The Sovereign is a British gold coin. It contains nearly one quarter of an ounce of gold – 0.2354 oz. It is perhaps the most recognised gold coin in the world. The British gold sovereigns have been produced in their modern form since 1817. The coins were widely circulated as currency during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in various countries, including Ireland.
Remarkably, the modern sovereign has a nearly 200-year history but it’s still produced each year by the Royal Mint in Wales in both bullion and proof form.
The size and weight of all sovereigns are standard, but there is a large variety of coin designs on the market. This is because of the coin’s long history – the coin design has changed with each monarch, sometimes more than once.
GoldCore provide Irish investors with a vast stock of gold sovereigns. You can buy on our website or call our office and order over the phone. You can also book an appointment to visit our office in Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin 2.
The Sovereign is made of 22 carat gold, consisting of 11/12 gold and 1/12 copper, giving a gold content of 0.9167. The coin has a standard weight of 7.98805 grams and given that the fineness is 0.9167, the gold content is 7.323 grams, or 0.2354 (troy) ounces. The coin has a diameter is 22.05mm. The sovereign is a legal tender coin with a face value of one pound sterling, however the face value is not specified on the coin.
The current design of the sovereign features a portrait of Elizabeth II on the obverse (front) with the words “ELIZABETH II” and “DEI GRA REGINA FED DEF”, which is a latin abbreviation for “Dei Gratia Regina Fidei Defensor” the Latin for “By the Grace of God, Queen, Defender of the Faith”. The Elizabeth II portrait is based on a design by sculptor Ian Rank-Broadley and appears on all sovereigns minted since 1998.
The reverse of the coin features a classic design of St George slaying a dragon. This famous design was created by Benedetto Pistrucci, the Italian engraver, and was first used on the first modern sovereigns in 1817. On each coin the year of issue is specified underneath the St George illustration.
A gold coin called a sovereign was first produced in England in 1489 under King Henry VII, bearing the King’s effigy, hence the name sovereigns. Sovereign production continued under subsequent monarchs until 1604.
A widely used term ‘modern gold sovereign’ covers sovereigns produced since 1817. These coins were launched as part of the Great Recoinage of 1816.
For ease of identification, sovereigns are commonly referred to by the name of the monarch that they depict. The first modern sovereign in 1817, introduced in the reign of King George III, featured the effigy of the King on the obverse and Benedetto Pisttucci’s design of St George and the Dragon on the reverse. Pistrucci’s design was so well liked that it has been retained on many subsequent sovereign designs over the years, including very recent designs.
The sequence of monarchs featured on the gold sovereign coin from 1817 to 1901 is as follows: 1817 – 1820 George III, 1821 – 1830 George IV, 1831 – 1837 William IV, and 1838 – 1901 Victoria.
Given that Victoria reigned for so long, there were a number of design changes to the Victoria portrait on sovereigns over that period. Sovereigns in the period 1838 to 1887 depict her first portrait and are referred to as Victoria young head coins. From 1887 to 1893, a second portrait was introduced and the coins are known as Victoria Jubilee head, celebrating the Golden Jubilee. Sovereigns from 1893 to 1901 have a third portrait and are known as Victoria old head.
After Victoria, the sequence of sovereigns is 1902 – 1910 Edward VII, 1911 – 1932 George V. Then sovereign production essentially stopped until 1957 when the first Elizabeth II sovereigns were minted.
As the British Empire expanded under Queen Victoria during the 1800s, the sovereign became the world’s most widely distributed gold coin. Although originally minted in London, the Sovereign came to be minted all over the world as Australia and South Africa became large gold producers. Mints in Pretoria, Bombay, Ottawa, Melbourne, Perth, and Sydney turned out hundreds of millions of Sovereigns during the late 1800s and early 1900s.
The Bombay mint only operated briefly between 1918 and 1919 and was established specifically to mint sovereigns. The Sydney mint started sovereign production in 1855 with its own design, but switched to the London design in 1871 and produced sovereigns up until 1926. The Melbourne mint started sovereign production in 1872 and ran production up to 1932. Perth produced sovereigns from 1899 to 1931, Ottawa from 1908 to 1919, and Pretoria from 1923 to 1932.
From 1826, Ireland shared a common currency, the pound sterling, with the United Kingdom, and with the currency being on a ‘gold standard’ between 1821 and 1914, and then again during the 1920s, a £1 note could be exchanged at Irish banks for a fixed quantity of gold, i.e. a gold sovereign. Irish people travelling aboard during the 1800s and early 1900s also carried gold sovereigns. Therefore, it is not uncommon for gold sovereigns to still be held in Ireland up to the present day, and you will often see old sovereigns come up for auction at some of the well-known Irish auction houses.
Very few gold coins were ever struck in Ireland. The most famous of these were the very rare Duke of Ormonde gold pistoles and double pistoles of 1646 which consisted of melted French and Spanish gold and were minted so as to pay Dublin garrison troops that were threatening to desert. Since then, no gold coins were struck in Ireland until a limited edition 50 ECU gold coin was produced in 1990.
The design of Saint George slaying the dragon is common to the reverse of all variations of the coin.
|£53,500 - £129,499||£249.14||5.54%|
|£26,700 - £53,499||£250.27||6.03%|
|£15,500 - £26,699||£250.94||6.51%|
|£1,000 - £15,499||£251.51||6.75%|
A critical decision for Irish investors when buying Sovereigns is where you want to store your investment. The compact size, durability and portability of the Gold Sovereign allows for easy storage options. However, Sovereigns are highly valuable and need to be securely stored, and with the rising risk of burglaries in Ireland, you should not store too many valuables at home.
There are two main options available, either:
GoldCore offer Irish clients fully insured secure storage facilities in many international locations such as Switzerland, UK, USA, Australia and Asia.
For Ireland: GoldCore has partnered with Sentinel Vaults, the leading Irish safety deposit box and document storage company, to offer GoldCore customers secure storage with Sentinel at a discounted rate. Sentinel’s secure facility is based in the heart of Ballsbridge, Dublin 4.
Gold sovereign purchases are exempt from value added tax (VAT) in Ireland.
Since it’s a relatively small coin, the bullion sovereign is an affordable investment, while its light weight makes it portable and easy to store.
Owning sovereigns also offers the benefit of divisibility since individual coins can be traded or gifted. This is not always possible when one owns larger gold products.
Since modern sovereigns have been produced for nearly 200 years they have an excellent reputation internationally and can be traded in many countries.
Sales of sovereigns are exempt from capital gains tax (CGT) in the UK.
The Treasury also check the accuracy of all newly minted Royal Mint coins, including sovereigns, in the annual Trial of the Pyx at Goldsmiths Hall, where each new coin is inspected by a panel of expert assayers
The Gold Sovereign is manufactured at Britain’s Royal Mint. The Royal Mint is in Llantrisant, South Wales, and was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1968. The Mint facility is located on a 35-acre site and is guarded by Ministry of Defence Police.
The Mint manufacturers coins and medals for approximately 60 countries each year and is the world’s leading export Mint.
The Royal Mint was originally established in 1279 and resided in the Tower of London. The Mint moved to larger facilities on nearby Tower Hill in London in 1811, before its second move to Wales in 1968.
During the 1800s and early 1900s, the Royal Mint began to open branch mints in various locations within the British Empire where major gold fields were discovered. These branch mints all manufactured gold sovereigns at various times.
In the Australian colonies of New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia, branch mints were established at Sydney (in 1855), Melbourne (1872) and Perth (1899), respectively. In British India, a mint was opened in Bombay (1918). In the dominion of the Union of South Africa, a mint was established in Pretoria (1923). While in Canada, a mint was opened in the Canadian dominion of Ottawa (1908). These mints were at various times involved in producing sovereigns.
The mint marks on the branch mint sovereigns are unique to each mint (S for Sydney, M for Melbourne, P for Perth, C for Canada, I for India and SA for Pretoria).