The sovereign is a gold coin of the United Kingdom that has retained its form for a remarkable 200 years, under the specifications of the Coin Act of 1816. The one-pound (£) coin was heavily produced and circulated until 1932, by which time it was being minted wherever gold had been found in the farthest reaches of the British Empire. Instead of shipping the raw gold “home” to Britain, it was transformed into sovereigns in Bombay (India), Ottawa (Canada), Pretoria (South Africa), Melbourne, Sydney, and Perth (Australia). Today, only the British Royal Mint in Llantrisant, Wales, and the MMTC-PAMP near Delhi, India produce the sovereign.
As one might surmise, the sovereign owes its name to the British monarch, dating back to 1489 and King Henry VII. Ever since, the likeness of the current king or queen of the realm appears on the coin, while the other side shows either a crown and shield, or the depiction of the legend of Saint George slaying a dragon, designed by Benedetto Pistrucci for the sovereign’s first iteration in 1817. This second motif remains in common use, although other modernized designs have been used in Queen Elizabeth’s long reign. What has remained impressively constant in the sovereign, over its 200-year history, are its light weight (just over a quarter of an ounce), small size (less than an inch in diameter), and fineness of 22 carats.
Obverse:Image of the reigning British monarch at time of mintage; the current image of the Queen is surrounded by the words ELIZABETH II DEI GRA REGINA FID DEF, an abbreviated version of the Latin phrase, “By the grace of God, Queen, defender of the faith.”
Reverse: The 1817 Petrucci design of St. George and the Dragon is by far the most common reverse-side image, surrounded by the words HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE which means “Evil unto him who thinks evil.” (The original rendering had the knight attacking the creature with a broken spear. This was early changed to a sword.) Two alternate versions exist, 2005 and 2012. There are five “crown and shield” reverse designs: 1825-1829, 1830-1837, 1838-1870, 1989, and 2002.
Fine weight: 0.2354 troy o
Fineness: 9167/1000 (22 carat)
Minted since 1817
Legal Tender Value: 1 Pound Sterling
4 sizes avalaibles: ¼ pound, ½ pound, 1 pound, 2 pounds, 5 pounds
Sovereigns usually fetch a higher premium over the price of gold due to their light weight and heavy numismatic demand. Check with your gold broker for the current price.
The most valuable sovereign mintage of all bears the likeness of Elizabeth’s uncle Edward VIII. He abdicated the throne before the 1937 sovereigns were released for circulation. These have been sold at auction for over a million dollars (USD).