World Coins

Overdate confirmed on Australian gold sovereign

A new overdate variety of gold sovereign from Australia has surfaced 150 years after it was made. This 1868/6 coin was recently certified by PCGS.

Coin images courtesy of Professional Coin Grading Service.

A new variety of overdate gold sovereign from Australia has been authenticated, 150 years after the coin was made.

Professional Coin Grading Service has authenticated what the firm says is the first known 1868/6 Australian sovereign

The historic gold coin depicting a young Queen Victoria recently was submitted by a professional numismatist on the Australian island state of Tasmania, and it now is certified as PCGS About Uncirculated 58+.

A distinctive design

“The sovereigns from 1855 to 1870 are among the most important and valuable series in Australian numismatics. These were the first coins struck by the Royal Mint in Sydney that was established in 1855 as the first branch of the British Royal Mint,” said Scott Thompson, PCGS World Coin department manager.

“These sovereigns have a distinctive ‘Sydney Mint’ reverse. This is the only time the Royal Mint permitted a design unique to a branch mint,” explained Thompson.

John Haddad, managing director of Tasmanian Numismatics in Moonah, Tasmania, recently submitted the coin to PCGS. 

He obtained it six months earlier, from a source in England, and when PCGS confirmed it is a previously unknown overdate, Haddad said, he “was filled with joy, so happy, fist pumping and over the moon!”

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“I have a keen eye for varieties and I enjoy finding and studying them. This particular coin was advertised at the time as being an 1868/6 overdate, although it was not formally recognized as such. I was skeptical at first but after enlarging images of the coin I could clearly see the overdate. I had to have it, with intentions of having this variety authenticated by PCGS,” Haddad said. 

“Since obtaining the coin I have researched images for this variety from past sales going back 30 years and have not seen another. There may be others out there, but as I have not seen another, it may be the only example in existence,” he stated.

The coin has been consigned to Heritage Auctions and it will be offered on Jan. 6 in the firm’s New York International Numismatic Convention World Coins Signature Auction.

Overdate varieties

How did the overdate occur at the Sydney Mint?

According to the second edition of The Gold Sovereign by Michael Marsh (updated by Steve Hill in 2017). “All die work for the Australian branch mints was done in London, approved by the current Engraver of the Mint and then sent by ship to Australia,” the book said. “The branch mints did not have engraving staff, although some date alterations were made at the Melbourne branch mint.”

Because such additional engraving occurred in Melbourne, it’s not much of a stretch to think that it could have also occurred in Sydney. The overdate likely would have occurred when an 8 was punched over a 6 on an 1866 die. 

“Logistically, getting supplies and skilled labor was challenging for the branch mints in the 1800s. Reworking dies and creating overdates was a practical solution for getting around the difficulty of obtaining new dies from the Royal Mint in England. Only a handful of overdates in the Australia sovereign series are known, and of those seen in person by PCGS experts, this 1868/6 is the most pronounced, with a good portion of the 6 still visible underneath the 8,” Thompson said. 

Other overdate examples of the Australian Reverse sovereigns PCGS has graded are: 1861/0, 1865/4, and 1865 6/5. Some other combinations are listed in numismatic publications but not yet confirmed by PCGS. References do not appear to list an 1868/6 variety.

“In a series that is already rare, these overdates are in a category all their own. Many examples known today are unique, such as the 1868/6,” Thompson said. 

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