7 - The Queen Victoria Shield Reverse Sovereign 1855-59

As with 1854 both incuse without stops (Marsh No38) and raised with stops (Marsh No38A) WW versions exist for 1855. The 1855 raised W.W. is probably of similar  rarity to its 1854 processor due to the much higher mintage for this year of 8.5 million vs around 3.5 million. If anything the 1854 type is the slightly more difficult to find and may command a few but not too many extra pounds.

1855 also returns us to our Roman I type sovereigns, although it is not entirely clear from the standard Coins of England, if they are referring to the 1 over inverted 1 type coin or the true Roman I? Marsh makes reference only to the former (Marsh No38B), and it was the inverted 1 example that appeared in the Bentley collection. If it were not for the following image of a true Roman I example from this year found in my file, I wouldn't have known that both types actually exist and appear on the WW incuse versions only. 

1855 true Roman I within date, type Sovereign.

Another trait we see start to appear this year is broken '5's' within date, although this does not add additional value, the reader should be aware this is not unusual to see in any of the later 1850's sovereigns. 

1856 (Marsh No39) we finally lose the raised W.W. type coin in favour of the incuse variety. Its not a particularly lucrative year for varieties, but it does throw a couple our way. The (Marsh No39A) 6 struck over 5 in date type, and the extremely rare and probably one off, Brokage sovereign shown below courtesy of Balwins, Bentley collection Lot 76, May 8th 2012. price realised £12,500. A truly remarkable and stunning coin with mirrored portraits. 

1856 Brokage Sovereign, Bentley collection Lot 76.

A brockage occurs when the striking process goes awry. When a coin is struck, one die is static and fixed in position, usually the obverse as in this case when made in 1856. The glitch in the process occurs with the feeding in of the blanks of gold. A blank flan previous to the brockage we have here, would have entered the striking chamber and not seated quite on target, therefore it would be unable to exit easily after striking. This coupled with the tonnage of pressure of the reverse die coming down to strike its design, the blank adhered to the moving reverse die, instead of exiting the chamber automatically. The next blank gold flan to be struck, our soon to be brockage coin herewith, will have entered the chamber and the reverse die with the previous coin stuck to it, will have struck this newly entered flan with an obverse impression on its reverse, as well as receiving the obverse impression as usual. At this point the problem in the process is usually discovered, and it is likely the scratch on the reverse is perhaps from a tool used to prise the coin off the dies where it was stuck. Brockages are often spectacular and occur in gold coinage with much less frequency than the silver and copper due to the higher quality control in working with gold flans. (explanation quoted from the Bentley collection sale by Baldwins catalogue).

Before we leave 1856, I wanted to show you an excellent case of 'doubling', not a variety in owns right, but certainly an error. This occurs during the die manufacturing process known as 'hubbing', the pressing together of master and die may require 2 or 3 presses to achieve a workable die. If the die moves during this process, you can end with varying degrees of this often seen error in early Victorian sovereigns.

1856 (Marsh No39) Legend doubling error caused during the 'hubbing' process.

1857 (Marsh No40) the first to say about this year is that as yet no 'Roman I' or '1 over inverted 1' in date examples have come to light to date, infact they do not reappear until 1860. Marsh has no further varieties for this year, however there a couple known. Seen in 1850 and again in 1853, inverted 'A' in Victoria makes another appearance, see previous issues for an explanation of this error, value wise its going to be similar to those with again finding one in high grade being extremely difficult, and a baseline example in around Fine being @£1000. Listed in the Coins of England you will see quoted the '7 over 5' in date variety, not quoted by Marsh, but having had a trawl of the internet a few of these do seem to be available. Not the most striking of errors, and not particularly easy to spot, its not the most exciting of coins and value wise a nice Very Fine should be found for no more than £1000.

Not of any real additional value 1857 does give us a range of date variations, mentioned by Marsh, but not catalogued individually as close and spread dates. This maybe because there are simply a number of different arrangements, some of which I have shown below from my own files.

Small close date arrangement.

Small date with slightly detached '7'


Large date arrangement.

Small spread date.


1858 (Marsh No41) and 1859 (Marsh No42) are two of the more difficult sovereigns to find in good grades of the decade not helped by very low mintages 1858 with just 803,234 struck and the 1859 (1,547,603) fairing little better to put this into perspective there were over 10 million 1853’s. It’s important to realise that the mintage figure bares little relation to the actual number of coins left today as is the case with all early Victorian sovereign the vast majority have long since been melted down. The Royal Mint removed large quantities of below legal limit sovereigns from circulation to be melted down to produce new sovereigns, so its highly possible that a Victorian sovereign may have lived before as a previous year.  Both years can be considered rare in high grades, although they do seem readily available in lower grades up to Very Fine, it then gets a lot more difficult, and £2000 would not be an unreasonable price to pay for examples approaching uncirculated.

1858 gives us a couple of varieties, and again the date arrangements can vary, with big, normal, and quite common for this year is the broken '5' within date. GRATIA within legend can appear with both 'A's' unbarred (Marsh No41B), with the other variety being the 8 over 7 (Marsh No41A) within date.                 

1858 (Marsh No41B) unbarred 'A's

1858 (Marsh No41A) '8 over 7' in date.

So we reach the end of the 1850s with just one more coin to mention, the famous ANSELL sovereign. George Frederick Ansell employee of the Royal Mint was given permission to carry out experiments on a quantity of gold (£167,539) returned to the mint in 1859 as unfit for coinage. The gold was brittle due to impurities of antimony, arsenic and lead, Ansell’s experiments were so successful that it lead to a sovereign which was so strong it was almost impossible to break without the aid of machinery. For his efforts he was awarded £100 and a letter of thanks from the master of the mint. The gold resulted in the production of 167,539 Ansell sovereigns all dated 1859 and is only recognisable by an additional line within Victoria’s Hair Ribbon, see photos. These are probably one of the most sought after sovereigns ever produced and as such not only will you have difficulty in finding one. When these do appear it is almost exclusively of low grades and @EF examples are going to be very expensive, and I wish I still had this lovely example which I would be asking @£8000 for today. The best known example having been sold in the Bentley collection as lot No 426 raised a staggering hammer price of £15,600.    

1859 (Marsh No42A) Australian brittle Gold 'Ansell' sovereign.

Tell tail double band within Ribbon


Queen Victoria (1837-1901) - Part 1

Queen Victoria (1838-1839) - Part 2

Queen Victoria (1841-1843) - Part 3

Queen Victoria (1843-1845) - Part 4

Queen Victoria (1846-1849) - Part 5

Queen Victoria (1850-1854) - Part 6

Queen Victoria (1860-1863) - Part 8

Queen Victoria (1863-1874) - Part 9

Queen Victoria (1871-1887 Mel/Syd) - Part 10

Queen Victoria (1871-1887 St George Lon) - Part 11

Queen Victoria (1871-1887 St George Mel/Syd) - Part 12

Queen Victoria (1887-1893 Jubilee) - Part 13

Queen Victoria (1893-1901 Widow) - Part 14

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