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History of the Sovereign coin

This history of the Sovereign coin spans several centuries, and this classic coin has played a large part in British coinage over the years.

The gold Sovereign coin has existed in different forms for hundreds of years, but the current version has effectively been in production by The Royal Mint since 1817. The 22 carat coin is one of the world's foremost bullion coins, and is arguably the most popular bullion coin in the UK, and certainly the one with the greatest mintage numbers.

As UK legal tender, gold coins such as the Sovereign are exempt from Capital Gains Tax. Investment gold of all forms is also VAT-free, and has been since January 1, 2000. These tax benefits make the Sovereign an attractive financial investment. At the very least, all of these coins have a worth as pure gold bullion, but because of its long, rich history, Sovereigns can also have additional value on account of their collectability. In fact, a gold sovereign holds the record for the highest price currently paid for a British coin: this was a 1937 Edward VIII gold Proof Sovereign, which sold at auction for a record £1,000,000!

The combination of bullion value and numismatic collectibility thanks to its rich history make the Sovereign one of the world's most sought after coins.

Story of the Sovereign

As mentioned above the history of the Sovereign coin is long-reaching. There was an initial gold coin called the Sovereign struck in England in the early 1600s. The coin failed to gain traction at that time, and was replaced with more popular coins like the Unite and Guinea.

The story of the gold Sovereign that we know today is just over 200 years old. The coin was first struck for use as common currency in Britain in 1817. It was part of the Great Recoinage of 1816, which followed Britain's financial reconstruction after the Napoleonic Wars. It inherited its name from the earlier English coin but was far more successful.

The first of the modern Sovereign coins, struck in 1817.

The first gold sovereign issued as common currency in 1817 as part of the Great Recoinage of 1816.

The 1816 Great Recoinage reintroduced the Sovereign to replace the long-established gold Guinea. The Guinea had had various values over the course of its production, but at that time was exchanging for 21 shillings. During that pre-decimal period there was 20 shillings to the pound, so it was thought practical to introduce a one pound – 20 shillings – coin, hence the £1 Sovereign.

At the time this effectively fixed the value of the pound sterling to that of gold, meaning the UK had officially adopted a gold standard.

During the First World War, the Sovereign - like most gold and silver coins - was gradually withdrawn. Their precious metal content was used by the government to fund trade in support of the war effort. Circulating coins were gradually switched to cheaper metals, and the Sovereign was replaced by paper one pound notes.

The surviving gold coins became increasingly collectable, and very few Sovereigns were struck following the outbreak of World War 2 until 1957. From that time on, they were no longer minted for common circulation but issued for investors and collectors.

Since that time, the Sovereign has gone on to become one of the UK’s most popular bullion coins for investors. The Royal Mint even describe it as their ‘flagship’ coin, being a part of their history for over 200 years.

The Sovereign is now struck for investors and collectors.

Modern gold Sovereign coins are issued as a collectible bullion coin for investors.

Gold Sovereign design

The design of the gold Sovereign has remained largely unchanged in its 200-year history. They are world-famous, beautiful coins, featuring the heads of various British monarchs on the obverse. The reverse carries the now iconic St George and the Dragon design by Benedetto Pistrucci. It has grown to become one of, if not the, best recognised bullion coins in the world, making it very easy to sell.

£1 Sovereigns are 22 carat gold (916.7 fineness). They measure 22.05mm diameter, 1.52mm thick and contain 7.315g of pure gold, with a total weight of 7.98g. They are also struck as £5 Quintuples, £2 Double, half and quarter sizes.

Buying Gold Sovereigns

BullionByPost sell gold Sovereigns at low premiums, with free, fully insured delivery included. For those seeking the very lowest prices, choose our best value, mixed year coins. This will give you the best priced way to buy Sovereigns. We also offer the exact year of Sovereign you require to complete your collection as well as our best-selling, brand new, uncirculated coins direct from The Royal Mint.