George III Circulation New Gold Coin
DATABASE OF THE LAST OR NEW GOLD COINAGE
OF GEORGE III (1760-1820)
Proof & pattern gold

This database attempts to include as much hard information as is practical. It is based on the references listed on the refence page (link to the left) and on-line resources. Whenever possible, links or at least references to the on-line source are included. When sufficient data is available, each variety of coin has a small number of hammer prices tabulated below the coin description. These are based on the results of London-based auction houses, including Spink, DNW, Baldwins and St James. Hopefully they reflect a number of different grades of the coins over a three year period. The section titled, "Pattern, specimen and proof coins", does not include fantasy coins and those coins that were produced with no connection with the Royal Mint.

Three classes of availability have been used: common, scarce and rare. These are only meant for general guidance. The grades quoted in the text are those used by the source and are usually based on the British system, which is explained in most British coin collecting books. After considerable thought I have decided not to include information on the numbers of edge notches on milled or grained coins. In the past this information has been invaluable in the battle against counterfeiters. It would make this battle more difficult if this information was disseminated too widely.

Half-sovereigns

This database is part of a much larger project and is very much a work still in progress. I would be grateful to be informed of any errors readers may note or any additional information they feel should be included, please contact the Webmaster.

References

Kenyon stated, "In 1816 gold coins were made the sole standard measure of value and legal tender, the silver coins being diminished in weight and made legal tender for 20s(hillings) only; and in 1817 a new coinage was issued of sovereigns and half- sovereigns, the sovereign to weigh 123.27447 grains, and to be current for 20s(hillings), and the half sovereign in proportion. No alteration was made in the fineness of the metal, but the type was entirely different from that of the guinea having St.George and the dragon on the reverse and the coins were smaller and thicker."

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These coins were produced at the new Royal Mint at Little Tower Hill with the new steam driven presses installed by Bolton and Watt.

Benedetto Pistrucci undertook the engraving of the dies for the sovereign series coins. He was also made responsible for the St. George and the dragon reverse on the crown.

THE CIRCULATION SOVEREIGNS

The weight and fineness of the sovereign was set by the proclamation of 1817. The tolerances allowed were governed by the last indenture of 6th February 1817 between the Crown and the Royal Mint.

The weight according to Grueber was 123.274 grain, that is 7.988021gram. Marsh 1 stated the diameter was 0.868 inch, that is 22.047mm, and the "thickness" was 0.067 inch, that is 1.70 mm. Grueber also stated that, "No change has taken place in the weights of the coins down to the present time and the fineness remained the same .. as in previous issues in this reign".

Craig states that the 1817 indenture tightened the tolerances permitted. He stated these were," for weight 12 grains in the troy pound" and "for fineness to 1/16 carat, that is 2.08 and 2.6 respectively in 1,000". This weight tolerance is equivalent to 0.0166 gram per piece.

These tolerances were tightened in the Coinage Act 1870 to 0.01296 gram piece weight and 2 fineness.

An illustration of a British Museum held coin of this date can be found on their compass website, search for "gold sovereign" and double click on the relevant icon. Its weight is noted as being 7.98 gram and its diameter as 22 mm.

Craig also stated that, "The public found paper so much more convenient that the new gold did not pass readily into circulation. The coins were kept as curios or were taken abroad by the English hordes whom peace allowed to visit or migrate to France. Gold minting fell off in 1818 and was negligible in 1819 and early 1820."

Design:    Obverse: right facing laureate head; legend, "GEORGIUS D:G: BRITANNIAR: REX F:D:"; the date is at the bottom of the coin.

                   Reverse: Pistrucci's St. George and the dragon inside a garter. Note that St. George is holding a broken lance with a streamer flowing from his helmet. Legend, "HONI. SOIT. QUI. MAL. Y. PENSE." with a small incuse B.P on the left ground below the broken lance and an incuse WWP in the buckle of the garter, these being respectively the initials of Benedetto Pistrucci, the Chief Engraver and William Wesley Pole, the Master of the Mint.

Spink state the die axis is ↑↓

                   Edge:    Milled (grained)

The first of the new sovereigns, the obverse side of the 1817 sovereign

The first of the new sovereigns, the obverse side of the 1817 sovereign

The reverse side of
 the 1817 sovereign

The obverse side of the 1817 sovereign

Newman noted that the specific gravity of a genuine sovereign of this time should be 17.6-17.7 g/cc.

The varieties

Within the sovereigns of the four year period of the George III series there are a number of design variations. Marsh has noted ten significant variations where as Spink have described fourteen such variations. My classification of the variations has been revised [May 2006] after viewing many of the coins which have come to the market in the last four years plus some of the more well known examples from earlier periods. This has meant a renumbering of the types and I apologies if this causes anybody any problems.

There are two variations of the obverse legend around the rim. The first is shown in the images above. There is a so called "descending colon" after BRITANNIAR i.e. the outer dot of the colon is lower than the inner dot. Secondly there is very little distance between REX and the F of F:D: Spink have named this variation, type A.

The second variation in the legend is when an ascending colon is found after BRITANNIAR and there is a significant distance between REX and F:D: Although not described by Marsh or Spinks, in this variation the lower dot of the colon before BRITANNIAR is found below the lowest point of the B. Spink have named this variation, type B.

Another variation occurs with some of the 1818 coins and the 1820 coins. In this variation Marsh describes the King's hair as having "wiry curls". Spink description is,"hair with tighter curls". This variation does not appear to have occurred in the 1819 examples but is the only variety known in the 1820 coins. Finally there are a number of variations of the digits of the 1820 date. They are detailed below.

Year Notes Mintage Availability
1817 Type 1, with legend A (Marsh Coin 1, Spink S3785), [F] 3,235,239 Common
  [Spink describe a 1817 variety with legend B and the second 1 of the date not having a top serif.
Marsh does not describe this variation. I have not traced an example of this variety and have not
included it in my numbering system. They describe it as extremely rare.]
   

[Note: [F] indicates that counterfeit coins from this date are known. A counterfeit coin of this date is documented with a photograph in the "Bulletin on Counterfeits", 1979, Vol.4, Part 4, page 118.]

Royal Mint x-ray spectrometer surface analysis of a sovereign of this date found 3.97% silver.

Hocking notes an 1817 sovereign, number 1713, as being in the Royal Mint Collection. This is probably the coin illustrated above which is from the Royal Mint collection and reproduced with their permission.

The American Numismatic Society database describes the details of a coin of this date held by the ANS. The entry includes two thumbnail images. The coin weight is 7.94g and the "size" 23, presumably mm. This seems over the standard.

Auction Results

DateConditionHammer Price
Dec. 2002Fine, reverse better140
May 2003Good extremely fine805
July 2003Good extremely fine/extremely fine650
Oct. 2003Fine200
July 2004Toned nearly extremely fine720
Oct. 2004Good extremely fine1,350
May 2005Very fine or better450
Sept. 2005A few minor contact marks otherwise good extremely fine1,050
Oct. 2005Fine230
Oct. 2005Very fine or better400
1818 Type 3, with legend A (Marsh Coin 2, Spink S3785) 2,347,230 Scarce*

*This has been revised from common to scarce based on the small number of coins of this type entering the market over the last three years.

Auction Results

DateConditionHammer Price
May 2005Solder marks at top, surface marks, very fine980
1818 Type 4, with legend B (Marsh Coin 2A, Spink S3785A) included above Scarce

Auction Results

DateConditionHammer Price
May 2005Some edge knocks otherwise fine330
Oct 2005Very fine, reverse better1,100
1818 Type 5, legend A, Marsh describes hair as "with wiry curves" (Marsh Coin 2B, Spink S3785B) included above Scarce

It has not been possible to find evidence any coins of this type entering the market in the last three years

1818 Type 6, legend B with hair "with wiry curves" (Marsh Coin 2C, Spink 3785C) included above Rare

It has not been possible to find evidence any coins of this type entering the market in the last three years

1819 Type 7, legend A with hair as in the 1817 coin (Marsh Coin 3, Spink 3785) 3,574 Rare

Marsh describes this coin as one of the rarest in the whole sovereign series.

It is puzzling that Hawkins, in 1850, did not include a coin of this date in his pioneering work, even though Ruding in his Annals had previously documented the issue of a small amount of gold coin in the year.

Although a number of undated sovereign punches are held in the Royal Mint Collection, no sovereign dies for this period were retained. However Kevin Clancy has recently described the Ricardo Ingot experimental dies that are in the Royal Mint Collection, ["The Ricardo Ingot: experimental dies in the Royal Mint Collection", Kevin Clancy, The British Numismatic Journal 2001, Vol. 71, pp 172-174.] These two dies,one obverse and one reverse are each made of four coin dies. They include a sovereign size 1819 obverse and an 1819 reverse.

It has been reported that there are only six known examples of the coins of this date. A previously unknown example was sold by Sotherby's, on 15/16th October 1998, for 55,000, including the buyers' premium. At the time this was a record for a 19th/20th century sovereign. The coin was described as being a good very fine condition with little sign of being in circulation.(Coin News, January 1999, page 19) It has been reported that two of the known 1819 coins contain holes.

Unfortunately a number of replica copies of this coin have been produced in recent times. The most dangerous are in a 91.66% gold alloy. They have a small hallmark in the millings of the edge of the replica. Collectors should be aware of the possibility of these pieces being altered to appear genuine.

1820 Type 8, legend B with hair "with wiry curves", large digit date with open 2 (believed to be included in Marsh Coin 4, Spink S3785C) 2,101,994n Scarce

nThis figure includes coins struck in 1821 with an 1820 date due to the death of George III.

A Schneider collection coin had a weight of 8.00g with a normal legend with ascending colon and space between REX and F:D:, bought Spink 1962. [My judgement from the photograph in the book is that the coin is this first type]

Auction Results

DateConditionHammer Price
July 2003Good very fine to nearly extremely fine380
April 2004Fair to fine160
July 2004Some light digs on obverse, toned, very fine550
Oct 2004Extremely fine800
Oct 2004Good fine, lightly polished190
May 2005Slightly weak on rim by date, extremely fine500
Oct 2005Nearly fine140
Oct 2005Extremely fine800
Nov 2005Nearly extremely fine750
1820 Type 9, legend B with hair "with wiry curves", large digit date with closed 2 (included in Marsh Coin 4? Spink S3785C). included above Rare

Auction Results

DateConditionHammer Price
July 2003About fine150
Nov 2003Fine/very nearly fine280
May 2005Good fine230
1820 Type 10, legend B with hair "with wiry curves", short date figures with open 2 (Marsh Coin 4A? Spink S3785C). included above Rare

Auction Results

DateConditionHammer Price
June 2003Cut on cheek and some surface marks otherwise extremely fine600
1820 Type 11, legend B with hair "with wiry curves", small o in the date (Marsh Coin 4B, Spink S3785C) included above Rare

It has not been possible to find evidence any coins of this type entering the market in the last three years

1820 Type 12, legend B with hair "with wiry curves", first digit in the date a letter I (Marsh Coin 4C, Spink S3785C) included above Rare

It has not been possible to find evidence any coins of this type entering the market in the last three years

Royal Mint x-ray spectrometer surface analysis of two sovereigns of this date found 3.66% and 4.15% silver.

The coin collector will find it relatively easy to find sovereigns of very fine and better condition for 1817 this becomes more difficult for the main variety of 1820 coins, more difficult again for 1818 coins which seem to exist mainly in the lower conditions and almost impossible for the 1819 coins.

Latest revision May 2006

Robert Matthews 2006

Pattern coins

References

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