The History of the Sovereign Coin
sovereign came into existence in 1489 under King Henry VII,
with a value of one pound sterling. The obverse design showed
the King (ie sovereign) seated facing on a throne
it is from this image that the new coin gained its name -
the sovereign. The reverse type is a shield on a large double
Tudor rose. Sovereigns were then struck for Henry VIII, and
for most monarchs until the first coinage of James I.
there was a major change in the British coinage, powered by
the Industrial Revolution. The Royal Mint moved from The Tower
of London to new premises on nearby Tower Hill, and acquired
powerful new steam powered coining presses designed by Matthew
Boulton and James Watt. The reverse design was introduced
featuring Saint George slaying a dragon, designed by a brilliant
young Italian engraver, Benedetto Pistrucci. This beautiful
classic design remains on our gold sovereigns today, almost
two hundred years later. The specifications have also remained
unchanged: 7.9881 grams of 917 fine (22 kt) gold, 22.05 mm.
at the Royal Mint stopped in 1917, although some were minted
again in 1925.
The branch mints continued to produce sovereigns, Ottawa in
Canada until 1919, Bombay in India in 1918, Sydney Australia
until 1926, Melbourne and Perth Australia until 1931, and
Pretoria South Africa until 1932.
sovereigns were issued for circulation until 1957, although
sovereigns were included in the George VI proof set of 1937
which was available for collectors, and sovereigns were also
minted but not issued for Edward VIII in 1937, and for Queen
Elizabeth II in 1953.
bullion sovereigns were issued almost every year until 1968,
then not until 1974 when regular production was restarted.
In 1979, an annual proof version was issued, and this practice
continues to the present. In 1989, a special 500th Anniversary
commemorative design was produced, inspired by the very first
gold sovereign of 1489, showing H.M. Queen Elizabeth II seated
facing on a throne.
a shield was used on the reverse for just one year to mark
the Queen's Golden Jubilee, and then the design reverted to
the classic St. George slaying the dragon by Pistrucci.