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 the St George reverse, the date appears on the reverse (With Shield reverse, the date appears below Victoria’s portrait. ) With the mintmark on the obverse, just below the portrait.
The reign of Victoria (1837-1901), niece of William IV, was long enough to prompt three distinctive portraits. These depicted her as the young woman of 18 on her ascension to the throne, as a mourning widow on her golden jubilee in 1887 and as an elderly empress in 1893 The initial reverse type for gold coins was the shield and crown motif, supplemented on the sovereign with a heraldic wreath. This was succeeded in 1871 by the scene of St. George slaying the dragon. Shields comprise between a mere 15% & 20% of the total amount struck. Although the exact number of shields & St George reverses struck each year would have fluctuated, it is a general rule that shields are the scarcer of the two types. The shield design was used on Australian sovereigns between 1871 and 1887, and the design described below was adapted slightly from that first seen on the new coinage of King George IV in 1825. Interestingly, the vast majority of, if not all shield sovereigns struck were exported to India. Evidently, there were some objections there to the St George reverse design on religious grounds. St George being the patron saint of England, in their opinion his image on coinage nigh constituted idol worship – taboo in a number of Eastern religions. Another less sensational explanation for the use of this reverse type in India is that “the people there had become accustomed to that pattern.”
In the case of the St George reverse, the date appears on the reverse with the mintmark on the obverse, just below the portrait. With the Shield reverse the date appears below Victoria’s portrait on the obverse and the mintmark on the reverse.
|Sovereign 1871 Proof (1)||Extremely Rare|
|Sovereign St George Back 1871||8,767,250||2,814,000|
|Sovereign St George Back 1872||13,486,708||1,815,000||748,180|
|Sovereign St George Back 1873||2,368,215||1,478,000||752,199 (1)|
|Sovereign St George Back 1874||520,713||1,899,000 (1)||1,373,298|
|Sovereign St George Back 1875||2,122,000||1,888,405 (1)|
|Sovereign St George Back 1876||3,318,866||1,613,000 (1)||2,124,445 (1)|
|Sovereign St George Back 1877||1,590,000||1,487,316 (1)|
|Sovereign St George Back 1878||1,091,275||1,259,000||2,171,457 (1)|
|Sovereign St George Back 1879||20,013||1,366,000||2,740,594 (1)|
|Sovereign St George Back 1880||3,650,080||1,459,000||3,053,454|
|Sovereign St George Back 1881||1,360,000||2,234,800|
|Sovereign St George Back 1882||1,298,000||2,465,781|
|Sovereign St George Back 1883||1,108,000||2,050,450|
|Sovereign St George Back 1884||1,769,635||1,595,000||2,942,630|
|Sovereign St George Back 1885||717,723||1,486,000||2,967,143|
|Sovereign St George Back 1886||1,667,000||2,902,131|
|Sovereign St George Back 1887||1,000,000||1,916,424|
Introduction of St George Reverse
Mintage figures indicate total for both St George and Shield sovereigns issued; no separate figures were kept.
London issued both types until 1874 whilst the branch mints continued until 1887
Sydney Branch Started Production of Imperial Sovereigns in 1871
The first portrait for Queen Victoria was the “Young Head”, which was used on sovereigns from 1938 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 St George, the date appears on the reverse. ) The design can best be described by the Master of the Royal Mint, when writing to Queen Victoria regarding its proposal in 1837:
“…. the Ensigns Armorial of the United Kingdom …. Contained in a plain shield, surmounted by the Royal Crown and encircled with a Laurel Wreath, with the inscription BRITANNIARUM REGINA FID DEF, having the united Rose, Thistle and Shamrock placed under the shield.”.
The nature of this design is such that shield sovereigns tend to be marginally concave on the reverse – because it is to a small extent protected by the rims. For the same reason, shields are generally well struck. As with all coins however, some small differences will occur.