1 - The King George V Sovereign 1911-1932 (London)
King George V Part 1 - London
George V (George Frederick Ernest Albert; 3 June 1865 – 20 January 1936) was King of the United Kingdom and Emperor of India, from 6 May 1910 until his death in 1936. George V was born 3rd inline to the throne behind his father Prince Albert Edward (King Edward VII), and elder brother Prince Albert Victor. Eddy (Prince Albert Victor) as referred to by later biographers died in 1892 just 28yrs old falling prey to the influenza pandemic of 1889-1892. His short life was not without scandal having been named by male prostitutes under interrogation in 1889.
In 1917 George V became the first monarch of the House of Windsor, which he renamed from the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha as a result of anti-German public sentiment. George V's reign saw the rise of socialism and the Labour movement which would radically change the political landscape.
The 22 date series of George V contain some of the most common sovereign seen to some of the very rarest and is the only reign to have all 7 mints in operation. No sovereigns were struck for the final 5 years of George V’s reign and although all mints operated during this time no one mint did so throughout the period. Therefore collections of all 22 dates must include at least 2 with the most complete date range available from the Perth mint which struck all but one year 1932 which only exists as a South African struck coin.
Before we start our journey through this very interesting series I feel it’s necessary to show dates and mints where coins were struck and give a quick guide to rarity. We are often contacted by collectors looking for sovereigns which do not exist or claiming to have examples of dates for mints which were not in operation. If you have deep enough pockets the entire series totals 52 sovereigns.
Note: the correct use of mint locations rather than countries which you often see, Bombay / India, Ottawa / Canada and Pretoria is South Africa.
If it’s blank in the above table that coin simply does not exist and if you have an example then it is likely to be a forgery something that the George series suffers from heavily.
The extremely common (Marsh No213) 1911 London Struck King George V Sovereign
We will start the series with a look at the London struck coins, 1911-1915 are all extremely common sovereigns struck not only in their millions but tens of millions with the 1914 be the lowest mintage of a mere 11,5 million. With so many around the collector should have no difficulty in finding truly top class examples for just the dealer’s premium over the gold content. 1916 is quite a different matter this is a scarce if not rare coin with a mintage of just 1.5million, you may find one of these in a bullion batch if you are very lucky but this will be of poor grade and probably a coin rejected in the past. A good example of EF and above will set the collector back around £450 which still represents good value for a coin that is becoming harder to find. The date in the series 1917 needs no introduction although it’s not the rarest George V sovereign but is the most enquired about. The mintage figure for this coin is 1,014,740 which should not suggest it to be particularly rare but it is certain that very few survive today. World War 1 meant that Britain was in considerable debt mainly to the United States and it appears that these were paid in London struck sovereigns which were then melted down. The sheer number of early London sovereigns means they still exist in abundance today with values not much greater than bullion value, but 1916, 1917 and 1925 were severely affected. The 1917 is the most faked and often forged sovereign of any date or mint and even experienced collectors need to be very wary when purchasing, and should only consider examples from reputable dealers and if possible their history should be known. Given the number of fakes which turn up on online auction sites the ratio is probably 10 forgeries to every genuine example, its not unknown for these to sell at @£500-£600 with collectors simply taking a gamble at odds of 10/1 not something I would recommend. A genuine example will set the collector back £10-£15k but don’t be surprised to see these prices surpassed if the coin comes from a known collection. The Bentley collection example sold as lot 363 realised a price of £13,200 in 2012 / 13.
A typical example of a fake or forged (Marsh No219) 1917 London struck Sovereign.
Before we move on to the last date in the London series it is possible to have a 1917 checked and verified and is something well worth considering. Tests can be done to show where the gold originates from as we know from Ansell gold differs in its constituents from region to region. Be warned that coins sent for analysis can be away for a number of months before return.
This brings us to our last London Struck sovereign that of 1925 with an original mintage of 3,520,431 the coin was initially quite scarce due to the reintroduction of the gold standard in 1925 which meant that for the first time since 1914 banks were compelled to exchange notes for gold sovereigns if requested. More than £91 million worth of sovereigns were melted during 1929 and 1930. The melting down of large quantities of sovereigns was nothing new and had happened widely in Australia previously and this is the main reason why some coins with apparently good mintage rates are rare today. The story of the 1925 sovereign is further complicated by George VI in 1949-1951 when to the dismay of many collectors the decision was made to restrike sovereigns from the dies of 1925 and some 900,000 were added over the period. As such the 1925 London coin is no longer scarce and all sovereigns bearing the date 1925 are treated equally. The question is can you tell them apart? Well it would appear that 1925’s appear in low and high rim type and those with the more pronounced rim generally tend to be the better coins, so yes highly likely.
King George V sovereign series 1911-1925 (London)
Obverse Design : King bare head (Large) facing left, initials B.M. denoting engraver Edgar Bertram Mackennal raised in truncation.
Obverse Legend : GEORGIVS V D:G:BRITT:OMN:REX:F:D:IND:IMP:
George the Fifth, 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. The date appears below the exergue line at the bottom with the letters B.P. to the right.
Total Number of sovereigns struck at the Tower Mint London for King George V = 123,673,360. The 1925 mintage figures includes @900,000 struck in 1949/52. the original number struck was 3,520,431. Next month we start our journey through the branch mints beginning with the short but exciting series of the Ottawa mint Canada.