11 - The Queen Victoria George & Dragon Sovereign 1871-1887 (London)
The 17 year series includes sovereigns struck in London and both branch mints of the time, Sydney and Melbourne.
1872 Queen Victoria London Struck St George & Dragon Reverse Sovereign.
1871 saw the introduction of the new Victoria young head series in tandem with the long running shield reverse sovereigns, and with it a return to the original Pisstrucci designed St George and Dragon reverse. The new sovereign with its now iconic St George slaying the dragon reverse was to become the dominant design for the remainder of Queen Victoria's reign and beyond. Although the young head sovereign is available for every year between 1871-1887, the London mint did not strike sovereigns for, 1875 / 77 / 81 / 82 / 83, these are available from the two Australian branch mints. Another point slightly frustrating to the author is that no records exist of the actual number of each sovereign type struck at London during the overlapping years, this leaves us in the dark for the extremely rare 1874 London shield sovereign with the vast majority of the 520,713 sovereigns struck being the new young head type with production of the shield ceasing very early on in the year.
The London series shows one major rarity that of the 1879 sovereign and can be considered one of the key date coins from within the entire sovereign series. With just 20,013 struck it seldom appears and when it does it will almost exclusively be in grades no better than very fine with a price tag of £2000-£3000. Finding one of approaching grades of extremely fine and better will prove very challenging indeed, with the Bentley collection sale of 2012/13 only producing an example of near to extremely fine then reaching a price of £3120. Today that coin may well fetch double that with a better example should it come to the market being almost unique and very sought after by major collectors, I would not be surprised if it sold for a 5 figure sum.
1880 London Struck 8 over 7 in date Sovereign.
The next coin of interest from the London series is that of the 1880/7 said to exist in both long tail and short tail types. However it should be noted that no short tailed version has ever come to my attention despite extensive searches and therefore I am very sceptical of the coins existence. Of the 2 types I have seen both have long tails and both are from the earlier narrow trunk with WW incomplete series, of the 12 examples on my computer 9 are with B.P and 3 are without. These are scarce but are by no means rare and a group of 10 x 1880 London struck sovereigns is likely to yield at least one. Values are not that high for these with VF examples commanding only slightly more than the standard coin. It is however an interesting variety with so many seen it is more likely the result of a deliberate act than an accident. One theory is that the low mintages of some 1870's years at London left a number of dies unused already stamped with the prefix 187. My lack of any examples on file of the 8/7 with the slightly amended bust of 1880 now with WW complete on truncation does seem to add weight to this argument, but also questions the existence of the later bust with the overstrike despite these actually being catalogued in Coins of England and UK, but not by Marsh and no example found in the Bentley collection.
|Large B.P. seen on the 1871 First Strike London St George & Dragon Reverse Sovereign.||The more commonly seen Smaller B.P.|
Of the other London sovereigns of this series 1871 provides to different types, launch of these saw St Georges Horse with a short tail and large B.P within date area. This was replaced later in the year with long tail and small BP which continued until 1880. The large BP 1871 is the slightly scarcer of the two with both being considered as bullion only in grades up to VF with nice examples of @EF being achievable for £500-£750. 1874 is a scarce coin if not quite rare as quoted by Marsh it may command slightly higher prices to that of the other standard coins in the series.
The remaining London struck sovereigns of the series 1872 / 73 / 76 / 78 / 80 and short tail dates 1880 / 84 / 85 in both narrow and wide truncations can be considered as easily available in grades up to VF at £350-£400 each based on gold at @£300 per coin. Like all Young Heads scarcity really kicks in with the higher grades of EF and above and although it is a little easier than both Australian mints you could still expect to pay up to £800-£1000 for some of the nicest Near Unc examples in particularly the early dates.
To the no B.P. type coin found in many reference books across all 3 mints from 1880. I have seen many young head sovereigns which initially appear not to exhibit B.P, however on very close scrutiny and high magnification most show some sign of at least a partial impression of some part of the initials. This is not restricted to coins of low grade it occurs even on those with very little wear leading me to believe that the actual dies used were suffering from wear at the time of striking. It is interesting that all references to no B.P. coins in Coins of England and UK refer to sovereigns of the short tail type. This makes me suspect that upon the introduction of the short tail sovereign a decision was made to erase the B.P from some of the new dies for experimental reasons. Although we do not know for sure it’s possible that the B.P having proved troublesome previously was removed to prolong the life of the die. For whatever reason by 1882 all dies again had the B.P initials yet this continued to be problematic as I have seen later examples which again exhibit no obvious B.P.
Medium Tail / Long Tail / Short Tail Varieties.
This brings me on to this subject of tails, short tail, long tale that is a question I pondered for many an hour whilst examining the sovereigns of queen Victoria. The fact is that there are 3 tail lengths and not 2 as previously documented in reference books at the time of writing my first articles a decade ago. These are now reasonably well catalogued, there is a short tail as seen in the 1884 example, a long tail in the 1872 and a not quite long or short tail as seen in the 1878. The 1878 is interesting because it is only catalogued as existing as long tail but it is not uncommon in both the long and slightly shorter tail forms. This is probably the case for all young head sovereigns from 1872-1880 and indeed we get a clue from our next series the Jubilee head sovereign.