Monday Morning Brief: A classic gold coin turns 200
- Published: Dec 19, 2016, 2 AM
The world famous gold sovereign struck by the Royal Mint has a history dating back to the 15th century. Senior editor Jeff Starck shares the story of the modern version of the coin, which turns 200 years old in 2017. The Royal Mint is commemorating the milestone in grand style.
Full Video Transcript:
Good morning. Welcome to the Monday Morning Brief. I’m Jeff Starck of Coin World.
What coin is so famous that even James Bond carries it?
The answer, of course, is Britain’s gold sovereign.
The secret spymaster is said to carry 50 of these small gold coins hidden inside his attache case, ready at a moment’s notice to finagle his way out of a sticky situation.
Long before the sovereign became the currency of the realm for secret agents, the coin was issued as a propaganda piece by King Henry VII at the tail end of the medieval period.
The sovereign that debuted in 1489 was issued for less than 200 years before being replaced by the guinea.
That medieval sovereign was far different from the coin that debuted in 1817 after a currency reform.
The 19th-century version marked the introduction of Benedetto Pistrucci’s famous image of St. George slaying the Dragon.
It is the sovereign with that design that came to be known worldwide – and would have helped Bond foil various foes while winning over a bevy of women.
And since 1817, the Pistrucci design has been a mainstay, even if the coin has experienced its share of ups and downs.
The onset of World War I forced the British government to rely on gold more than ever, and the sovereign disappeared from circulation.
The Great Depression and World War II caused further disruption to the beloved bullion coin.
The sovereign, however, received new life early on during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, and has continued as a bullion and collector issue since 1957.
A total of 15 monarchs or special designs feature on the modern sovereign, not counting two special designs unveiled for the 2017 anniversary.
Proof examples of the new coin feature design elements borrowed from the 1817 issue, and bullion examples bear a special anniversary privy mark.
Two hundred years on, the future looks just as golden for Britain’s flagship bullion coin — and you don’t have to be James Bond to get bitten by the bullion bug!
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For Coin World, I’m Jeff Starck. Happy collecting!
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