Queen Victoria “Young Head” with Shield Back, 1838 to 1887.

This shield design was used on London Mint sovereigns between 1838 and 1874, and the design was adapted slightly from that first seen on the new coinage of King George IV in 1825. More than 150 million of the Sovereign “Young Head” with Shield were minted over 36 years at mints in London, Melbourne and Sydney. 

Die numbers on young head portrait and shield reverse sovereign.

On some sovereigns of Queen Victoria with the young head portrait and the shield reverse, die numbers can be found.
They only appear on the second larger type young head, and only from 1863 to 1874. The die numbers can be found on the reverse of the coins, beneath the wreath but above the rose near the bottom of the coin.
There are many possible reasons for using die numbers. The most obvious is to be able to check and control the quality of the dies, particularly if experiments were being conducted into die wear. It is possible that different methods of treating and hardening dies may have been carried out, and die numbering would have helped to ascertain which methods of processing were most successful. Other possible reasons include quality and security control during production.

The mintmark is on the reverse under the shield. This currency, by its extraordinary mintage, is found in the four corners of the planet. Victoria shield sovereigns were issued from 1838 to 1887 inclusive, with the exception of only three years, 1840, 1867, and 1876.

 DateLondonMelbourneSydneyTotal Mintage
Sovereign with Shield 1838ExistsNoneNone2,718,694
Sovereign with Shield 1839ExistsNoneNone503,695
Sovereign with Shield 1841ExistsNoneNone124,050
Sovereign with Shield 1842ExistsNoneNone4,865,375
Sovereign with Shield 1843ExistsNoneNone5,981,968
Sovereign with Shield1844ExistsNoneNone3,000,445
Sovereign with Shield 1845ExistsNoneNone3,800,845
Sovereign with Shield 1846ExistsNoneNone3,802,947
Sovereign with Shield 1847ExistsNoneNone4,667,126
Sovereign with Shield 1848ExistsNoneNone2,246,701
Sovereign with Shield 1849ExistsNoneNone1,755,399
Sovereign with Shield 1850ExistsNoneNone1,402,039
Sovereign with Shield 1851ExistsNoneNone4,013,624
Sovereign with Shield 1852ExistsNoneNone8,043,435
Sovereign with Shield 1853ExistsNoneNone10,597,993
Sovereign with Shield 1854ExistsNoneNone10,597,993
Sovereign with Shield 1855ExistsNoneNone8,448,482
Sovereign with Shield 1856ExistsNoneNone4,806,160
Sovereign with Shield 1857ExistsNoneNone4,495,748
Sovereign with Shield 1858ExistsNoneNone803,234
Sovereign with Shield 1859ExistsNoneNone1,547,603
Sovereign with Shield1859 – AnsellExistsNoneNone167,539
Sovereign with Shield 1860ExistsNoneNone2,555,958
Sovereign with Shield 1861ExistsNoneNone7,624,736
Sovereign with Shield 1862ExistsNoneNone7,836,413
Sovereign with Shield 1863ExistsNoneNone5,921,669
Sovereign with Shield 1863 -Die 827ExistsNoneNoneSee 1863
Sovereign with Shield 1864ExistsNoneNone8,656,353
Sovereign with Shield 1865ExistsNoneNone1,450,238
Sovereign with Shield 1866ExistsNoneNone4,047,288
Sovereign with Shield 1868ExistsNoneNone1,653,384
Sovereign with Shield 1869ExistsNoneNone6,441,322
Sovereign with Shield 1870ExistsNoneNone2,189,960
Sovereign with Shield 1871ExistsNoneExists11,581,250*
Sovereign with Shield 1872ExistsExistsExists16,049,888*
Sovereign with Shield 1873ExistsNoneExists3,846,215*
Sovereign with Shield 1874ExistsExistsNone1,894,011*
Sovereign with Shield 1875NoneNoneExists2,122,000
Sovereign with Shield 1877NoneNoneExists1,590,000
Sovereign with Shield 1878NoneNoneExists1,259,000
Sovereign with Shield 1879NoneNoneExists1,366,000
Sovereign with Shield 1880NoneExistsExists4,512,454
Sovereign with Shield 1881NoneExistsExists3,684,800
Sovereign with Shield 1882NoneExistsExists3,763,781
Sovereign with Shield 1883NoneExistsExists1,535,450
Sovereign with Shield 1884NoneExistsExists4,537,630
Sovereign with Shield 1885NoneExistsExists4,453,143
Sovereign with Shield 1886None38.000Exists4,569,131
Sovereign with Shield 1887NoneExistsExists2,916,424
The Melbourne and Sydney Mint produced this shield back sovereign from 1871 to 1887.
1871* Mintage figures include those for 1871 London Mint St. George Reverse
1872* Mintage figures include those for 1872 London Mint St. George Reverse
1873* Mintage figures include those for 1873 London Mint St. George Reverse
1874* Mintage figures include those for 1874 London Mint St. George Reverse

Are Young head Sovereigns Undervalued?

One of the benefits of having access to several decades of experience in the rare coin & banknote market is the ability to identify when certain coins or notes become undervalued relative to items of a similar rarity. This certainly seems to be the case at the moment with the 1923 Halfpenny and Young Head sovereigns.

A close look at the accompanying graph shows that the 1923 halfpenny has been extremely popular with discerning coin collectors since the late 1980’s. While a 1923 Halfpenny currently fetches around $2,000 in Very Fine quality, you could have bought one for around $600 back in 1989. What explains this rapid price growth? Simply put, it had a lot of catching up to do.

During the change to decimal currency in 1966, it was extremely popular to build complete sets of coins. Top quality wasn’t the name of the game – you were assured an exalted position among fellow collectors if you had a complete set though. This meant that key date coins like the 1923 Halfpenny were the most keenly sought, and prices rose accordingly. In later years it has become popular to collect by type, rather than by date. The average collector today doesn’t see the achievement in owning a lot of common coins, but enjoys owning a small number of rare coins in good quality. A Very Fine 1923 halfpenny has been a popular choice with type collectors such as these, and rightly so. The question is though, has it left other sections of the market behind?

Young Head sovereigns (produced between 1871 and 1887) have long been popular with collectors. Produced in limited numbers in an era when gold was real money, they are simply beautiful when seen in Uncirculated quality. Until the 1970’s, Young Head sovereigns were very seldom available to collectors in anything approaching mint condition. Although there are some very rare dates in the Young Head series, a good number are available at the moment for less than $2,000 in Uncirculated quality. It’s interesting to see how prices for Young Heads compare with the 1923 halfpenny over the past 20 years.

The bull markets for gold in 1980 and 1987 brought many speculative buyers into the market, many leaving just as quickly as they arrived. Interest in the 1923 halfpenny remained static until the 1990’s, and has been very strong over the past decade.

Our observation of the present market is that although the 1923 halfpenny is currently in vogue, this is only the first time it has been rated higher than most Young Head sovereigns in the past 20 years. We remember that the last time these two areas were at parity was in the mid-1990’s. Around 1995 the market realized how absurdly cheap Young Heads were, and the series sparked up in value – it’s interesting to note how the 1923 halfpenny levelled off for a few years while that happened.

As collectors tend to focus on acquiring items that offer them the best value for money, we expect that demand for Uncirculated Young Heads will increase over the next year, with market values rising to match their true rarity and historical value.





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