5 - The Queen Victoria Shield Reverse Sovereign 1846-49
1846 (Marsh No28) does not provide us with anything new to add to the 2 previous years. The variation in date size and width seem to have disappeared, all my images of 1846 sovereigns show them to be of the standard wide date type as shown in the 1845 example. We see again the (Marsh No29B) quite horrendous '4 over inverted 4' in date error as originally noted for the 1844 sovereign. The Roman I in date again surfaces although it seems clear that these exist in both '1 over inverted 1' and true roman 'I' forms, they are catalogued simple as Roman I type coins with no real distinction in value, the author much preferring the true Roman I. Values for 1846 will be similar to those of the 1845.
The 1847 sovereign (Marsh No30) was the penultimate year of production for the small head design. Although we don't appear to have a known example of a true Roman I for this year we do have a type quoted to be one. However all examples I have seen and those catalogued are of the '1 over inverted 1' variety (Marsh No30A). As far as noted varieties are concerned that is it for the 1847, however that is not to say that the Royal Mint had finally got to grips with quality control far from it. This year exhibits examples with date arrangements out of alignment. Other issues surround the '1' in date apart from the above mentioned inverted '1 over 1' we see an inverted '1' on its own without the attempt to correct with a over stamp of the digit in the correct orientation, and there are also examples of the '1' appearing without its serif.
Another example of the Mint's somewhat lacklustre approach to quality, is that a large number of the 4.5 million sovereigns struck for 1847 were actually well under the legal tender weight. Many weighted as little as 7.92g, and would certainly have been deemed illegal tender under The Coinage Act of 1816-1870. Its amazing to think that if 25% of the sovereigns struck for this year were 0.06g too light, that it would have left around 70kg of gold in the cupboard. Value wise the 1847 is not a particularly difficult coin to find in low grades, for @£400-£600, but as with all early sovereigns the price will rise dramatically with grade, £800-£1000 will be what is required for a nice strong example with those close to truly uncirculated maybe double that figure. The Roman I (rather the '1' over inverted '1') type sovereign may add as much as half as much again to the value. None of the other oddities although of interest are likely to add much in the way of value, as so many sovereigns with slight errors were allowed to go unchecked into circulation.
The 1848 Queen Victoria Shield Reverse Large / Small head Sovereign.
Marsh No31A - Small bust variety
Marsh No31 - Larger Bust Type
The sovereigns of 1848 provide us with our first watershed in the Victoria series. This year saw the introduction of the new slightly bigger bust variety. You will see above the 2 types side by side, and pointers showing the decreased gap between the head and the legend. I think the smaller head coin looks a lot neater than the newly introduced somewhat squashed design. Steve Hill suggests in his Bentley collection notes this may have been a decision based on the meeting called that year of which William Wyon gave evidence, to the Royal Mint Commission investigating Die production. The theory being the larger the raised area the less pressure on the Die, and longer it would last. Its also interesting to note from this point on until the end of Victoria's reign, the bust design would fill as much space as possible even to the extent that the later Jubilee head series had to be corrected as the design itself actually fouled the toothed area of the coin.
Onto the sovereigns themselves for this year which was a fairly low mintage year with just over 2 million produced half that of some previous years. It is not known just how many Smaller head (Marsh 31A) type sovereigns were struck as Royal Mint records only show the total. However we can deduce that there were very few compared to the new (Marsh 31) sovereign, and they are worthy of the extremely rare tag although only rated as R2 (Very Rare) by Marsh. The example shown above may command a price of @£7000 today with even nicer ones as much as £10,000. This is a true rarity by anyone's standards.
The standard or most commonly seen 1848 with the larger bust design is not easy to find in top grades, with the low mintage not helping. In fact the combined number struck for this and the following year 1849 (Marsh 32) is still 300,000 less than for 1847. Low grade examples will not differ too much in price from previous years, but £100-£500 more as you go up the scale is not unreasonable to add to the price for either. 1848 does not offer us much in the way of varieties, there are no known Roman I or inverted '1' over '1' examples for this year, although there are many instances of weak striking leading to missing serifs which do not add to coin value.
The 1849 does reintroduce the true Roman I sovereign (Marsh 32A) and a number of further small variations with date arrangement.
Marsh No32 - A rare well struck example.
Weakly struck date and legend issues.
Weakly struck Ponytail most often seen.
The example on the left shows what is actually quite a rare find, a well struck 1849 showing the complete ponytail without breaks and terminating with two single strands of hair. The example on the right shows the more commonly seen broken ponytail and the complete lack of terminating strands. This particular example exhibits a couple of other anomalies commonly found on the 1849.
Rotated and messy strike '9' in date.
The same coin exhibits legend doubling.
Our weakly struck example shows 2 more anomalies, the slightly rotated '9' in date, which appears to always be of somewhat blobby appearance. This does seem to accompany the doubling of the second half of the obverse legend as shown above. The doubling of the legend is something we often see for sovereigns from this date onwards until around 1870 when the issue was solved. Single letters or digits are most likely to be caused by a punch used in an attempt to correct an error, like inverted '1' over stamped with the digit of the correct orientation. Where we see partial or complete legends with the doubling effect, this is not caused by the die moving in the striking process as many believe, but in the actual process used to make the die known as 'hubbing'.
The hub is a positive relief copy of the original plaster cast engraving pressed together with its legend and date to create the negative die to be used in the striking of the final coin. The process of 'hubbing' often requires 2 or 3 presses to make the final die, and if any movement occurs between the 2 a doubling can result. I can only imagine these dies were spotted at the time, but the decision was made to go ahead and use them anyway.