The First Sovereign
The gold sovereign came into existence in 1489 under King Henry VII
The pound sterling had been a unit of account for centuries, as had the mark. Now for the first time a coin denomination was issued with a value of one pound sterling.
The obverse design showed the King seated facing on a throne, a very majestic image. It is from this image of the monarch or sovereign that the new coin gained its name - the sovereign. The reverse type is a shield on a large double Tudor rose.
This first sovereign occurs with a number of minor type variations all of which are rare, currently cataloguing from £7000 upwards. Sovereigns were then struck for Henry VIII, and for most monarchs until the first coinage of James I.
The Modern Sovereign
In1816, 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 modern sovereign was born!
A new 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, and for most of its life must have been one of the worlds
From 1957, bullion sovereigns were issued almost every year until 1968, then not until 1974 when regular production was restarted.
In 1979, a proof version was issued, and this continues to the present.
In 1989, a special 500 commemorative design was produced, inspired by the very first gold sovereign of 1489, showing H.M. Queen Elizabeth II seated facing on a throne.
For 2002, a shield will be used us the design on the reverse for just one year to mark the Queen's Golden Jubilee.
It appears likely that gold sovereigns will continue to be struck every year for sale to collectors. They have become a very popular gift item for christenings and other special occasions.
For modern gold sovereigns, i.e. from 1817
Diameter: 22.05 mm.
Weight: 7.98 grams.
Alloy: 22 carat gold = 0.917 parts per 1000.
Actual gold content: 0.2354 troy ounces.
most widely recognised coins.