8 - The Queen Victoria Shield Reverse Sovereign 1860-63
We enter the decade with a coin that gives us at least 6 known varieties. 1860 (Marsh No43) starts with what is commonly known as the 'Large O' type, (Marsh No43B), this is described by Marsh as the use of the letter 'O' in date which is larger than the standard zero. It looks more like a large zero to me, but that is rather splitting hairs on what is unique error that does not appear on any other year. At the time these were initially catalogued they were rated as rare, but in truth these turn up regularly, and it would be a surprise to me if something like a 3rd of all 1860's exhibited a large O or 0. What are difficult to find are high grade examples, even the fantastic Bentley collection did not feature a truly uncirculated version of this year, and trawl of the internet reveals examples of only VF or below.
The next variety being the ‘C’ over ‘O’ in VICT-O-RIA (Marsh No43C) within obverse legend. This error only appears in the large ‘O’ type, and can been seen in the photo below. Unlike the 'large O' only type this certainly does add rarity, not the easiest error to spot unless you are particularly looking for it, and probably why it remained undetected for so long, and my guess is there are more out there waiting to be found and likely to be the product of a single die. Look for the protruding top edge of the 'O' for where the engraver couldn't quite complete hiding his error.
1860 (Marsh 43C) 'C over O' in VICTORIA, note this example also exhibits Large 'O' in date.
1860 also sees the reappearance of the Roman I type (Marsh No43E), although this takes the form of 'inverted 1 over 1' in date, and not a true roman numeral. This variety is catalogued by both Marsh and Coins of England, it should be noted the author has not seen one, and the only example within the Bentley collection also contained the following error. Inverted ‘A’ in Victoria instead of the correct ’V’ (Marsh No43D), and was of the 'Large O' type, this is the only London struck sovereign known with this error. It is further complicated by the existence of this on both the 'Large O' and standard zero type coins, being catalogued as simply the inverted ‘A’ in place of 'V' variety. Value wise high grade examples are not known to exist, with most being of VF or below @£1500-£2500, anything approaching extremely fine would be of great interest.
1860 (Marsh No43A) rotated 'E' over 'E' in DEI, or is it? Well that is how this error is described, but in truth what lies beneath the correct 'E' is open to speculation. Steve Hill in his summary about this coin for the Bentley collection sale, suggested the error may be down to a faulty 'E' punch with some form of burr, rather than a clear letter over letter correction. An example of just how bad the Mint's workmanship was becoming at this stage, and may well be a big clue as to why the Die number series was to be introduced just 2 years later.
Yet another error coin for this year exhibits an old friend the unbarred ‘A’ in legend ‘DEI GR-A-TIA’, not separately catalogued by Marsh but does appear within S3852D in coins of England. Date alignment, digit sizes in general and missing serifs were by now common place.
Its interesting to note that when I wrote my first set of articles back in 2008, there was only really one noted variety for 1861 that of the true Roman I type (Marsh 44A). It safe to say things have moved on significantly with this year now providing no less than 4 or 5 known varieties today. Lets start with the Roman I in date, unlike some of the previous years with its impostors, the 1861 exhibits a true letter 'I' in place of the correct digit '1', this as we have discussed previously is simply the result of the engraver choosing the wrong punch. I just happen to have one of these all be it not of highest grade pictured below. Value wise this coin is £1000, and the highest grade known example sold at the Bentley collection sale as lot 90 and raised £2880, so add a little more in today's money.
1861 (Marsh 44A) true Roman I within Date.
The 1861 again appears with a number of different date arrangements, mainly grouped into narrow date and spread date types, these are not further catalogued by Marsh and all come under the standard classification Marsh No44. Date digits can often be misaligned, and as one example shows a duplication of '1' in date set lower in an effort to correct the 1st attempt at positioning. These should be seen as oddities rather than varieties in their own right, of interest yes, but unlikely to add too much to the standard coin value.
1860 (Marsh No43) Initial '1' in date struck too high then corrected with overstrike, normal '0' within date.
1861 continues with 'C over rotated C' in VICTORIA (Marsh No44B), a fairly recent discovery with just a few known examples. The result of a misaligned 'C' being corrected by punching the letter in correct orientation over the top, giving the appearance of a closed 'C'. All examples known are of low grade with the Bentley collection coin (lot 88) being once cleaned, but still realizing just under £1000. This rather sets the scene for 1861 as a whole, 'T over slightly tilted T' in VICTORIA exists, as does 'E over rotated E' in DIE (Marsh 44D). We have a case of 'O' in VICTORIA used to correct the initial digit zero (Marsh 44C), not catalogued by Marsh, Coins of England include 'T over V' in VICTORIA and 'F over V' in the reverse legend DEF. As with most varieties these are mostly known only in low grades up to Very Fine, all will add value to the standard coin, examples approaching EF will be in the £2000-£3000 price bracket.
1861 (Marsh No44B) 'C over rotated C' in VICTORIA
By 1862 poor workmanship had really taken hold at the mint with standardisation difficult to establish. We have a number of different date arrangements, but 2 standard types, that of the narrow date and wide date coins exist in similar number, not separated by Marsh (Marsh No45), but do appear as 2 different varieties in Coins of England. The Roman I (Marsh 44B) again rears its head, but this time its our old friend '1 over inverted 1' and not a true roman I, and is valued similar to other Roman I years.
|1862 (Marsh No45) Narrow date arrangement
Wide date arrangement.
1862 inverted ‘R’ in VICTO-R-IA (Marsh No44C), this was the result of the initial 'R' being punched completely upside down, only to be corrected with a punch of the right way up. Yet another quite incredible error, the 1st example of this variety appeared in the Bentley collection as lot No 1013 a realised a price of £3000, very few have come to light and are very rare.
|1862 (Marsh No44C) inverted ‘R’ in VICTO-R-IA
|1862 (Marsh No45D) 'R over E' in B-R-ITANNIARUM
It appears that the engravers got bored with simply messing up the obverse legends and now turned their attention to the so far mostly error free reverse. The inverted 'F over A' in DEF on reverse legend (Marsh No45D) is a difficult coin to spot so its worth checking these as only 2 small tails protruding from the ‘F’ is evident and many will have been missed. The more striking reverse legend error is the 'R over E' in B-R-ITANNIARUM (Marsh No45D), this the result of punch 'E' being used in error and corrected by 'R' being struck over the top. When looking to value these error coins, its worth remembering the more evident and obvious the error is the more value is likely to be attributed to it, with high grade examples always being the most desired, and likely to be 3 or 4 times more expensive than examples of Very Fine and below.
1863 marks the end of the S.3852D (Marsh Type 1A) sovereign and the introduction of the famous Die number coins, with exception of a brief reappearance in 1872. In next moths article we shall conclude this series and move onto the notably less error prone die number sovereign (Marsh Type 1B).