British Gold Sovereign
The British Gold Sovereign, also called the “British One Pound,” has been minted for over 500 years dating all the way back to 1489. What is unique about the British Sovereign is that it is the only coin to have made the jump from the gold standard to modern issue bullion coin. Britain went off the gold standard in 1932 and the coin stopped being minted as currency (type: George V), but then in 1957 a new type of Sovereign, a bullion coin, was introduced called Elizabeth II without crown.
The George V and Edward VII versions are probably the most recognized gold coins in the world, in fact at one point the U.S. Special Forces used the Sovereigns in their survival kit for years.
Design and Specifications
As you can imagine with any coin that has been around for over 500 years there have been many design changes. Up until 1816 the reverse of the coin depicted a shield and crown design with a heraldic wreath. The obverse of each coin has always contained the image of the King or Queen of the time. The most readily available Sovereign is the George V version; therefore we will go into more detail about its design.
The front of the King George V design displays the image of King George’s bust looking to the left with the Latin words “GEORGEIVS V D.G.BRITT:OMN:REX F. D.IND:IMP: encircling his head.
The reverse of the coin depicts the image of Saint George slaying a dragon along with the date of production. The back of the coin was engraved by Chief Medalist (Engraver) Bernadetto Pistrucci and is used on all Sovereigns minted after 1817, although other designs were used intermittently.
Each British Sovereign contains .2354 ounces of pure gold and is 22 karats.
Over one billion British Sovereigns have been minted. Many have been removed and reminted due to wear and tear. It was estimated that a single Sovereign had a lifespan of 15 years before wear would bring its gold content below the face value. The Royal Mint for a long time had the tough job of collecting the worn Sovereigns and reminting them.