2017 sees the Gold Sovereign’s bicentenary, and to mark the occasion a special one-year-only design has been unveiled, recreating Pistrucci’s original 1817 engraving. It’s a truly fitting tribute and acknowledges the rich history of the coin which I’ve been exploring in these blogs. If you missed the previous posts you can start from the beginning here, but now here’s the final chapter in the sovereign’s history so far…
In Part V, I explored the decline in production of Gold Sovereigns as a result of World War I and the worldwide economic crisis, which lead to the end of the Sovereign. Until 1957 when it was revived once again…
Apart from one special limited edition commemorative issue for King George VI’s coronation in 1937, no Sovereigns had been struck since 1932. In 1953, Sovereigns were produced for Queen Elizabeth II for the Coronation Sets but they were for national collections, not collectors.
The Sovereign’s revival
Then in 1957, worldwide demand for the coins became so great that The Royal Mint resumed production of bullion gold Sovereigns for circulation. Not only would this satisfy demand, it would also blunt the premium that was making it so lucrative to counterfeit the coins.
These early ‘restoration’ Sovereigns of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign feature Mary Gillick’s portrait of the young Queen on the obverse, engraved especially for her new coinage.
The portrait design was changed in 1968 prior to Decimalisation in 1971, to a portrait by Arnold Machin. This portrait still features on postage stamps all these years later.
A new market emerges
Queen Elizabeth II’s reign has been a time of change for the Sovereign. A new market has emerged – the collector’s market.
In 1979, The Royal Mint produced the first proof version of the Sovereign of her reign. This higher grade version was limited to just 12,500 pieces and proved very popular with collectors.
With a newfound interest from collectors, it is not surprising that we have seen more design variations of the Sovereign than ever before.
A third portrait design by Raphael Maklouf was used from 1985 to 1997 and a fourth by Ian Rank-Broadley FRBS replaced this until 2015 when Her Majesty’s portrait was updated by The Royal Mint engraver, Jody Clark.
The UK’s Premier Gold Coin
We have also seen the introduction of commemorative one-year-only designs, which started in 1989 with the issue of a special 500th anniversary Sovereign, featuring a design similar to the first Sovereign in 1489. These special commemorative designs have become more and more popular.
Since then, there have been one-year-only designs for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002, the modern St. George and the Dragon in 2005, the Diamond Jubilee in 2012 and the Queen’s 90th birthday in 2016.
These limited editions have seen a surge in Sovereign collecting, cementing its position as the UK’s premier gold coin.
It’s universal appeal shows no sign of slowing. In recent financial crises, people all over the world clamoured for Gold Sovereigns.
The Sovereign’s reputation for quality and reliability remains and will remain for years to come and now the next chapter in the Sovereign story has been written…
Announcing the new UK Bicentenary Gold Proof Sovereign
To mark the Bicentenary of the “modern” Gold Sovereign in 2017, The Royal Mint have just released a brand new Gold Proof Sovereign reprising Benedetto Pistrucci’s original engraving from 1817.
With a low edition limit of just 10,500 worldwide, a special one-year-only design change and a fine proof finish, the 2017 Bicentenary Gold Sovereign has all the elements to be one of the most collectable British gold coins of the 21st century. And now you can own one.
With the Battle of Waterloo reaching its 200th Anniversary this year, I have come across some fascinating commemoratives which have been issued to mark the historic event. However, there was one in particular that really caught my eye and has an intriguing story behind it…
It all started in 1815 when The Royal Mint was commissioned by the Duke of Wellington to strike a medal honouring the leaders of the allied nations following the Battle of Waterloo.
The medal was to be of the grandest scale, finished with outstanding detail – a task perfectly suited to Royal Mint Chief Medalist Bendetto Pistrucci – whose proposed design was chosen from a shortlist.
Pistrucci was a masterful engraver with a mercurial personality. He had already completed a stunning design of St George and the Dragon (which famously still graces the Sovereign today). His design for the medal looked set to be one of the greatest ever undertaken…
But, there was a problem
Pistrucci was under the impression that Master of the Mint, William Wellsley-Pole, had promised him the position of Chief Engraver at the Royal Mint. However, as a result of politics and infighting at the Mint, it became apparent his ambitions would never be fulfilled.
In fact he soon recognised that once he had completed the Waterloo medal, The Royal Mint was sure to cut all ties with him. Determined not to let this happen, Pistrucci took his time, and prolonged the project – by 30 years.
By the time the dies were completed, all the intended recipients were dead, except for Wellington himself.
The end result was one of the most magnificent pieces of medallic art ever seen, but this wasn’t the end of the story. Pistrucci’s dies were so large and complicated that they proved impossible to harden and the medal that had taken three decades to complete was never even struck.
So the ill-fated Waterloo medal remains one of the most fascinating chapters in the history of The Royal Mint, and is still talked about to this day – despite the fact it never even made it to production!
Now the medal has been made…
Using the latest minting technology, a small batch of just 495 replica medals have been made for the anniversary year of The Battle of Waterloo. We still have some available if you’re interested, click here for details.
The Royal Mint have announced that on 2nd March, the effigy of Her Majesty the Queen on UK coinage will be replaced with a brand new fifth portrait. While we wait for the new portrait to be revealed, here’s a little more detail about the history of the current portrait that has featured on our coinage for the past 17 years…
In 1997 the Royal Mint held a competition to design the obverse of the Golden Wedding Crown. The standard of entries for the joint portrait of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip was so high that it was decided it was time to explore the possibility of replacing the existing portrait by Raphael Maklouf. The winning portrait was designed by Ian Rank-Broadley FRBS and introduced in 1998.
Designed to fill the full circle of the coin, its larger size was a deliberate response to the smaller coins that had been introduced into circulation. Compared to its predecessor, the portrait is noticeably more mature. Ian Rank-Broadley FRBS felt that there was ‘no need to disguise the matureness of the Queen’s years. There is no need to flatter her. She is a 70-year-old woman with poise and bearing’.
Since then he has designed the 2000 Queen Mother Centennial Crown, 2002 Golden Jubilee Crown, and the conjoined portrait of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip on the 2007 Crown. His effigy of Her Majesty has been used on all circulating British coins since 1998.
Secure the last set of UK coins to feature the current portrait of the Queen
Struck by the Royal Mint to a superior Brilliant Uncirculated finish, the set features the eight 2015 UK definitive coins from the 1p to the £2, brought together with the flagship 2015 1oz pure Silver Britannia coin. Just 495 complete Queen’s Fourth Portrait Specimen Sets have been released.
Presented in a luxury wooden Presentation Case and complete with its Certificate of Authenticity, this really is the ultimate way to bid farewell to a familiar face.
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