Every year we celebrate significant anniversaries on UK coins. From royal weddings to decisive battles, commemorative coins catalogue our country’s rich history. But it’s not every year that we get to celebrate a significant numismatic anniversary. As we look ahead to next year, there’s one anniversary that’s sure to be on many a collector’s calendar. In 2017 we mark a monetary milestone: the 200th anniversary of The Sovereign.
A coin with the name ‘Sovereign’ actually dates back to 1489, but The Sovereign that we know today came to be in 1817. It was born out of a great reform of UK coinage undertaken after the Napoleonic Wars. Often described as the ‘modern’ Sovereign to avoid confusion, this gold coin set new standards for accuracy that defined a currency. It featured a ‘St George and the Dragon’ design created by Benedetto Pistrucci that, like the coin itself, has endured for two centuries.
Since its revival in 1817, The Sovereign has played its part as a circulating coin, a bullion coin and, most recently, a commemorative coin. It became known as ‘the chief coin of the world’ during the 19th century and today The Sovereign is renowned for its accuracy, integrity and striking design, traded on global bullion markets and coveted by collectors.
In 2017 we celebrate a coin that’s steeped in history. The flagship coin of The Royal Mint, the chief coin of the world: The Sovereign.
The Sovereign 2017
Pistrucci’s St George and the dragon design has become synonymous with The Sovereign. His depiction defied the medieval image of St George – opting for a Greek interpretation, bare and muscular, not weighed down with the usual chain mail and armour. The design was deliberately intended to make the coin as distinctive as possible. It was ‘ahead of its time’ – a modern design for a ‘modern’ Sovereign. Now, Pistrucci’s St George and the Dragon design features once again in 2017.
In 1821, The Sovereign was remodeled. The words, ‘HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE’ that featured on the original 1817 design were removed and a larger, more detailed, depiction of St George and the dragon featured. St George was also now holding the sword ‘Ascalon’ as opposed to the broken spear. This ‘remodeled’ version of Pistrucci’s St George and the Dragon is the design that we have come to associate with The Sovereign. But, as we look back to 1817 and the introduction of The Sovereign, we also look back to the 1817 design.
In 2017 the original inscription and garter ‘border’ created for The Sovereign in 1817 has been revisited for this anniversary edition. The inscription, ‘HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE’ meaning ‘Evil unto him that thinks evil of it’, a phrase that has featured on the coat of the Royal Arms of the United Kingdom for centuries, returns. It is the first time The Sovereign has been struck with Pistrucci’s original ‘garter’ design since 1820! The 2017 Sovereign also sees the return of St George’s broken spear, while the date returns to the obverse for the first time since 1887.
The Sovereign 2017 collection includes five-coin and three-coin sets, the Double-Sovereign, The Sovereign, the Half-Sovereign, Quarter-Sovereign and a minting first – a Piedfort edition.
To explore The Sovereign’s story in more detail, from The Sovereign reverse designs, to the history of the gold Sovereign, see here.