Named after the English gold sovereign, the Gold Sovereign
was first minted in 1817. It is a British gold coin
and has a nominal value equal to 1 pound sterling. Other coins minted by the Royal Mint are 5-pound quintuple coins, 2-pound sovereigns, double sovereigns, and 10-shillings. The half-sovereign and sovereign have been minted for circulation. The Mint produced a new coin in 2009 as part of the Sovereign series. In some aspects, the new quarter-sovereign resembles the English Crown of the Rose, which is a very rare UK gold coin, created during the rule of Henry VIII. The coins obverse features the crowned shields with arms of France and England. The obverse depicts two lions and a large rose.
The Gold Sovereign was initially produced with a shield crown motif on the reverse side, along with a heraldic wreath. The design was then changed, portraying Saint George killing a dragon. This design by Benedetto Pistrucci is still used on gold sovereigns. Other reverse designs have been developed during the reigns of George IV, William IV, Victoria, and Elizabeth II.
Notably, there are counterfeit sovereigns as well. Some fakes are obvious while others are not so obvious. Some counterfeit coins have sharp milled edges and are too shiny. The color of the gold
from which the coin is made is brassy, and with the texture of the surface being quite grainy. This type of texture is characteristic of casting. Most of the medium quality and poor fakes are made by casting. Better quality counterfeit coins are produced from steel dies. Some fakes have wide borders, especially on the reverse side. The exergue space and the date on some coins are too large. When spinning or dropping the coin on a hard surface, it will sound wrong if it is fake. The sound may be different because of the lower karat gold or because the alloy was not correct.
To that, sovereigns are minted following a standard specification. They are produced from 22-karat gold (fineness of 91.67 percent), have thickness of 1.52 mm and a diameter of 22.05 mm. When traded, gold sovereigns have higher premiums than other coins (e.g. the South African Krugerrand
). This can be explained by various factors, such as high demand from collectors and numismatists, higher unit cost, and higher costs to identify and stock numismatic coins.
During different periods sovereigns have been produced in London, Perth, Melbourne, Bombay, Ottawa, and other places. The peak of distribution saw millions of sovereigns minted in the period of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Due to continuous trade and hoarding, along with a large supply of gold coins, Gold Sovereigns are offered at bullion pricing today. Prices are determined by the premium per coin and the spot price.
It has been claimed that millions and millions of gold coins were produced over the years. However, from all minted Gold Sovereigns, only one percent is in condition to be considered collectibles. Coins in circulation normally have a life expectancy of about 15 years, before they experience enough wear, causing the weight to fall below the legal value. During the Victorian era, many worn-out gold coins were removed from circulation and melted. Sovereigns that went to the United States were typically melted into bars in accordance with Federal Law.
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