collecting and there are almost no grading guides for world coins. Grading issues have caused disputes between buyers and sellers since collecting begun and will continue to do so for ever more.

Grading coins accurately is a skill acquired in time and after looking at many similar/identical coins in all ranges of condition. Many coins fall in between grades, and so terms such as ‘nearly VF’, ‘good VF’, ‘gem BU’ are encountered. The numerical system (1 -70) popular in the USA is not common in Europe but it does allow greater flexibility within key grades. We should bear in mind that their grading system is more generous than that of the UK. E.g. the lower ranges of Almost Uncirculated ( AU50 – 57) allows for some wear which is not acceptable in the UK, so care is needed. There are also differences between European countries where FDC (Fleur De Coin) is used to describe an uncirculated coin but in the UK, FDC is a perfect coin that could only be attributed to the best of proofs and is equivalent to the to the top number on the American system (MS70) and is rarely found

We are not numismatists and our concern is only with gold and silver coins as an investment so the grade is not as critical as it is for a collector of rare coins. Nevertheless, the condition of a coin is important and numismatists agree that in most cases the condition of the coin is more important than its rarity.

There are key grades and grades between these grades so it is often easier to start with buckets, Circulated, Almost Uncirculated and Uncirculated.

The coin should be graded on its weakest side, look for overall wear and loss of design detail such as strands of hair, feathers or coats of arms.  Detecting wear can be made more difficult where relief is low particularly applicable to coins of Edward VII and George .

The majority of Sovereigns since 1820 contain Benedetto Pistrucci’s fantastic engraving of St. George slaying the dragon and there are some high points that can indicate wear. Look at the helmet above the eye this is the first-place wear occurs, the strap across St George’s chest, the fingers on the hand, signs of wear on the reins, relief of the sword against the flank. This reverse covered a number of monarchs on the obverse. In general look for detail of the ears on males and hair on females.

Look at the example below of a 1918 Halfcrown. With examination under magnification the slightest rubbing can be seen on the ear, cheek and moustache. A very nice coin but not Uncirculated

1918 Halfcrown AU (About Uncirculated) American AU58-59

KEY GRADES

I have listed the Key grades below with some sample coins of various denominations to give an idea of grading but please remember this is subjective and maybe variable in the eyes of the expert who would examine with magnification.

Poor: A very worn coin but better than a smooth disc. Inscriptions worn off, date illegible, only outline of design visible. Such coins are generally of no value to a collector.

Fair: A heavily worn coin but date and denomination legible, type recognisable. Very little detail visible , worth no more than the metal value

Penny Fair American F2

Good (G): (sometimes Mediocre) Inscriptions and date considerably worn but legible. Generally worth no more than the metal value

Very Good (VG): Considerable wear over the whole coin, and high spots worn through. Coins in this or the previous grades are really only collectable if extremely rare and generally worth no more than the metal value

Fine (F): Worn over whole area, but only the highest spots are worn completely through. Some of the hair volume should be visable but not individual strands (US Grade about VF)

Great Britain, George V, Sovereign, 1912, FINE

Farthing F (Fine) American F12-14

Great Britain, George V, Sovereign, 1912, F/VF KM:82

Very Fine (VF): Detail clear, but obvious evidence of limited circulation. High spots worn but detail remains. More hair detail is evident and also detail of other designs. Traces of mint lustre may linger amongst the letters of the inscription. (US Grade about XF)

Extremely Fine (EF): A coin with little sign of being circulated. Slight wear on high spots on close inspection, and all other detail clear and sharp with minimal scratches and marks. Much mint lustre may remain. (US Grade about AU)

Almost Uncirculated (AU): Not quite in Uncirculated condition could be down graded because of heavy bag marks, edge knocks or other undesirable feature but without the slight wear that determine it to be EF, would usually contain more than half of its mint luster.

Uncirculated (UNC): No wear, although it is possible for the design not to be fully struck up in the minting process. Not perfect as there may be bag abrasions and knocks through mass production. The coin should have most of its mint luster present. Older coins may be tarnished or toned.

Brilliant Uncirculated (BU): There will be no visible signs of wear or handling and ideally no bag marks.  Usually implies full mint lustre, in other words no toning or tarnish.

1931 South Africa George V Gold Sovereign Brilliant Uncirculated (BU)

Reintroduction and Legacy of the Sovereign Coin.

The 1816 Great Recoinage reintroduced the Sovereign to replace the long-established gold Guinea. The Guinea had various values over the course of its production but was exchanging for 21 shillings at that time. During the pre-decimal period, there were 20 shillings to the pound, so it was thought practical to introduce a one pound – 20 shillings – coin, hence the £1 Sovereign. This effectively fixed the value of the pound sterling to that of gold, meaning the UK had officially adopted a gold standard.

Following the Restoration in 1660, Charles II issued unites during the first two years of his reign. This was followed by the introduction of the Guinea, valued at 20 shillings, as part of a renewal of the monetary system. The Guinea was used continuously until the Coinage Act of 1816, when it was replaced by the pound as the major unit of currency, and in coinage by the Sovereign under George III. Since then, the Sovereign has remained the flagship gold coin produced by the Royal Mint, surviving retirement, rebirth, and reform to become a modern classic.

During the First World War, the Sovereign—like most gold and silver coins—was gradually withdrawn. Their precious metal content was used by the government to fund trade in support of the war effort. Circulating coins were gradually switched to cheaper metals, and the Sovereign was replaced by paper one pound notes.

Benedetto Pistrucci: The Italian Artist Behind the British Sovereign Coin.

Benedetto Pistrucci, an Italian gem-engraver, medallist, and coin engraver, is renowned for his Saint George and the Dragon design featured on the British sovereign coin. He was commissioned by the British government to create the Waterloo Medal, which he spent thirty years completing. Born in Rome in 1783, Pistrucci began his career as a cameo carver and was favored by royalty. In 1815, he relocated to Britain where his exceptional skill caught the attention of William Wellesley-Pole, the Master of the Mint. Pole employed Pistrucci to design new coinage, including the sovereign, which received mixed reviews upon its initial release in 1817. Despite Pole’s promise of the role of Chief Engraver, it could not be granted due to nationality requirements, causing lasting resentment for Pistrucci.

Pistrucci’s reluctance to replicate the work of other artists became an issue in 1823 when George IV requested a new likeness of himself on the coinage. When Pistrucci declined to base the portrait on the work of Francis Chantrey, he was nearly dismissed. However, the Mint retained him, as it did not want to squander the funds already invested in the Waterloo Medal. Pistrucci remained with the Mint for the rest of his life, and the Waterloo Medal was finally completed in 1849, although its enormous size prevented it from being struck.

Benedetto Pistrucci: The Master Engraver Behind Iconic British Coins and Medals”

Benedetto Pistrucci’s involvement with the Royal Mint started shortly after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Born in Rome in 1783, Pistrucci was a highly regarded gem engraver with a significant reputation. During Napoleon’s final days, he was in France, and it is possible that William Wellesley Pole, the Master of the Royal Mint, was among those who persuaded him to move to England.

Pistrucci was swiftly tasked with producing portrait models of George III for the new gold and silver coins that were planned for release in 1817. Initially, he was unable to engrave these models directly into steel, and so the task was given to the Royal Mint’s own engravers. Pistrucci was not satisfied with the results and decided to learn the technique himself. When he created his timeless design of St George and the dragon for the new sovereigns of 1817, it was entirely his own design and is still in use today. Pistrucci’s St George design has endured the test of time and secured his name and reputation, maybe even more than when it was first used in 1817. In 1818, the design was extended to the new crown piece, creating a coin that was described by a contemporary judge as “the handsomest coin in Europe.”

Battle of Waterloo Pistrucci’s Medal.

The Waterloo Medal, which was intended to be awarded to victorious generals and allied leaders of the 1815 Battle of Waterloo, was created by Benedetto Pistrucci, an Italian sculptor. He worked on the design from 1819 to 1849, when the completed matrices were presented to Britain’s Royal Mint. Initially, the medal was commissioned by the British Government in 1819 upon the instructions of the Prince Regent (later George IV). However, due to the deaths of most of the intended recipients and improved relations with France, the medals were never struck. Nevertheless, modern-day versions have been produced for collectors.

The Prince Regent had first suggested the idea of a medal in 1816, and the Royal Academy recommended John Flaxman as the artist. However, Pistrucci, who was responsible for engraving the dies, refused to copy another’s work and presented his own designs instead. The Prince Regent and William Wellesley-Pole, Master of the Mint, were impressed with Pistrucci’s models, and he was given the commission.

In 1823, Pistrucci fell out of favor at the Royal Mint for refusing to copy another artist’s work for the coinage. He was then instructed to focus solely on completing the medal. However, he progressed very slowly and suffered from health issues, leading to repeated calls from the Masters of the Mint to finish the project. Despite the risk of being sacked, Pistrucci remained at the Mint and continued to work on the medal. Eventually, in 1844, an agreement was reached between the Master, W. E. Gladstone, and Pistrucci, and the medal matrices were finally submitted in 1849. Due to their large size, the matrices were only used to produce electrotypes and soft impressions. Pistrucci’s designs have since received high praise from experts in numismatics.

As a foreigner, Pistrucci was ineligible for the position of Chief Engraver, which he desired for the financial security of a good salary. Nonetheless, he continued to work for the Royal Mint in a lesser capacity. In 1820, he engraved a skillful but somewhat unflattering portrait for the first coins of George IV. This was followed by the official Coronation medals of 1821, but he refused to replicate a bust of the king by the sculptor Francis Chantrey. His overbearing conduct effectively ended his contribution to coinage, but he remained involved in medals on occasion. In 1828, the position of Chief Medallist of the Royal Mint was specifically created for him, but his official medalist output was limited. The portrait of the young Queen Victoria on her Coronation medals of 1838 did not appeal to everyone.

Benedetto Pistrucci’s Life and Career from 1783 to 1815.

Benedetto Pistrucci was born in Rome in 1783 to Federico Pistrucci, a Senior Judge of the High Criminal Court, and Antonia Greco. Unlike his elder brother Filippo, who displayed artistic talent from a young age, Benedetto showed little interest in studying. However, his father sent both boys to Latin schools. When Napoleon invaded Italy in 1794, the family was forced to move to Rome and enroll the boys in the Roman College. Federico Pistrucci‘s prosecution of Bonapartist rebels led to the family fleeing Rome when the French advanced towards it, stopping in Frosinone where the boys continued their education. Benedetto eventually began working with a painter named Mango, where he discovered his artistic talent, encouraged by Mango’s stories of his brother Giuseppe Mango, a well-known cameo engraver in Rome. Benedetto began his training as a cameo carver under Giuseppe Mango and Stefano Tofanelli, and soon began to sell his own creations, marking them with a secret Greek letter λ to protect against counterfeiting.

Pistrucci’s talent attracted envy among his fellow apprentices, and he was stabbed in the abdomen during a fight. Recovering at home, he taught himself to model with wax. His father secured a position for him with gem-carver Nicolo Morelli, but Benedetto left as he felt Morelli was not providing him with sufficient training. Benedetto worked from his family home and gained several prominent clients, including Napoleon’s sisters, Rome’s major art dealers, and Elisa, the Grand Duchess of Tuscany, who was so impressed with his work that she gave him studio space at her palace. In 1802, Benedetto married Barbara Folchi and had nine children with her. In 1814, Angelo Bonelli, a successful art dealer, convinced Benedetto to accompany him to Britain, where his future was said to be. Benedetto agreed and, with his brother Filippo, stopped in Paris on the way, where he began working and became known for his talent. After the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, Benedetto prepared to move to Britain, where he arrived on December 31 of that year.

Ascendance to eminence (1815-1819)

When Pistrucci arrived in Dover, he faced difficulties with Customs, which may have been caused by Bonelli’s malice. However, he made his way to London with letters of introduction to various people, and Charles Konig, Keeper of Minerals at the British Museum, proved to be a loyal friend who introduced Pistrucci to Sir Joseph Banks. Banks commissioned Pistrucci to create a portrait of him, and while Banks was posing for Pistrucci, Richard Payne Knight showed Banks a cameo fragment he had bought, which he claimed was from Ancient Greece. Pistrucci identified it as his own work and displayed the secret mark he had placed on it, which increased his reputation in London. Banks introduced Pistrucci to Lord and Lady Spencer, and Lady Spencer commissioned Pistrucci to reproduce Nathaniel Marchant’s model of Saint George and the Dragon in the Greek style as part of her husband’s regalia as a Knight of the Garter. Pistrucci suggested Saint George as an appropriate subject for the sovereign, a new gold coin equal to one pound that was to be struck. For a fee of 100 guineas, Pistrucci created the sovereign’s design, engraving it himself, and depicted the saint atop a fiery steed trampling the wounded dragon. Pistrucci was offered the position of chief engraver at the Royal Mint with a salary of £500 per annum and a house within the grounds of the Mint, but a law passed under William III prevented foreigners from holding the post, and it was left vacant.

The decline of Pistrucci’s career at the Mint.

Following the death of King George III in 1820, Benedetto Pistrucci created a coinage bust for the new King George IV. However, the King was displeased with the design and criticized it for its exaggerated features. Pistrucci also faced conflict with the King over the Coronation medal as the King objected to being placed on the same level as allegorical representations of his kingdoms. Despite Pistrucci’s refusal to copy another artist’s work, the Mint went ahead with another sculptor’s design for the coinage. Pistrucci was then excluded from work on the coinage and faced conflict with William Wyon, another engraver at the Mint. He repeatedly appealed to each new Master of the Mint for appointment to the post of chief engraver, but only received a compromise from the incumbent Master in 1828. This arrangement divided the salaries of the top two engraving positions between Pistrucci and Wyon, leaving Pistrucci with little to do at the Mint. Despite this, he continued to create medallic works and cut cameos, but worked slowly on the Waterloo Medal. His disinclination to complete the medal may have been due to his dissatisfaction with his position at the Mint and the fear of being sacked if he finished it. Pistrucci had a good relationship with Princess Victoria of Kent and created several cameos of her. When she became Queen Victoria, he was commissioned to sculpt her Coronation medal, for which he received mixed reviews. He also created the silver seal of the Duchy of Lancaster using a new process. However, by the early 1840s, the amount spent on Pistrucci was being questioned, and in 1848 a Royal Commission was appointed to reform the Royal Mint. Pistrucci submitted a report and was appointed a modeller and engraver to the Mint. He continued to work on private commissions until his death in 1855.

St George, patron of England.

Sir Joseph Banks had introduced a brilliant young Italian engraver named Benedetto Pistrucci to William Wellesley Pole appointing him to the mint on the 26th June 1816, Pistrucci then suggested that the St George & Dragon theme would do well to remind the world of Britain’s victory over Napoleon in the battle of Waterloo in 1815 and appear on the gold sovereign coins.

For centuries this story was believed and handed down by the faithful. Countless paintings and statues memorialize it. The country of Georgia and several other nations, states, cities, universities, professions and organizations all claim St. George as their patron. Only in modern times has the story of St. George and the Dragon come to be doubted, along with those of St. Christopher and St. Philomena. It is now considered by most people to be nothing more than a symbolic pious tale; there was no dragon. Pope Pius XII warned against this spirit, which begins by doubting that there was a serpent in the Garden of Eden, and ends by denying that Christ died on the Cross and arose from the dead.

Who was Saint George?

The life of Saint George is shrouded in legend, so much so that it is quite difficult to untangle fact from fiction. Much of the problem lies in the Acta Sancti Georgii (Acts of Saint George) written at a very early date and outlawed by Pope Gelasius in AD 496. Meanwhile the Greeks also had a set of Acts which were more accurate and quoted by Saint Andrew of Crete.

Gustave moreau st George and the dragon

From them and the writings of Metaphrastes, we can piece together that he was born in Cappadocia of noble, Christian parents and on the death of his father, accompanied his mother to Palestine, her country of origin, where she had land and George was to run the estate. He was martyred at Lydda in Palestine (Nicomedia). He held an important post in the Roman army – the rank of tribune, or perhaps colonel in modern terms – during the reign of the emperor Diocletian (245-313). Diocletian was a great persecutor of Christians (from about 302) and when the persecutions began George put aside his office and complained personally to the emperor of the harshness of his decrees and the dreadful purges of Christians. For his trouble, though, he was thrown into prison and tortured. He would not recant his faith however and the following day he was dragged through the streets and beheaded. It is uncertain whether he also tore down the emperor’s decrees as they were posted in Nicomedia. So, he was one of the first to perish. The emperor’s wife, Alexandria was so impressed at the Saint’s courage that she became a Christian and so too was put to death for her trouble.

Saint George and the dragon legend.

The legends surrounding Saint George are very varied. One of them concerns the famous dragon, with which he is invariably portrayed. According to legend, a pagan town in Libya was being terrorized by a dragon. The locals kept throwing sheep to it to placate it, and when it still remained unsatisfied, they started sacrificing some of the citizenry. Finally, the local princess was to be thrown also to the beast, but Good Saint George came along, slaughtered the dragon and rescued the fair princess. At this the townsfolk converted to Christianity.

The origin of the legend, which is very well known, came originally from the way in which the Greek Church honored George. They venerated him as a soldier saint and told many stories of his bravery and protection in battle. The western Christians, joining with the Byzantine Christians in the Crusades, elaborated and misinterpreted the Greek traditions and devised their own version. The story we know today of Saint George and the dragon dates from the troubadours of the 14th century.

The reason for his being adopted as the Saint of Battles was partly because he was a soldier, but also because he is said to have appeared to the Christian army before the Battle of Antioch. It is also said that he appeared to our English King Richard I (the Lionheart) during his Crusade against the Saracens, which served as a great encouragement to the troops.

The Meaning of the Symbols.

The symbols explained are that the Dragon represented Satan and the Princess represented the Christian Church. Saint George rescued the pagans from evil by vanquishing it and saved the Church from being devoured by the insatiable forces of darkness.

The Cult of Saint George.

The cult of Saint George goes back a long way – certainly to the 4th century. The Syrian Church held him in great esteem. The church of Saint George in Velabro – (The Veil of Gold) – Rome, dating from about that time was built. Saint Clothilde, in Gaul dedicated a church to him; in Venice, he is the second patron after Saint Mark; the Greeks hold him in honor. And in 1222 the Council of Oxford appointed 23rd April as his Feast Day. He became the English Patron Saint in 14th Century and he became associated with the Order of the Garter. He is also the patron saint of Moscow in Russia, and of Georgia which bears his name, and of Aragon. He was, until 18th century, patron of Portugal (when they broke from Spain in 12th century, they had to choose a new patron: their acquaintance with the English in the Crusades confirmed George as the natural successor. He remains to this day still “in charge” of the army), although Our Lady is the Protectress of the Country now. St George is patron saint of Aragon.

I am grateful for this piece of information from Lisa Inskipp-Hawkins: “(St George) is also the patron saint of Catalonia, and his festivity is much celebrated here. In fact, the Catalonian people add their own tradition to this popular celebration. The legend here is that when St George killed the dragon, he gave the maiden a red rose … As a result, on the 23rd of April, especially in Barcelona City, it is traditional for men to give their girlfriend/fiancée/ wife a red rose, and the lady in question corresponds by returning a book. You could say that here St George is more popular than St. Valentine.”

Other correspondents mention the cult of St George in other places and traditions: The Coptic Church for example; the Island of Gozo, part of the Malta archipelago, where high festivities take place yearly each 3rd week in July (thanks to David Camilleri for that information). Many other places too numerous to mention here.

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