The British half sovereign.

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The half sovereign is a British gold coin with a face value half that of a sovereign: equivalent to half a pound sterling, ten shillings, or 120 old pence. Since the end of the gold standard until 2000, with the exception of 1982, it has been issued only in limited quantities as a commemorative coin with a sale price and resale value far in excess of its face value.

The half sovereign was first introduced in 1544 under Henry VIII. After 1604, the issue of half sovereigns, along with gold sovereigns, was discontinued until 1817, following a major revision of British coinage. Production continued until 1926 and in Australia’s Perth mint until 1933 and, apart from special issues for coronation years, was not restarted until 1982 and then only as a proof issue

1888None IssuedNone IssuedNone Issued
1889None Issued64,000None Issued
18902,243,200None IssuedNone Issued
18911,079,286154,000None Issued
189213,680,486None IssuedNone Issued
18934,426,625None Issued110,024
Jubilee head Victoria half Sovereigns:
Half Sovereign
Half Sovereign
Half Sovereign
1893Mintage Unknown250,000Mintage Unknown
18943,794,591None IssuedNone Issued
18952,869,183None IssuedNone Issued
18962,946,605None Issued218,946
18973,568,156Mintage UnknownNone Issued
18982,868,527None IssuedNone Issued
Old head Victoria Sovereigns:
19024,244,45784,000None IssuedNone Issued
19032,522,057231,000None IssuedNone Issued
19041,717,440None IssuedNone Issued60,030
19053,023,993None IssuedNone IssuedNone Issued
19064,245,437308,00082,042None Issued
19074,233,421None Issued405,034None Issued
EDWARD VII half Sovereigns
19116,104,106252,000None Issued130,373
19126,224,316278,000None IssuedNone Issued
19136,094,290None IssuedNone IssuedNone Issued
1914 *7,251,124322,000None IssuedNone Issued
1916None Issued448,000None IssuedNone Issued
1917None IssuedNone IssuedNone IssuedNone Issued
GEORGE V half Sovereigns


During Victorian times the half sovereign was more widely circulated than the full sovereign. The average life of both a sovereign and the half sovereign were around 15 years before it fell below the lowest legal weight. It is estimated that only 1% of all gold sovereigns that have ever been minted are still in collectable condition in 1891 a proclamation was made that members of the general public could hand in any gold coins that were underweight and have them replaced by full weight coins. Any gold coin struck before 1837 also ceased to be legal tender. This recycled gold was subsequently reminted into 13,680,486 half sovereigns in 1892 and 10,846,741 sovereigns in 1900.

In 1982 2.5 million coins were issued and mostly throughout history the design has followed the full sovereign with the reverse side, featuring the famous and beautiful St. George slaying a dragon designed by Benedetto Pistrucci, whose initials appear to the right of the date. There were variations on the reverse with royal shield and the simplified George and dragon. There was only proof issue until 2000 when bullion production commenced.

1989 marked the 500-year anniversary of the first gold half sovereign ever issued, for Henry VII in 1489. The entire design, including the lettering, in a style inspired by the original 1489 sovereigns. The obverse design is Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, seated enthroned, facing forwards and the reverse a crowned shield at the centre of a Tudor rose. Again, this design, and the lettering, are in a style similar to that on the very first gold sovereign issues. A total of 23,471 coins were produced in individual and coin sets. This proof issue and a single date issue makes it doubly attractive to collectors thus it attracts a high premium.

There is good availability of the half sovereign with some rare issues and they are popular as a first entry into gold coins or to purchase as memento. Because they are quite small many half sovereigns have been mounted in Jewlery either as rings or pendants. In general, you would expect to extra premium on the half sovereign as is the norm with most small coins and on occasions that is true. The average over the last month was 7.5% but here are also some huge spikes in the premium differential such as in October 2009 where the premium was over 90% so it is a coin that needs to be watched carefully. Of course, as the half sovereign is a gold coin of legal tender it is not subject to VAT or Capital Gains Tax


Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1843, while performing a conjuring trick for the amusement of his children, he accidentally swallowed a half-sovereign coin which became lodged in his windpipe. A special pair of forceps failed to remove it, as did a machine to shake it loose devised by Brunel himself. Eventually, at the suggestion of Sir Marc, IKB was strapped to a board, turned upside-down, and the coin was jerked free.


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