6 - The Queen Victoria Shield Reverse Sovereign 1850-54
The 1850's and pre die number years of the 1860's represent probably the hay day of the sovereign variety and error coin. I will do my best to bring as many of these to the readers attention, and where I do have images I will show them.
1850 (Marsh No33) Queen Victoria Shield Reverse Sovereign.
We kick off with the low mintage 1850, just 1,402,039 which is the 3rd lowest of all London struck shield sovereigns and from a value perspective can be thought of as belonging to the 1840s series. The 1850 is alive with errors and variations from the off. We do have again the 'Roman I' in date type (Marsh No33C), unlike some other years this is a true Roman 'I' as is nice and clear in the photo below. These are pretty rare, but can be found in low grades for £600 - £1000, with high grades seldom seen perhaps as much as £2500-£3000 for a true EF example.
The next variety is the extremely rare inverted A in Victoria (Marsh No33A), which is also accompanied by a somewhat wider date configuration, and slight raised die flaw running from the date '0' to neck. Although not mentioned (Steve Hill confirms) at the time lot 958 in the Bentley collection sale of a similar grade example, appears to be from the same die. It sold for £1020 (May 2010), and has only be catalogued in low grade, so today for the coin shown here @£1500 and double that for anything @Good Very Fine and above, and deserving of its R4 rarity rating.
1850 (Marsh No33A) Wide date configuration.
1850 (Marsh No33A) Inverted A in Victoria
Another variety is the 1850 with '5 over 8' in date overstrike, catalogued by Marsh 33B. Unfortunately I don't have an image of this one which may help show that Marsh's R5 rating is probably correct, and certainly rarer than the inverted A type sovereign. The only example I know is that of lot of 986 in the Bentley collection sale which raised £2520. I wouldn't be surprised if £4000-£5000 could be achieved for a nice example today. Its well worth checking all 1850 sovereigns for any of the above errors all will add a considerable amount to the standard coin value.
Before we leave 1850, there are some lesser known and non catalogued variations. These can appear with the serif missing from the '1' in date, and although quoted for the following year, but not for the 1850, the date arrangement can vary from quite compact or fairly narrow to a wider format with more space between the digits. Neither of these are considered major variations or errors, and add little to coin value.
1851-1859 needs a little clarification before we go further, 1851/54/56/58/59 can all be considered as difficult coins to find in good grades where as 1852/53/55/57 provide much less of a challenge to the collector and do turn up regularly in EF and better.
1851 (Marsh No34) year of the Great Exhibition to show off Britain's industrial might, could have been one reason why the mint was on its best behaviour this year producing no notable varieties or serious error coins. That does not however mean they were perfect, and some slight variations can be found within date configuration. The photos below show, a wide date example exhibiting quite a large a between the 18 51, and angled 5 in date, neither of these are catalogued varieties and add little to the standard coin value of @£500 for VF rising to £1500 for a top notch example.
1851 (Marsh No34) wide date, considerable gap between 18 51.
1851 (Marsh No34) date with angled '5'.
1852 (Marsh No35) saw the largest mintage total to date with over 8 million sovereigns produced, so finding a good one should not prove too difficult, although the Roman I (Marsh No35A) is quite elusive even with the large mintage.
1853 (Marsh No36) is a year of truly astounding variations and error coins with at least half a dozen catalogued by Marsh. 1853 did mark the introduction of a change from the raised W.W. (initials found at base of Victoria’s bust in truncation) to the incuse WW without stops (initials no longer raised but now engraved) type and both exist with the later incuse version being a tad scarcer and a good example may set you back slightly more but our experience suggests that its not really a variety that sets the collectors pulse racing. 1854/55 appear predominately with incuse W.W. initials but the much scarcer raised type do turn up and you can expect to pay 50% to double the price of the relative incuse type. Mintages of each type were not recorded in the Royal Mint records for these years.
1853 (Marsh No36) raised W.W. within truncation.
1853 (Marsh No36F) new incuse WW without stops, within truncation.
We move on to 2 separate legend errors involving 'DEF' on the reverse, and both involving the letters 'E' and 'F'. I must admit to being a little confused here, as Marsh No36C only refers to one, as do Spink under 3852C. I presume this is variety commonly known as the 'DEE' variety shown below. You will also see another 'E over F' in the following example, this time referring to E in DEF, over what appears to be a slightly off centre F. Both types appear on the 'raised' W.W. coins and not on the later incuse type. Value wise I would expect the 'DEE' sovereign to be a minimum of £1000 in anything above Fine with £2000 more likely for a nice strong VF, and very rare with few examples known. As for the latter coin, I have not seen another so again very few exist difficult to value, the error is not as pronounced, so somewhere between that of the standard 1853 sovereign and 'DEE' variety.
1853 (Marsh No36C) F over E, 'DEE' error type sovereign.
1853 'E over angled F' in DEF error type sovereign.
The 1853 also gives us a very similar error to that of the 1850 where again an inverted 'A' was used in VICTORIA instead of the correct 'V' (Marsh No36E) and appears only on the raised W.W. type coin. Interestingly the only example of this coin I have seen was sold as lot 68 in the Bentley collection sale, and the coin also contained a true Roman I in date, it is very unusual to see 2 such errors together. That coin raised a hammer price of £960 but was cleaned and in low grade, so a nice one is likely to fetch considerably more. The more commonly seen Roman I type sovereign for this year is to be found in the far more scarce WW incuse type sovereign (Marsh No36F), although this is actually inverted 1 over 1 and not a true roman I, as stated previously the Spink Coins of England publication doesn't make any distinction between the two. Marsh does make a distinction, however I note that his reference for this coin is No36D indicating this to be of the raised W.W. type suggesting that the variety exists in both. Roman I values will be similar to that of previous years, however given the scarcity of the incuse type should a true Roman I emerge in this type in good grade appear it would command interest with the standard coin commanding half as much again as the more prevalent raised W.W. coin.
Before we leave the year that just keeps giving, its worth a mention that date arrangement like previous years can differ with wide and narrower dates often seen. The one variety not mentioned so far is the (Marsh No36B) '3 struck over 5' in date variety, and occurs in the raised W.W. type coin, value @£1500 for something approaching EF.
We catch our breath after the long journey through 1853 with a somewhat quieter 1854. This year saw the continued phasing in of the new WW incuse type coin (Marsh No37) replacing that of the earlier W.W. in relief (Marsh No37A) type. One reason for this change may have been the death of William Wyon in October 1851 as a form of tribute to him for his work at the mint. In a flip from 1853 the 1854 raised W.W. is the scarcer of the two, Marsh rates 1853 incuse, and 1854 relief as both R2 with values to match. The only other variety seen for 1854 is the rotated 'C over inverted C' in VICTORIA type (Marsh 37B). I don't have an image of this but as luck would have it the very same error appeared again in 1861 of which do I, see the image below. Very rare and likely to command @£1000 for Good Fine to @£2000 for a strong Very Fine near EF example.
1854 (Marsh 37B) rotated 'C over inverted C' in VICTORIA
A rarity in itself is the lack of Roman I for 1854, in either '1 over inverted 1' or true letter 'I'. Its worth checking them as you never know if they are out there somewhere just waiting to be discovered.