Australian Gold Sovereigns

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The gold sovereign was a currency coin of England and Great Britain from its first issuance in 1489 (initially commissioned under the reign of King Henry VII) to 1604, and since its revival and re-issue under the ‘Great Recoinage’ of 1816.[1] Originally minted by the London Mint during its heyday, and re-minted afterwards by the Royal Mint after the Great Recoinage, the creation of gold Sovereigns were later undertaken by several licensed mints under the Royal Mint of Great Britain. One of the rarest non-Royal Mint Sovereigns was the Australian Gold Sovereign, which is still produced annually, albeit in limited quantities to this day.

The minting of Australian Gold Sovereigns initially began as a means to do away with the need to transport large amounts of gold from Australia all the way to the Royal Mint. To do away with the possible financial setbacks and inevitable losses during transport, the Royal Mint created subsidiary branches in several parts of Australia. During the initial mintage of the first set of Australian Gold Sovereigns, mints at Sydney (beginning in 1871) and Melbourne (beginning in 1872) undertook the production of the Sovereigns with gold endemic to Australia’s soil. Later on, with the creation of the Perth Mint (mintage beginning in 1899), production of gold Sovereigns was eventually undertaken by all three different mints, followed shortly thereafter by a fourth mint – Ottawa, (beginning in 1908).[2] This production was originally geared towards supplying the ‘Motherland’ Great Britain with high-quality Sovereigns that would supplement their own supply. However, as larger gold mines were eventually discovered in several parts of Australia, the initial mints began permanent (if somewhat limited) production of both Gold Sovereigns and general base-metal currency primarily to supplement British production, as well as for general issue within the colony itself.

As with any evolving currency, the first Sovereigns minted after the Great Recoinage began to incorporate the symbolism of the current age, with several examples bearing the image of several monarch. Among the more rare examples depict Queen Victoria throughout the various stages in her life, while still other depicts monarchs after her. The legends on the obverse varied depending on the year of mintage and the depicted monarch, although the most typical phrases found were their names, along with the legends ‘D: G: BRITT: OMN: REX: / REGINA: F: D: IND: IMP’ (Dei Gratia Britannia Omnia Rex Fides Defensor Indica Imperatrix / Imperator - By the Grace of God King / Queen Defender of the Faith Emperor / Empress of India). The reverse side of the coin would normally depict the coat of arms of the Australian Commonwealth, or otherwise the coat of arms of the British Empire, although a more common depiction would be that of Saint George astride his stallion as he is slaying the dragon, free of any legend save the date of mintage and the occasional mintmark which designates its origin and its status (proofs were, as a rule of thumb, required to possess mintmarks; although normal coins may also possess these discerning marks to prove authenticity).[3]

Since its first re-minting, the Gold Sovereign had always been created with a special controlled alloy of gold and copper known as crown gold in order to allow for a more durable, hardy coin that would resist the wear and tear brought about by general handling. While this standard was upheld even under the mintage within the Australian colonies, soon the copper was replaced with the more valuable silver, resulting in a less reddish-hued coin, and more of a bright-yellow one instead. Modern Australian gold Sovereigns such as those minted in the Perth Mint use silver as a ‘hardening agent’ in lieu of copper. To this day, examples of Australian Sovereigns minted by the Perth Mint for both bullion and numismatic purposes still maintain the traditional 22-carat composition, and is, among all of their other bullion coins, the only ‘impure’ (that is, not following the standard of their typical 99.99% fineness) bullion coin available.[4] Unlike the older mintages which came in both normal and proof versions, the latest mintage of gold Sovereigns only come in proofs.

Today, modern Australian Sovereigns are more of a collector’s item than they are bullion investment owing to the presence of other, far purer and more ‘superior’ coins. The earlier mintages in the Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, and Ottawa mints however are highly sought after by both collectors and investors alike owing much to their scarcity, which generally fetch higher prices and even premiums in the bullion and coin-collection market. Aside from Sovereigns, the Australian mint also creates limited edition Half-Sovereigns and Quarter-Sovereigns for numismatic purposes. These coins are considered legal tender in Australia and Great Britain, although they are rarely, if ever used for general purposes owing primarily to their gold content, and secondly, to their limited numbers. Of all the modern gold bullion coins today, the Australian Sovereign still remains void of any indicated face value, in keeping with tradition.

Australian Gold Sovereigns - References:


Content researched and created by Alexander Leonhart for ©

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