World Coins

Edward VI’s rare gold half-sovereign in auction

A rare gold half sovereign issue of Edward VI depicting the young king but carrying the name of his deceased father, Henry VIII, is an interesting highlight of Sovereign Rarities’ second auction, scheduled for Sept. 24.

Images courtesy of Sovereign Rarities and the Royal Mint.

When Henry VIII died, the state of English coinage was so woeful that his son, Edward VI, refused to issue the coins with his new portrait under his own name.

Continual debasement of English coinage during his father’s reign (to help pay for Henry VIII’s profligate spending) eroded the coins’ precious metal value, a practice especially evident with the silver coinage but even affecting gold coins. 

A rare gold half sovereign issued by Edward VI, but with his deceased father’s name, is a compelling highlight of the second auction from Sovereign Rarities and the Royal Mint.

The auction is scheduled for Sept. 24 in London.

The circa 1547 to 1551 gold half sovereign, or 10 shillings, is struck in .8333 fine gold, instead of previously standard .9167 fine gold, and features the full seated portrait of the boy king, Edward VI. 

With a continuing demand for gold, a great number of coins still needed to be struck, providing work for two mints, at the Tower of London and Southwark (which opened in September 1545 and is where this coin emanated). 

Sir John York was the under-treasurer at Southwark Mint and the E mark on the coin represents the initial letter of his surname in Latin, Eboraci. 

Accounting records show that £153,285 worth of gold coins were struck with this mark.
Only subtle changes to lettering styles and punctuation, coupled with the mint marks, reveal the sequence of the Henry VIII posthumous coinage. 

When Edward VI added his name to the gold coinage, he increased the fineness back to .9167 fine for half sovereigns, and the Southwark Mint subsequently was shuttered, in August 1551.

The auction house said that this coin is “weakly struck in parts otherwise Very Fine.

Its provenance dates back to the Sept. 19, 2005, auction by Ira and Larry Goldberg, where it realized $3,335, including the 15 percent buyer’s fee. 

For this sale, the coin has an estimate of £6,000 to £8,000 ($7,403 to $9,871). 

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