14 - The Queen Victoria Widow Head Sovereign 1893-1901
The Widow or Veiled head coinage marks the end of the Victorian era which spanned 64 years now the second longest of any remaining British Monarch to our present Queen Elizabeth II. The Royal Mint took the decision to replace the somewhat unpopular Jubilee bust sovereign, 6 designs were submitted by Royal Academy sculptors. The now famous Thomas Brock design was chosen to much acclaim, and was engraved into metal by the mints chief engraver George W De Saulles, who would later go on himself to design the obverse of the King Edward VII coinage. The Widow head coinage includes the initials T.B. under the queens bust, with new legend now including 'Empress of India'.
1893 Queen Victoria Widow head sovereign - London Mint
The first thing to say about the widow head series is there are no known varieties it appears from 1893 the minting process had progressed so that these did not occur or at least none escaped the mints clutches. The sovereigns of the series were struck in great numbers so that almost all dates can be found in bullion batches. Unlike earlier Victorian sovereigns finding good examples of most dates is not difficult either although you will still struggle to find coins that can truly be classed as unc. These will be at a premium and with the gold content of a sovereign currently @£280 you can expect to pay @£350 for 1899/1900/1900 with early dates a touch more. In particular the 1897 which was not Struck in London may cause you the most trouble as it’s always the least seen in any batch and as such is much harder to find in top grade so expect to pay up to £400.
So far we have not mentioned mints this is mainly because there is not a lot of difference in value between them but suggest all 9 dates will be slightly more difficult to acquire in Sydney mint then Melbourne but not painfully so. Before moving on to the arrival of the Perth mint one thing to mention about the widow series is that there is evidence that 2 different types of blanks were used giving rise to some examples which exhibit proof like fields with others a more matt finish similar to that of later sovereigns.
The Royal Mint Perth Australia the 3rd and final Australian Branch mint.
Perth, the 3rd and final Australian mint followed the discovery of gold in Western Australia and the subsequent granting of colonial government in 1890. Permission for a new mint was given by the Royal Mint of London in 1894. The new mint which was originally due to be completed and striking coins by 1897 didn't actually become operational until 20th June 1899, having been dogged by delays in construction.
Just 690,992 sovereigns were struck bearing that date, compared to 7.5 million in London, 5.5m and 3.2m from Sydney and Melbourne respectively. The 1899-P is the only coin within the entire series which can be classified as rare and when they do turn up it’s almost exclusively in Fine or Very Fine grades. Something approaching Extremely Fine is likely to set the collector back @£1000 with @unc closer to £2000. High grade examples of 1900-P and 1901-P will command a little more than the equivalent year from other mints but not excessively so.
The Rare 1899 Perth struck Queen Victoria Widow Head Sovereign.
As we close the Victorian sovereign era which has seen us go through 4 different coin designs and the opening of 3 branch mints it’s a good time to mention grading. A truly uncirculated Victorian sovereign is an extremely difficult coin to find even within the widow head series almost all that are reported to me as unc are actually no better than Extremely Fine. With the introduction of online auction sites has come the very lucrative business of over grading. With rare sovereigns doubling in price from a jump of just one grade increasing its value by many hundreds or even thousands of pounds the collector should be very wary parting with their money. A collector should always ensure they deal with established dealers who will offer a full money refund should you not be happy with your purchase.
Collectors should also be mindful of sovereigns which have previously been used in jewellery. This was a very popular practice in the Victorian era, and is most recognisable from previous solder marks often causing areas of edge milling to be removed.
Widow head sovereign series 1893-1901
Obverse Design : Queen’s veiled head crowned facing to the left, type often described as the 'Old or Widow head series'. Garter Riband and Star, initials 'T.B.' below truncation denoting engraver Thomas Brock.
Obverse Legend : VICTORIA.DEl.GRA.BRITT.REGINA.FID.DEF.IND.IMP.
by the Grace of God King of the Britons, Defender of the Faith, Empress of India.
Reverse Design : St.George mounted with sword attacking the dragon, date appears below the exergue (ground) line at the bottom with the small letters B.P. to the right. The mintmark where applicable located in centre of ground line above date area.