13 - The Queen Victoria Jubilee Head Sovereign 1887-1893

(Originally written before DISH and needs amending) 

The Jubilee head coinage was introduced to mark Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887 and was the result of a portrait design by Joseph Edgar Boehm. The Queen is seen facing left wearing a small crown and veiled, this replaced the somewhat outdated young head effigy which had been seen since 1838 with only slight variations. Interestingly 1887 is the only year of the sovereign issue to date to feature 3 different designs all baring the same date, the Shield Reverse / St George Dragon and new Jubilee Head sovereign are all available from both Melbourne and Sydney Branch Mints. Tower Mint in London however struck the Jubilee head exclusively in this year having not produced any sovereigns in the previous year 1886.

The 1887 London Struck Jubilee Head Sovereign

The first thing to say about the Jubilee head series is that although the coin itself is not rare and many millions still exist and are sold as bullion it is extremely difficult to find top grade examples. Having seen many thousands of these probably only a handful were close to being actually uncirculated. The example pictured above is AUNC only exhibiting a the merest of wear. With gold at £280 per sovereign at time of writing anything @EF is likely to cost from £350 upwards. Any example which retains its original lustre and grades @Unc could easily fetch up to £400-£600, don’t be afraid to pay this as they are truly scarce. The scarcest of the standard struck Jubilee sovereigns is that of the 1887 Sydney with grades around very fine @£400-£500 I would expect a true uncirculated example to challenge @£2000.

One major change to the new sovereign was the moving of the Mintmark which had up until now been placed below the queens bust on the obverse. This is located on the ground line on the reverse just above the date, a arrangement that would stay ever present until the closer of the last branch mint in 1932. London of course continued to bare no mintmark at all.


Mintmarks are now located on ground line above date on reverse.

The initials J.E.B which appear in the truncation give rise to a number of variations in a series which for a run of just 7 years contains more than its fair share of varieties. 1887 London struck coins provides us with no fewer then 3 slightly different arrangements. I must admit when I first read the Spink coins of England I ended more confused then when I started, the lack of pictures really didn't help so lets take a look at them now.

 Normal J.E.B - S.3866 Small Spread J.E.B - S.3866D Tiny J.E.B in Arc - S.3866A

The coin on our left shows the normal J.E.B size and arrangement and is the most of often seen. The example shown in the middle is often confused with the tiny initial coin in our example on the right. But the difference can easily be seen when you know what to look for. The tiny J.E.B coin has the initials in a defined arc and this can be seem clearly be seen by viewing the stops. The small spread initials again clearly shows that all 3 stops are in a straight line. Both latter examples are fairly rare and good examples may set the collector back about double that of the standard coin.

The 1887S Sydney is another coin which causes a great amount of confusion. The sovereign itself is pretty scarce and the normal collector will not get the chance to see many of these side by side and the most common call we receive is from people believing they have the extremely rare small J.E.B type listed as S3868a. This has proved to be untrue is almost ever case simply because the Coins of England book description is not totally accurate the difference between the rare and standard coin is actually very little. The J.E.B initials on the standard type appear in a slight arc around the trunk whereas they appear dead straight on the rare coin. The size of the lettering is small on both coins compared to the 1888S S.3868A type which has standard sized initials, this has led to a great deal of confusion but the question to ask is do the stops run in a arc or a straight line.

Before moving on its important to note that the original 1887 design of the obverse contained quite an astounding error, the Queen’s crown can be seen clearly fouling and entering the toothed edge of the coin which was an area meant to be kept clear. This was corrected by the rework introduction of the 2nd head type later in 1887 and the crown can been seen somewhat squashed but not now fouling the toothed area. Another significant alteration was the moving of obverse legend with the letters D:G: now ending closer to the crown. The first head type appears throughout 1887 in both the London and Sydney struck coins but Melbourne made the change in time to issue the 2nd type in 1887, none of these are particularly scarce.1888 saw the corrected 2nd head type implemented in all 3 mints, although some 1st head dies continued to be used, and its these coins which have become the main interest of the series.

1st Head design crown fouling toothed area  2nd Head design crown correction

The only 2 post 1887 1st head type examples which can be seen as less then rare is the 1888 London and Sydney coins which seem to have escaped in higher numbers but still rate as quite scarce and command figures of up to double those of the 2nd head examples. We know and I have seen examples of the 1st head being struck right up until 1890 at all mints, the London 1889,1890, Melbourne 1888, 1889,1890 and Sydney 1890 are all very rare with price tags of @£600 for GVF and @£1000 for a nice EF example. The 1889 Sydney is rare but this is the mostly likely to be seen so probably a little less for these. As you can imagine the hunt is on for a 1891 1st head example and although rumoured to exist I have never seen one so well worth check all your Jubilee head sovereigns just in case.

1891 saw a slight alteration to the reverse with tales being reworked to be slightly longer, not to be confused with the long tales seen in the early young head series these are only slightly longer. Some 1891 shorter tale examples do exist for the London mint these are not extremely rare as they do turn up so maybe bordering rare is a fairer evaluation with values @£400-£500 for GVF.

 Revised Longer Tail version from 1891. Original Shorter Tail 1887-1891.

1892 and 1893 do not turn up any varieties as of yet but that does not mean to say they are not out there? The thing to remember if you are a mintmark collector is that the 1893 London Jubilee Head sovereign does not exist as production was all switched to the new Widow Head sovereign.          

Jubilee head sovereign series 1887-1893

Obverse Design :  Queen’s veiled head facing to the left with small crown, Garter Riband and Star, Albert Order. Initials 'J.E.B.' denoting in truncation denoting engraver Joseph Edgar Boehm.

Reverse Design : St.George mounted with sword attacking the dragon by Benedetto Pistrucci  The date appears below the exergue line at the bottom with the small letters B.P. Mintmark on ground line above date.

Queen Victoria (1837-1901) - Part 1

Queen Victoria (1838-1839) - Part 2

Queen Victoria (1841-1843) - Part 3

Queen Victoria (1843-1845) - Part 4

Queen Victoria (1846-1849) - Part 5

Queen Victoria (1850-1854) - Part 6

Queen Victoria (1855-1859) - Part 7

Queen Victoria (1860-1863) - Part 8

Queen Victoria (1863-1874) - Part 9

Queen Victoria (1871-1887 Mel/Syd) - Part 10

Queen Victoria (1871-1887 St George Lon) - Part 11

Queen Victoria (1871-1887 St George Mel/Syd) - Part 12

Queen Victoria (1893-1901 Widow) - Part 14

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