1 - HM Queen Elizabeth II Sovereign 1953-2009
Queen Elizabeth II Part 1 - (1953-2009)
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, was born 21 April 1926 in Mayfair London, first child of the later to be King George VI and mother Queen Elizabeth. She ascended to the throne on 6th February 1952 upon the death of her father George VI who had been ill for some while. The new Queen who last saw her father waving goodbye just a few days before as she embarked on a Commonwealth tour in which she took his place, was informed of the news while in Kenya. The Coronation took place at Westminster Abbey on 2nd June 1953, estimated to have been watched by a live TV audience of around 20 million. Our present queen is the longest reigning monarch in 2020 celebrating her 68th year as Queen and even longer marriage to Prince Phillip who himself will celebrate his 100th birthday in 2021.
Mary Gillick was the first woman to have a portrait design accepted for use on British coinage. Although we will discuss the numerous proof issue sovereigns in our next article for Queen Elizabeth II, I feel that the first to bear the Mary Gillick portrait is worthy of brief mention here. In keeping with tradition coronation sets were produced containing the 1953 proof sovereign. Unlike previous coronation sets none were issued to the public and less than a handful were produced with those going to institutional collections. As such this is not a sovereign the collector even the most ardent is likely to be able to own.
The excessively rare 1953 Proof Sovereign containing the words BRITT:OMN. This coin is in the Royal Mint collection (image courtesy of the Royal Mint collection).
Mary Gillick's design remained exactly the same for the first year of the currency type issue in 1957 but due to changes in the Commonwealth the words BRITT.OMN had been removed from the obverse. So by the time the public got their first look at the sovereign we were already on the 2nd obverse.
1957 saw the reintroduction of the bullion sovereign a coin that had not been officially struck in London since 1925, although as discussed previously 1925 dies were used in the latter part of George V's reign to produce bullion sovereigns much to the annoyance of collectors. The pre-decimal head sovereigns were produced from 1957-1959 and 1962-1968, 1960-61 do not exist. The 1957 has a finer edge milling often referred to as graining and to simplify means that it has more milling then 1958 onwards. Like all QEII currency sovereigns none are rare, although we quite often find they live in batches and we struggle to find a date then they all turn-up together.
The 1958 Sovereign with amended legend with the words BRITT:OMN omitted.
The 1959 is probably the scarcest of all pre-decimal sovereigns with its mintage a relatively small 1,385,228, so don’t be surprised if dealers are looking for a few pounds more for these. However one of the most difficult things to achieve is a coin totally free of bag marks as these are considered common most have been bagged up in bank vaults being moved by fork lift trucks etc, so it’s worth have a good look for the best you can find.
In 1966 the UK made a decision to adopt decimal coinage from 1971 and it was clear that the UK’s new coinage demands could not be met at the historic Tower Mint in London. The decision was made to build a new mint in Llantrisant South Wales and to cease production of UK coins in London. The new mint was officially opened by Her Majesty on 17th December 1968 but the Tower mint remained in operation until 1975. This brings us on nicely to the second portrait type or Decimal head by Arnold Machin as it is affectionately known which restarted sovereign production after a 6 year gap in 1974. There are no sovereigns dated 1975 and the clue here is that on November 10th 1975 the Tower mint struck its very last coin that being a sovereign dated 1974.
1974 Second Portrait Sovereign the last date to be struck the Tower Mint London
Second head sovereigns were struck at the Llantrisant mint for the following year of 1976 then 78-82, there are no sovereigns dated 1977 it’s a fair bet that as 1974 they continued to use dies of the previous year. The 1982 being slightly more illusive but not scarce and you should not be asked to part with too much extra cash to purchase it. Unlike the pre-decimal sovereign it is not difficult to find these in top BUNC condition free of bag marks.
No more currency sovereigns were produced until the year 2000 although proof sovereigns were struck for every year between 1982-1999 for the collectors market with mintage's of 10,000 or less, many have become highly sought after. We will return to the area of proof sovereigns in the next issue article but they are worth a mention here as their growing popularity in the late 1990’s along with the introduction of the internet to the populous really forced the mint’s hand into reintroducing the currency type from 2000. It should also be mentioned that the proof series contained the 3rd portrait type designed by Raphael David Maklouf and run from 1985-1997, and therefore never appeared on the currency type sovereign.
The reintroduction of the currency type sovereign in 2000 proved popular and the series which shows the fourth portrait by English born sculptor Ian Rank-Broadley (IRB) has continued every year since and looks set to continue for the foreseeable future. The first thing to note about the post millennia coins is that mintage's are not at levels previously seen with 250,000 for 2000 being considered high and just 100,000 for 2001 being closer to the modern norm. You should be able to find all of the dates without too much trouble in BUNC condition.
The 2002 Shield and 2005 contemporary designed reverse coins are a little more sought after due to their different designs. Both were the work of Timothy Noad, a renowned calligrapher, and heraldic artist which certainly comes over in his excellent designs. So you would be advised to have these on your shopping list as the value and availability is only going one way.
2002: Shield design based on the original Victorian (1838-1887) Ensigns Armorial with plain shield surrounded by laurel leaves and crown. The initials TN denoting designer Timothy Noad placed within laurel leaves to the right of the shield.
2005: Contemporary design of St George slaying the dragon with sword and carrying shield. Design by Timothy Noad although his initials do not appear on the coin. The date below wing of the dragon slightly to the left of centre.
The 2007 sovereign caused some controversy within the industry and with some collectors as the dies were for the first time prepared by computer aided machine which resulted in a coin with very low relief. In fact it is so noticeable that customers were asking to exchange their examples for ones which were better struck, which we had to explain was not possible as every single one was the same. Although requests were made to the Royal mint to consider restriking the 2007 sovereign it was not, however 2008 saw a big improvement and 2009 is better still.
The 2007 Ian Rank-Broadley (IRB) obverse with very low profile reverse striking.
Pre 2009 helmet with streamer - 2009 onward streamer now omitted.
Before we conclude part one of the Queen Elizabeth II currency sovereign and embark on the last decade of our epic journey which started way back in 1817. The Royal Mint did slip in one slight change to the reverse design from 2009 onwards. The helmet streamer which first appeared on the Victorian Jubilee head sovereigns in 1887 was removed and the design reverted to that of the original 1821 design where George is first seen with a sword while the broken lance which still remains today laying upon the ground line.