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British Gold Sovereigns – Key Dates & Varieties

In 1489 the country of England struck it’s very first gold coin called a “Sovereign.” It depicted a portrait of King Henry VII, and it was, at the time, the largest and most valuable coin of its day. It was an international messenger of England’s stability and it’s appearance on the world’s stage. This early gold coin was struck until 1603.  

By 1817, French Emperor Napoleon had been defeated at Waterloo by the Duke of Wellington and the United States was but a fledgling nation only a few decades old. England was beginning to expand its colonization worldwide and needed a coinage that could become a real international currency.  

So, a new gold coin, with a value of 20 Silver Shillings was struck but it was given the old name of a “Sovereign.” The coin bore the head of the reigning monarch on the obverse and the now-classic design of St. George slaying a dragon on the reverse was struck by the artist, Benedetto Pistrucci.  

The British Royal Mint also struck a Half Sovereign in 1817, worth 10 Silver Shillings, with half the weight of a full sovereign but utilizing the same designs. In addition, the BRM also struck a Double Sovereign. 

To read more about the history of this coin, be sure to check out our article on the Gold Sovereign’s history.

Half Sovereigns

In 1817, the British Royal Mint struck the Half Sovereign coin, 22k (.917 Fine) with a weight of 0.1178 of Actual Gold Weight. This year saw the Mint strike 2,080,000 coins. The coins depict the ruling monarch on the obverse and the crowned coat of arms on the reverse.  


The next year, only 1,030,000 coins were struck. Of that amount, a small portion were a rare 1818/7 ‘8 Over 7’ variety of overdate. The remaining coins are scarce but not as rare as the overdate. 


Although no half sovereigns were struck in 1819, a mere 35,000 coins were struck, with none the prior year, 1819. The 1820 Half Sovereign is a rare date.


In 1821, King George IV ruled Britain and his effigy now appeared on the Half Sovereign coin. He was facing left and his Coat of Arms appeared on the reverse. The mintage was a mere 231,000 coins struck. 


In 1834 a scant 134,000 coins were struck making it the lowest annual mintage of all dates up to that point in time. The coins now bore the portrait of King William IV and remained that way for just four years (1834 – 1837). 

Half Sovereigns were issued on an as needed basis so collecting them annually is not possible. Mintages ranged from 250,000 to over 1 million coins struck.   


That year saw the coronation of Queen Victoria and a long run of dates of Half Sovereigns. The 1838 has the portrait of Queen Victoria, facing left, with the typical coat of arms on the reverse. The 1838 had only 273,000 coins struck. 

Between 1838 and 1880, the Half Sovereign coins were struck annually except for 1839 (a Proof only year), 1840, 1881, 1882 and 1886. While coins dated 1854 were reportedly struck, none are confirmed to exist. 


An unknown number of 1848 dated coins were struck with obverse dies that originally contained the 1847 date. 

1853- Proof – Small Date & Large Date Varieties

The Proof Mintages are unreported, but they are scarce as both varieties are fairly expensive. The Large Date Proof is the more expensive of the two examples.

1871- Proof

The 1871 issue saw over 2 million BU coins struck as well as a small number of Proofs. The Proof coins are unusual in that they were struck with a Plain Edge, rather than a typical milled edge.


The 1885-dated coin was originally struck using an 1883-dated die. The under date is plainly visible above the ’5’. 

1887 – Proof – Jubilee Head

The 1887-dated Uncirculated issue saw 872,000 coins struck but the proof issue had a scant 797 coins struck.  

No Queen Victoria Half sovereigns were struck dated 1888 or 1889. The 1893 coins were struck in both the Jubilee Head design as well as the Mature Head design. The Jubilee Head design of 1893 used the typical Coat of Arms reverse while the 1893 Mature Head design implemented the Pistrucci. 1901 was the last date depicting Queen Victoria as the reigning monarch. 

1902- Proof

The new monarch was now King Edward VII. His portrait now faced to the right and the St. George Slaying the Dragon became the standard reverse design. The King Edward VII Half Sovereigns were issued annually between 1902 and 1910.

1911 – Proof

In 1911, King George V became the reigning monarch, and his portrait graced the obverses of coins dated between 1911 and 1915. The 1911 Proof coin had a mintage of only 3,764. 

1937 – Proof

No Half Sovereigns were struck between 1916 and 1936. In 1937 the coronation of King George VI took place. The British Royal Mint struck 5,500 Proof 1937-dated Half Sovereigns. 

1937 – Proof – Matte Finish

The British Royal Mint struck just one Proof 1937 Dated Half Sovereign in Matte Finish. It is a priceless, unique coin. 

No Half Sovereigns were struck between 1938 and 1979. In 1980, the BRM struck their first ‘modern sovereign,” during the lengthy reign of Queen Elizabeth II, who ruled from 1952 until 2022. The future Half Sovereigns were struck in Proof condition, except in 2000, when 146,542 were struck in Uncirculated condition and an additional 7,500 coins were struck in Proof.  

British Rulers on Half Sovereigns

George III1817-1820
George IV1821-1831
William IV1834-1837
Edward VII1902-1910
George V1911-1915
George VI1937
Elizabeth II1980-2022

Values of Half Sovereigns

Half Sovereigns Mintage Very Fine Abt Unc Ch Unc 
1817 2,080,000 $650 $1,000 $2,250 
1818/7 Included $5,000 $8,500 $15,000 
1818 1,030,000 $850 $2,000 $5,000 
1820 35,000 $975 $1,500 $2,500 
1821 231,000 $2,500 $6,000 $25,000 
1834 134,000 $1,000 $2,250 $3,250 
1838 273,000 $650 $1,500 $2,500 
1839 1,230 PROOF ONLY $6,500 
1848/7 Included 950 $2,200 $3,500 
1853 – Small Date Unknown PROOF ISSUE $12,500 
1853 – Large Date Unknown PROOF  ISSUE $18,500 
1871 Plain Edge Unknown PROOF  ISSUE $14,000 
1887 Jubilee Head 797 PROOF  ISSUE $1,750 
1902 15,000 PROOF ISSUE $450 
1911 3,764 PROOF  ISSUE $650 
1937 5,500 PROOF ISSUE $775 
1937 – Matte Unique PROOF ISSUE  RARE 


Sovereigns were first struck in 1817. They were struck in 22KT (.917 Fine), and each weighed .2355 of a Troy Ounce. They rapidly became the dominant gold coin in Europe and through the British Commonwealth of nations. Between 1817 and 1960, they dominated the world markets. Sovereigns were universally accepted in all countries. 


The 1817 issue was the very first gold Sovereign struck. In all, 3,235,000 of these coins were struck. They were immediately popular and accepted everywhere. The head of George III adorns the obverse and St. George Slaying the Dragon popularized the reverse design. 

1817- Proof

A number of these coins were struck in Proof condition to satisfy the demand from collectors. 

1818 – Proof

The 1818 coin was also struck in both Uncirculated and in Proof. The Proof coin is seldom encountered and exceedingly rare.


The 1819 is one of the rarest Sovereigns of all. Only 3,574 coins of this date were struck. It is the rarest of all dates of Sovereigns.

1820 – Proof

Another scarce Proof issue.

1821 – Proof

Beginning with the 1821 date, a new monarch, George IV, adorned the obverse design. The reverse design remained the same until 1825. 

In 1825, part-way through the year, King George IV appeared on the old Laureated Head variety but later that year, a newer version of George IV’s portrait was used and the Pistrucci reverse was changed to a Coat of Arms.  

1825 – Proof – Small Date

The low mintage Proof coins came with both a Small Date of issue and a Large Date of Issue. 

1825 – Proof – Large Date

The Large Date of Issue was the scarcer and rarer of the two Proof issues, and it had a Plain Edge.


The 1828 Sovereign is a rare date that while the recorded mintage is 386,000 there are only 7 known coins, making this a true key date.

In 1831, William IV became king and gold sovereigns were struck between 1831 and 1837. His effigy was on the obverse and the Coat of Arms was on the reverse. 


Queen Victoria became the reigning monarch, and her appearance would last for decades, starting in 1838 and ending in 1901. 

1838 – Proof – Plain Edge

There are two varieties of Proof 1838 British Sovereigns – Plain Edge and Reeded Edge. The Plain Edge is scarcer and more valuable.

1838 – Proof – Reeded Edge

The 1838 British Sovereign with the Reeded Edge. 


The 1839 is a low mintage year with just over a half million coins, making it relatively scarce since the typical sovereigns had mintages of 1 to 4 million coins.


The 1841 issue has a scant mintage of only 124,000 coins – a very low mintage for the issue.

1843 – Narrow Shield

This issue used several dies including a perfect date, and 1843/2 Overdate and an 1843 with a Narrow Shield. The latter is very scarce.

1853 – Proof

The Proof issue 1853 Sovereign is very low mintage and very popular. 

1869 – Proof

The Proof issue 1853 Sovereign is very low mintage and very popular. 

1869 – Proof

Another scarce Proof issue.


This is another low mintage non-proof issue with a mintage of only 521,000 coins struck. 


This is a very rare date with a very low mintage of 20,000 coins. 


This date saw just over 1 million coins struck – 1,014,999 – which made it scarce. The demand for gold sovereigns had increased due to World War I.

1937 – Proof

No Sovereigns were struck between 1918 and 1934. In 1937 the coronation of King George VI took place. The British Royal Mint struck 5,500 Proof 1937-dated Sovereigns. 

1937 – Proof – Matte Finish

The British Royal Mint also struck one Proof 1937 Dated Sovereign in Matte Finish. It is a priceless, unique coin. 

1989 – 500th Anniversary of the Sovereign

In 1989, the British Royal Mint struck 28,000 Proof Sovereigns in order to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the striking of the first sovereign in 1489. 

British Rulers on Sovereigns

George III1817 – 1820
George IV1821 – 1830
William IV1834 – 1837
Victoria1838 – 1901
Edward VII1902 – 1910
George V1911 – 1915
George VI1937
Elizabeth II1957 – 2022

Values of Sovereigns

Sovereigns Mintage Very Fine Abt Unc Ch Unc 
1817 3,235,000 $1,400 $3,300 $5,750 
1817 Unknown PROOF ISSUE $25,000 
1818 Unknown PROOF ISSUE $32,500 
1819 3,574 $100,000 $400,000 $950,000 
1820 Unknown PROOF ISSUE  $27,500 
1821 Unknown PROOF  ISSUE $9,000 
1825 – Small Date Unknown PROOF ISSUE $12,750 
1825– Large Date Unknown PROOF ISSUE $18,500 
1828 7 Known $20,000 $65,000 — 
1838 2,719,000 $2,500 $5,250 $7,750 
1838 – Plain Edge Unknown PROOF ISSUE $22,500 
1838 Reeded Edge Unknown PROOF ISSUE $18,500 
1839 504,000 $3,250 $6,000 $10,500 
1841 124,000 $15,000 $35,000 $100,000 
1843 Narrow Shield Included $8,000 $20,000 — 
1853 Unknown PROOF ISSUE $24,000 
1869  Unknown PROOF ISSUE $8,500 
1874 521,000 $6,500 $14,000 $27,500 
1879 20,000 $1,000 $4,000 $8,000 
1917 1,014,999 $4,000 $8,500 $20,000 
1937 5,500 PROOF ISSUE $2,500 
1937 – Matte Unique PROOF ISSUE  RARE 
1989 – 500th Anniv 28,000 PROOF ISSUE $1,800 

Double Sovereigns

The Double Sovereign gold coins are also known as “2 Pound” coins. There are modern British coins that are not made of gold and are not Double Sovereigns. But the coins listed below are part of the Gold Sovereign family.  

Double Sovereigns are also struck from 22KT (.917 Fine Gold), and they have 0.471 of actual gold weight of a Troy Ounce. Many fewer dates and issues of Double Sovereigns have been issued than were Half Sovereigns or Sovereign coins. 

The first Double Sovereign coins were struck in 1823 during the reign of King George IV.  

1825 – Proof

The 1825 coin was only the second year in which a Double Sovereign gold coin was struck. These proof coins are scarce and therefore expensive. 

1826 – Proof

The 1826 Proof Double Sovereign had a tiny mintage of only 450 coins stuck. 

1831 – Proof

The 1831 Proof Double Sovereign had an even smaller mintage of only 225 coins struck. They are seldom seen in any state of preservation.

1887 – Proof

In 1887, Britain celebrated Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee year, which was the 50th year of her reign as monarch. The British Royal Mint struck 91,000 gold Double Sovereigns in Uncirculated condition and a much smaller number (797) of Proof coins. 

1937 – Proof

No Double Sovereigns were struck between 1912 and 1936. In 1937 the coronation of King George VI took place. The British Royal Mint struck 5,500 Proof 1937-dated Double Sovereigns. 

1937 – Proof – Matte Finish

The British Royal Mint also struck ONE Proof 1937 Dated Double Sovereign in Matte Finish. It is a priceless, unique coin. 

1989 – 500th Anniversary of the Sovereign

In 1989, the British Royal Mint struck 17,000 Proof Double Sovereigns in order to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the striking of the first sovereign coin in 1489. 

British Rulers on Double Sovereigns

George III1817 – 1820
George IV1821 – 1831
William IV1834 – 1837
Victoria1838 – 1901
Edward VII1902
George V1911
George VI1937
Elizabeth II1980 – 2022

Values of Double Sovereigns

Double Sovereigns Mintage Very Fine Abt Unc Ch Unc 
1825 Unknown PROOF ISSUE $22,000 
1826 450 PROOF ISSUE $16,500 
1831 225 PROOF ISSUE $17,775 
1887 797 PROOF ISSUE $5,500 
1937 5,500 PROOF ISSUE $1,500 
1937 – Matte Unique PROOF ISUE RARE 
1989 – 500th Anniv 17,000 PROOF ISSUE $2,000 

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