2 - 1817 King George III Sovereign (1817-1820)
S.3785 (Type A) : The standard 1817 currency sovereign.
The story of the modern sovereign begins with George III and the decision in 1816 to introduce a new coinage of which one was the new 20 shilling coin. Benedetto Pistrucci’s now classic St George slaying the dragon design was chosen and the sovereign of 1817 was born. The St George we see today slaying the dragon is slightly altered from the original which saw the use of the lance which had been broken in the battle replaced by the now classic sword.
All sovereigns are 22 carat gold 916/1000 fineness and have an official weight of 7.988030269 grams or 123.2744783 grains. This wasn't a figure simply plucked from thin air, it was calculated on the basis, that the value of one troy pound of standard (22 carat) gold at the time was £46 14s 6d. This related to 44½ guineas with its value set at 21 shillings (One Pound one shilling) as above in 1717. With the guinea weight of 7.688 grams of fine gold, or 0.247191011 troy ounces, the calculation can be done to establish that a sovereign must contain 0.2354 troy oz of gold to equal 20 shillings. In reality they can vary from 8.00 grams to as low as 7.80 dependent upon the amount of wear the specific example exhibits. Diameter: 22.05mm.
With just 4 dates to choose from in the series you may be forgiven for thinking there is little of interest here. However this is not the case with one of these being probably the rarest of all sovereigns and a significant number of varieties currently numbering around 14 with more seemingly appearing each year. The varieties all concern the obverse with subtle differences in hair coarseness and legend and several varieties of date digits and spacing appearing exclusively in the 1820 and final sovereign of the series. One common attribute of this series is that serif tops from the letter (I) are often missing, this was most probably the result of broken punches as they aged, and cannot really be considered a variety in their own right.
The king’s head facing right, laureate with short hair; the tie has a loop with two ends, neck bare. The date is shown at the bottom of the coin under the truncation.
Obverse legend : GEORGIUS III D:G:BRITANNIAR:REX F:D:
(George III by the Grace of God, King of the British territories, Defender of the Faith)
St.George with streamer flowing from helmet, mounted and slaying the Dragon with a lance, the design being placed within the order of the garter.
Reverse Legend : HONI.SOIT.QUI.MAL.Y.PENSE.
(May he be shamed who thinks badly of it" or "Shame be to him who thinks evil of it" or "Evil (or shame) be to him that evil thinks)
The obverse and reverse engraved by Benedetto Pistrucci, the initials 'BP' can be found on the reverse ground line directly under St George's severed lance. It maybe of interest to note that although the lance was replaced in 1821 with the now familiar sword, the broken part has never been removed, and can still be seen laying on the ground even in the latest 2018 sovereign.
The 1817 Sovereign described by Spink as coarse hair with legend type A, a descending colon after BRITANNIAR: and NO space between REX and F:D: We should not be too surprised to see that quite a lot of these are still seen 200 years after their release date. The new currency coins were revered at the time, and the sovereign was no acceptation with many examples being stashed away. At time of writing there are 15 examples in various grades (mostly poor) available on eBay. A true Good Fine example is likely to cost @£1000 with Extremely Fine (EF) examples @£4000. When I wrote my original articles a decade ago, you could pick up a poor example for as little as £250 and something approaching EF for just £1000.
Apart from the standard (Spink) S.3785 sovereign which should all have been struck with opposing die axis, some very rare examples are known to exist struck with upright die axis or to give its the correct term : 'struck en medaille'. One such example sold from the 'Bentley collection', probably the finest sovereign collection ever to be offered for sale in the 2012/2013 London auctions by Baldwin for £1,320. However unlike most of the sovereigns within the collection, this example had been cleaned, previously gilted and graded at 'Good Fine' Only. Its safe to say you could expect to pay a lot more for better examples.
Total recorded mintage for 1817 : 3,235,239