Gold Sovereign “Victoria Dei Gratia” 1886.

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The sovereign 1886 is a British gold coin minted under the reign of Queen Victoria at the colonial Australian branch mints in Melbourne and Sydney. The 1886 Queen Victoria “Young Head” with St George Back Gold Sovereigns, (originally a circulating coin, now a bullion coin) are now VAT free in UK and provided they were minted after 1817 and a legal tender coin, free from Capital Gains Tax for UK residents. They also are VAT free in European Union, the sovereigns meeting the criteria established in Article 344(1), point (2) of Council Directive 2006/112/EC of 28 November 2006 (special scheme for investment gold). The 1886 Young Head sovereign were minted with 2 different reverses: Shield and St. George.

Mint markMintMintage
MMelbourne, Australia2,902,131
SSydney, Australia1,667,000
 Total4.569.131
Diameter (mm)Weight (gr)Thickness (mm)
22,05 mmGross weight: 7,99 Gr
Fine Gold: 7,32 Gr – 0.2354 troy ounce.
1,52 mm
Edge and Orientation.Millesimal fineness.Composition.
➣ Reeded / Milled
➣ Medal alignment ↑
22 carats; 917 ‰91.67% gold and 8.33% Copper.
Mint and MintmarkFinancial FeaturesMintage.
« The Royal Mint » Australia mints.Type: bullion coin.
Production Years: 1817–present.
Legal tender in the United Kingdom, value £1 = 20 shillings.
1886 with 4.569.131 bullion coins.
Specifications for the Gold Sovereign 1886.
Reverse: Portrait by William Wyon. Matte background with matte bust of queen Victoria facing left. VICTORIA D:G: BRITANNIAR REG: FID:DEF:” Translated from Latin: Victoria by the Grace of God King of the Britons, Defender of the Faith.)
Obverse:Benedetto Pistrucci’s St George on horseback slaying the dragon right; 1886 and B.P. in exergue inscribed at the bottom.

A relatively flat design allows the young head obverse to show little wear. The mains point to check for strike & wear are :

  • The hair juste on the double ribbon,
  • The hair above the ear,
  • The knotted bun area,
  • The peaks of the eyebrow,
  • As always, the rims and fields.

When collectors examine a sovereign with the St George reverse, there are a certain number of points which are examined closely for strike & wear. From top to bottom, they are:

  • The crest of St George’s helmet;
  • St George’s chest, together with the strap & pin fastening his cloak;
  • The bridle as it crosses the horse’s neck;
  • The muscle separation in St George’s upper thigh;
  • The horse’s forequarters & rump;
  • The “bloodline” in the sword;
  • The upper band across St George’s boot;
  • The dragon’s torso below its neck.
1886 Melbourne Shield Sovereign Shield Reverse good EF (PCGS AU55) from ebay seller sterlingcurrencyau

The 1886 Melbourne Shield Sovereigns

Values at the upper end of the market indicate that affluent yet “time-poor” investors are focusing on key rarities rather than complete collections. Although many have done well by making quick decisions to acquire only high-profile items in superior quality, by not taking the time to study the market, these investors miss opportunities that may revealed with a little homework. The 1886 Melbourne Shield reverse sovereign is one case in point, with the current opportunity best illustrated by showing relative values of a few numismatic rarities between 1978 and today:

COIN DESCRIPTIONQUALITY197820012022
1886 Melbourne Shield SovereignAbout EF/EF$5,500$8,500$14,500
1813 NSW Fifteen Pence “Dump”Good VF$1,600$11,500
1855 Silver Taylor 6d (Plain edge)FDC850$15,000
1855 Silver Taylor 1/- (Plain edge)FDC$650$15,000
1871 Sydney Proof SovereignFDC$2,100$37,500
1921 Kookaburra Penny (Type 12b)FDC$600$17,500
1930 PennyFine$2,000$15,500

Australian collectors have long known Queen Victoria Shield reverse sovereigns to be rare, and that the 1886 Melbourne mint is the key date in the series. These dedicated collectors will readily tell you that this coin was once regarded as one of the keys to the entire gold sovereign series. One collection formed during the 1960’s & 1970’s was that put together by Mr Gilbert Heyde, President of the Australian Numismatic Society for many years and one of the most prominent collectors of his day. Although his collection included four Holey Dollars (as well as countless other rarities), Hyde was never able to obtain an 1886 M Shield.

So how has the market overlooked this exclusive rarity?

The answer just may lie in a London auction back in 1992. Several buyers with very deep pockets attended this sale of “a comprehensive collection of sovereigns”. The coins these buyers competed most strongly on were two Sydney coins from the George V series. Record prices were set for the 1920 Sydney and the 1926 Sydney, and much media hype followed. An aura of ultra-rarity settled around these two coins, one that remains in place to this day. Although the 1886 M Shield was rated as being of similar rarity to both coins at the time, it stayed out of the spotlight and has remained “a sleeper”. Our research indicates that the supply of this coin has not increased since 1992, and therefore it is only market perceptions that have held the coin back.

While many collectors will content themselves to continue to chase “glamour” coins such as the 1930 pennies and Kookaburra patterns, our research shows that it will be more broad-minded investors that will position themselves for a far greater gain.

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