1 - The King Edward VII Sovereign 1902-1910
Following our marathon run through Victoria’s 64 years of rule we now enter the somewhat shorter reign of King Edward VII 1901 – 1910.
King Edward VII 1902-1910
Albert Edward as he was christened was born at Buckingham Palace 9th November 1841 eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. King Edward VII ascended to the throne upon the death of Queen Victoria on 22nd January 1901, by which time he was 59 years old. His long wait as heir apparent earned him a reputation as something of a playboy which was not well received by his mother. Despite this English novelist J. B. Priestley recalled later, "I was only a child when he succeeded Victoria in 1901, but I can testify to his extraordinary popularity. He was in fact the most popular king England had known since the earlier 1660s." King Edward's VII coronation went ahead on August 9th 1902 after initially being planned for June 6th a postponement forced by the new king falling ill with appendicitis. Although named officially as Albert Edward he choose to rule under the name Edward VII stating that he did not wish to "undervalue the name of Albert" and diminish the status of his father with whom the "name should stand alone".
Edward died on 6th May 1910 at the age of 68yrs at the place of his birth Buckingham Palace. During his later years he increasingly suffered from bronchitis which lead to him having several heart attacks on the day of his death. Refusing to take to his bed, saying, "No, I shall not give in; I shall go on; I shall work to the end." It is reported that the Kings final words were "Yes, I have heard of it. I am very glad" after being told of his horse 'Witch of the Air' win at Kempton Part that afternoon.
1902 King Edward VII London Struck 'Matt Proof' Sovereign
The Edward series consists of just nine dates but does see the introduction of the 4th branch mint in Ottawa, Canada in 1908. The first thing to note about all Edward VII coins is that the G W De Saulles effigy of the king is seen facing right this is something which is shared with our present Queen but not Victoria, Geo V or VI whom all faced left. De Saulles died suddenly in 1903 after a short illness while working and preparing models for the Great Seal of Edward VII.
The sovereign reverse sticks with the now classic Pistrucci St George and Dragon design. Before we move on to the circulation type coins a quick mention of the 2 proof sovereigns produced in 1902. These can only be considered as scarce as they turn up quite often and are normally in high grades of Extremely Fine or better with a mintage of between 15,000-15,500, however the same cannot be said about its Sydney twin which is an extremely rare coin. As for values the London Matt Proof can be found for £700-£900 without too much difficulty. I have never seen a Sydney type proof sovereign or for that matter heard of one becoming available, they are as described 'Extremely Rare'. Both 1902 proof sovereigns have a Matt surface finish unlike all previous proof coins which exhibit highly polished fields and frosted cameos, it is easy to miss this within bullion batches.
The first thing to say about the standard circulation sovereign is that Edward VII was not bald but did in fact have a tightly cropped head of fair hair. This is really the key to grading Edward VII sovereigns as you can see on the proof example a top grade example will show this and even the slightest amount of wear will degrade the hair detail. Although Edward Sovereigns exist in very large numbers it is still very difficult to find one which has suffered no wear or does not have significant bag marking (marks and scores cause by prolonged storage in bank vaults in bags of thousands of other sovereigns). Another thing to note is that many of the later sovereigns were weakly struck due to the sheer volume produced.
Leaving aside the Ottawa mint and dealing with coins struck in London and Australia, the series can be split into 2. Dates from 1902 – 1906 are slightly harder to find than 1907 – 1910 an average batch of 100 bullion Edwards will yield around @70% of the latter. The mints of London, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney struck all 9 dates and unlike other series it is possible to collect complete date runs of each. Although London mintage figures suggest this is the easiest date set to compile we find it is often 2nd to Melbourne but these are certainly ahead of Perth which can provide a little more difficulty on the early dates but does seem to dominate 1908. The hardest date run to put together is that of Sydney, again later dates will not be the problem but good crisp examples of 1902-1907 may cause a few issues. With the price of gold @£300 per sovereign at time of writing the collector really should expect to pay @£400 a coin for grades of @Extremely Fine and £425-£450 for the more difficult Sydney dates in something close to uncirculated.
The New Branch Mint of 'Ottawa; Canada Opened January 1908
The Canadian branch mint in Ottawa opened in January 1908 but only issued 633 sovereigns although the mintage logs state 678 were actually struck as Marsh suggests the difference is likely due to those rejected. We know that 10 of the sovereigns struck were sent for Pyx trial. It is noted that the Bentley Collection catalogue states that 636 were produced and that only 626 remained after the Pyx trial coins.
It seemed that controversy surrounded the actual type of sovereign issued with most literature referring to them as entirely proof coins of satin finish. Michael Marsh who is sadly no longer with us stated quite adamantly that they exist in both proof and currency types, having seen only 6 examples to date I am not in a position to confirm the existence of the currency type coin, and again the Bentley Collection catalogue states all were of Proof type. The Satin proof finish is really a half way house between the Matt 1902 proof sovereigns and the standard issue coin so its not really surprising that doubt existed. With such a low number of sovereigns struck any 1908-C is highly collectable and sought after, most probably still exist but remain in cherished collections across the globe.
Back in 2008 when I wrote my first set of articles I noted that "only one or two make their way on to the market each year" well since then they all but seem to have disappeared and I have not seen one for a number of years now. In 2012 one did sell as lot No879 of the Bentley collection it realised a price of £8400, I would expect a similar example today to fetch significantly more maybe £10,000 - £12,000.
1910-C King Edward VII Ottawa Struck circulation Sovereign
The Ottawa issued 1909-C and 1910-C sovereigns are very difficult to find with tiny mintage figures of just 16,300 and 28,020 respectively. As with all Canadian struck sovereigns the modern collector has really given availability a severe beating over the past decade and as such although the 1910 is slightly easier to find good examples of either will set you back @£1000 each, this is roughly double that of a decade ago. One more coin of interest before we leave the Edward VII series is the 1909 extremely rare satin proof. Very limited information exists on this coin, there are no mintage figures, therefore the limited number that exist are likely to have been included in the paltry total mintage for 1909, and it is probable that these were struck early in 1909 as the finish matches exactly that of the official 1908-C proof issue. One of these did sell again at the Bentley collection sale and realised a price of £9360. I think it is likely that of the few examples produced most have long since been lost within the standard issue sovereigns, its certainly one to watch out for.
King Edward VII sovereign series 1902-1910
Obverse Design : King bare head facing right to the right, initials DeS denoting engraver George William De Saulles below centre truncation.
Obverse Legend : EDWARDVS VII D:G:BRITT:OMN:REX:F:D:IND:IMP:
Edward the Seventh, by the Grace of God, King of all the Britains, Defender of the Faith, Emperor 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.