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Gold Sovereign Designs and History | The Gold Bullion Co

Gold Sovereign Design

The Gold Sovereign is a symbol of British heritage. With origins tracing back to the 15th century, it’s one of the most storied forms of tender in the world. Today, this is reflected in commemorative designs that speak to the history and value of each coin in the pantheon.

Here are the main Gold Sovereigns we can deliver, separated by their aesthetic features…

George & The Dragon: 1817-present

The famous ‘tail’ side of the modern Gold Sovereign was actually authored by an Italian, Benedetto Pistrucci, after the Battle of Waterloo. He was commissioned to engrave a scene of St. George battling the dragon as a representative of English fortitude and conquest. In doing so, he removed the armour of typical wax models, focused more on George’s musculature, and depicted the wyrm trampled victoriously under horse hooves.

The design was met with instant acclaim. It replaced the inverted, two-sided heraldic image on the Sovereign, and has lasted until this very day. Pistrucci’s work is a masterpiece of British myth-making, owing as much to Ancient Grecian art as the styles of the age.

Queen Victoria (young): 1871-87

Queen Victoria was one of our most popular monarchs, and coinage, during the 1800s, couldn’t help but reflect this. The young Queen Victoria had a separate design created almost every year of her life; her favoured ‘young’ style, however, began in 1871, when her profile was paired with the St. George reverse for the first time. It also revived the aforementioned Benedetto design, which had been replaced for a coat of arms in the ensuing decades.

Queen Victoria (jubilee): 1887-93

Until recently, Queen Victoria was Britain’s longest reigning head of state – her Golden Jubilee drew a line under 50 years on the throne, and was celebrated by a run of Gold Sovereigns, showing her increased venerability. Her figure is matronly and imperious, decked in jewels unlike the version from several years prior. Such additions point to how she grew in the public eye: Victoria earned the respect of millions, far past the supposed rights of royal ancestry, and is thus shown to embody the status of national treasure.  

Queen Victoria (veiled): 1893-1901

The final triumvirate of the Victorian period focused on the ageing queen: here, she is engraved with a veil over her headdress, the patron figure of a country that didn’t want to let her go. The crown, of course, is still visible, reminding us of her strength and political power. Perhaps to reflect her growing memory and achievements, the necklace is fatter than that of the previous coin. The lettering, too, is broader, stretching to encompass her then-new title, the Empress of India.

King Edward VII: 1902-10

His Majesty is shown facing right, instead of left – a sure sign that a very individual sort of ruler had come to prominence. The boisterous, sports-loving Edward VII was immortalised on British currency following a decree on the 10th December, 1901. His plain, unadorned style may relate to his short tenure as a monarch; he had little time to prove himself, even though he kept the India title of his forbear.

King George V: 1911-32

The King George V Gold Sovereign has far more facial hair than Edward’s profile. It shows George V’s impressive moustache, his dense sideburns and eyebrows, under which he stares with the bare-bones intensity he was known for. The text is thicker than other coins are accustomed to. Additionally, the B.M sign below his neck is a stamp of designer Sir Edgar Bertram Mackennal, whose late career was based around producing King George’s official likeness, over and over again.

Queen Elizabeth II (pre-decimal): 1957-68

During the 1950s, two remarkable changes were taking place. The first was the ascension of Queen Elizabeth II, who remains our longest serving ruler. She began to embrace other mediums, such as television, for a fresh method of reaching her people. These ideas are offset nicely by the 1957 era coin, which displays a simplistic engraving that’s capped with an olive wreath, throwing back to timeless Greek images of valour. She’s also defined as ‘Defender of the Faith’ with the F.D. inscription.

Secondly, Elizabeth’s first issue of Gold Sovereigns draw a line for the last ever pre-decimal currency in the United Kingdom. From this point on, we’d be switching to the numerical value of 10, 5, 2 and 1, easing transactions with neighbouring countries.

Queen Elizabeth II (decimal): 1974-2016

As the queen’s reign continued, three separate commissions were made for her Decimal Gold Sovereign releases – each respectively in 1968, 1985 and 1998.

Her sophomore portrait was designed by Arnold Manchin, a sculptor from Stoke-On-Trent, who modelled her after Victoria’s visage on the Penny Black stamp from the mid-1800s. The diadem of Elizabeth II’s head was photographed and carved into the coin with a fine eye for detail; for whatever reason, however, it was held off for six years before it was circulated. Manchin’s image has become the defining representation of Her Majesty, having been used on more than 200 billion stamps worldwide.

The 1985 Sovereign depicts slightly older features, and cuts her profile off just above the shoulders. The earrings are more ostentatious, whilst the diadem has been swapped for a typical British crown. A third version of the decimal coin, completed over a decade later, threw her ageing appearance into stark (yet dignified) relief. The ‘Defender of the Faith’ slogan has survived – ‘DEF’ instead of the simpler abbreviation – and the smaller headpiece returned, melding the feel of her two earlier designs.

The 1998 commissioned design is used on the gold sovereigns minted today. The Gold Bullion Co currently stock: The 2013 coin; The 2014 coin; The 2015 coin, The 2016 coin and the 2017 minted coin. Prices vary between the years due to the demand of these fantastic coins.

Queen Elizabeth II (Diamond jubilee): 2012

In 2012, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II saw the 60th anniversary of her coronation come to pass. As street parties and parades broke out across the UK, a special, one-off run of Gold Sovereigns were released with a new spin on Pistrucci’s classic St George image. We can see the patron saint striking his lance through the dragon’s mouth as its tail whips to his shoulder. Effortless framing is created by the beast’s spikier elements: teeth, claws and wings.

All of these fascinating designs of the gold sovereign are available to purchase here at The Gold Bullion Company. Buy yours today to take advantage of real-time pricing and free delivery.