What is a Gold Sovereign?

The Gold Sovereign is a British Coin made of 22 carat gold. It is about 22 mm in diameter and weighs 7.9881 g.

The sovereign is one of the most ubiquitous of all British coins and keenly sought after by both coin collectors and bullion investors. They have been minted since 1817.

The English Gold Sovereign and the ‘Great Recoinage’

Dating until the year 1604 there was an English gold sovereign. During the ‘Great Recoinage’  1816 it was decided that the name would be revived for the new one pound coin. Standard gold (22 carat) was valued at £46 14s 6d per troy pound at that time, so the £1 coin needed to weigh exactly 123.2744783 grains. The modern equivalent is 7.988030269 g. The weight is still that today.

For comparison, In 1816 the value of silver was set at 66 shillings for one troy pound and silver coins were only legal for denominations up to £2.

The First Sovereigns

1864 Sovereign ObverseAs Sovereigns have been minted since 1817 (in Britain 1817-1917,1925 and 1957 on), The first sovereigns show the head of King George III.  Benedetto Pistrucci (1783-1855), an Italian engraver who became chief medallist at the Royal Mint, designed the famous George and the Dragon for the reverse and it has been a popular choice since then.

Sovereigns were minted outside Britain. Sovereigns have been made in

  • Australia:
    • Melbourne [mintmark ‘M’],
    • Sidney [‘S]
    • Perth [‘P’].
  • India:
    • Bombay (now Mumbai) [‘I’]
  • Canada:
    • Ottowa [‘C’]
  • South Africa:
    • Pretoria [‘SA’]

The regional mints have not made sovereigns since 1932.

The Obverse is the Monarch’s head and the Reverse is most often St George and the Dragon. Other reverses have been used and often gives the Sovereigns a new term, like ShieldBacks.

Specifications of the Gold Sovereign

  • Diameter: 22.05 mm
  • Thickness: 1.52 mm
  • Weight: 7.9881 g
  • Purity: 22 carat = 91.67% (11/12ths gold, 1/12th copper)
  • Gold Content: 113 grains = 7.3224 g = 0.2354 troy ounce
  • Face value: £1 = 20 shillings

Collecting Sovereigns

The Gold Sovereign is very popular with collectors. Due to its gold content, the coin has a high intrinsic value making it a good investment too. Collectors can also get some dates as a highly polished ‘Proof’. Half-Sovereigns are also common and many multi-coin sets are available.

Generally, most non-proof sovereigns are valued close to the spot gold price and many are purchased simply as bullion. Some of the pre-war sovereigns were made in very large numbers (10’s of millions per year) so have little rarity. In contrast, recent sovereigns have not been minted every year and even then may be only in proof or small issues, making them higher priced coins.

For specific years see our list of Sovereigns. M J Hughes Coins both BUYS and SELLS gold sovereigns and sovereign sets.

 Visit our Shop in Alton

We have a town centre shop called M J Hughes Coins at 27 Market Street, Alton, Hampshire, GU34 1HA. See a details of opening times and how to get there on the Visit our Shop page.

 Post to Us

Most people who sell to us prefer to post via Royal Mail Special delivery, which is a guaranteed, signed-for, insured delivery. Usually we will make payment the same day. For details of how to send to us see How to Post to Us

 Meet in Person

We understand not everyone has access to transport to come to us, or get to the Post office. If you have a sizeable collection we are happy to do a home visit to you. We also attend various Coin Fairs every month. If you prefer this way, please see How to Meet Us page.