In 2009, the British Royal Mint is to introduce a quarter sovereign. This will extend to range of coins in the gold sovereign family from four to five members.
Range of Five
We nearly headed this section "Five Sizes", we do not however consider the four existing sovereign family members to be different sizes of the same coin, but as completely different denominations with a strong family connection to each other in their specifications, history, and designs.
The existing family members are, of course, the half sovereign, double sovereign, and gold five pounds.
What's in a Name?
If you were a Montague or a Capulet, you would not need to ask this question. Surely a gold coin is as fair by any other name?
It may seem pedantic of us to spend time and effort on this point. Some years ago, the Royal Mint started an advertising campaign offering "Gold Sovereigns from £35". We thought this headline was misleading, more the sort of thing you would expect to see on Blackpool Promenade than from one of our nation institutions. We recount the story on its own page, so will not repeat it here. We mention it not to cause further embarrassment at the Mint, but to illustrate a point. It's our opinion that somebody at the Mint may have believed that half sovereigns were a type of sovereign, although it was possibly only a marketing man stretching a truth to fit a purpose. If so, it was more a case of distorting a truth than stretching it.
To help illuminate our point, we will give a concise history:
We are not aware of any evidence that the expression "double sovereign" was ever used until relatively recent years.
- The gold sovereign itself was introduced in 1489.
- The half sovereign was not introduced until 1544 - over half a century later.
- The gold two pound (double sovereign) was not released until 1820, although a small number of double weight (piedfort) sovereigns were issued in the reign of Henry VII, probably between 1504 and 1509. These were almost certainly presentation pieces as gifts for VIPs.
- The five pounds was also first issued in 1820.
- The quarter sovereign will commence in 2009, although there were a small number of patterns issued in 1853.
We have never heard anybody, except ourselves, call a gold five pound coin a quintuple sovereign, indeed we believe we coined the phrase (should that be phrased the coin?) ourselves to help to distinguish a gold five pound coin of the sovereign family from the gold proof version of a five pound crown issued since 1990.
St. George and Dragon - Recut Reverse Dies
The traditional St George & Dragon design has been used on sovereigns, with a few breaks, since 1817.
During this long period, there have been a considerable number of minor changes to the dies used for the reverse (tail side). In 2007, the reverse design appears to have been completely re-engraved, although there was no advance announcement of this from the Royal Mint.
New Old Dies
According to the Royal Mint:
The Gold Proof Sovereign Collection of 2009 will soon be available
from the Royal Mint. This is the first time that original nineteenth century
tools from the Museum collection, some of which were almost
certainly worked on by Benedetto Pistrucci himself, have been used
unmodified in the modern production process, revealing his dynamic
masterpiece of St George and the dragon in all its glory.
This is also the first time that a quarter-sovereign has been made
available to the general public. Although two pattern pieces were
produced in 1853, the quarter-sovereign was never issued into
circulation. It is therefore extremely significant that this smallest gold
coin of the sovereign family has now been struck featuring Pistrucci’s
St George and the dragon to make a magnificent five-coin collection.
The first thing we noticed about the 2007 sovereigns was that they were a real pig to photograph, and the 2008's were similar.
Our "Mint Spies" tell us that the 2009 sovereign is going to use an older version of the reverse die, which should give a sharper, more detailed impression of the design. Great!
We try wherever possible to use our own photographs, although sometimes we use images supplied by the various mints, at least on a pre-issue basis, replacing them with our own images as soon as possible after we receive our first deliveries.
Despite our considerable experience in photographing coins, the results can be quite variable. Some coins photograph beautifully, others are really difficult, and require time, patience, and experimentation before we can be happy with the results.
Proof and "Bullion" Versions
When we first heard official news about the quarter sovereigns, only the proof version was mentioned. We have since heard that t "bullion" version will also be issued.
In Stock February 2009
Although gold sovereigns and halves are expected to be in stock from 6th January 2009, we have been told that the quarter sovereigns are expected in mid February. This is almost certainly to allow time for the new coins to receive official Parliamentary approval.
We believe the 2009 issue will be very popular!
The fine gold content of a quarter sovereign will be 0.0588 troy ounces.
More About Quarter Sovereigns
For more information about quarter sovereigns, please visit the Quarter Sovereigns page of our Tax Free Gold website.