3 - The King George V Sovereign 1911-1919 (Melbourne / Sydney)
We enter one of the most interesting series that of the Australian Branch mint sovereigns of George V. The mints of Melbourne, Perth and Sydney were all in full operation by the time George V came to the thrown in 1911. Although not quite reaching the dizzy production figures of the London mint in the early years, sovereigns were still struck in their millions. Finding 1911-1915 in EF/AUNC from all 3 mints should not prove too difficult. Bear in mind gold prices are near all time highs at time of writing with the gold content of a sovereign being £330 so even for these a budget of @£400 is required, but do make sure you buy the very best.
1911-S King George V Sydney struck sovereign (AUNC).
1916 sees the start of most difficult George V era (1916-1924) for collectors with none being particularly easy to find and some near impossible even for dealers like us. The situation is not helped by the ceasing of production at London in 1917, the low output of the Ottawa mint and declining production across all Australian mints. The situation for 1918 is slightly better with the introduction of the Bombay mint for that one year; as such expect this to be the most available of the mini series (1916-1924). Although the mintage figure of 4,809,493 for the 1918-M seem very healthy they are out numbered today by those struck at Bombay (1.3 million) which points to something like @80% no longer existing and it is a pattern repeated throughout the period. The most commonly seen 1916-1924 sovereigns will be those of the Perth mint which struck sovereigns for every year of the series years except 1932.
Before we enter the 1920's one particularly sovereign that catches my eye, is that of the 1919-M. With just 514,257 struck this is not an easy coin to find yet only rated as scarce by Marsh despite having similar or lower production figures than some of the very expensive years that follow. For something like £600-£700 this is sovereign which will only get harder to find and appeals as rather a steal at that price.
As we enter the early 1920's Perth is really the only mint to provide 1920-1924 without too many issues, although you will find 1920/22/23 without too much difficulty and at reasonable cost @£450, you will need to dig a little deeper for 1921 and 1924. The 1924 has never been a particularly easy date to fill despite all 3 of the Australian Mints producing sovereigns for this year, but Perth is the more abundant with the Melbourne coin very slightly scarcer. Prices for these are around £500-£600 for decent Good Very Fine / Extremely Fine examples. In contrast 1921 is a relatively recent addition to the list of years which are now a little harder to find or at least a little more expensive. 1921 being the birth year of Prince Phillip with his 100th due in 2021 this will become a centenary sovereign which has seen it attract a little more attention.
The 1920's sovereigns of Melbourne and Sydney are where the collector will require deeper and deeper pockets. We do not get off to an easy start with the 1920-M we have seen one example in the last 5 years so expect to pay @£3000 for grades approaching Extremely Fine and maybe more if a choice example. 1921-M and 1922-M are extremely rare coins with availability almost non existent with any examples attracting a lot of attention with valuations difficult on these with so few sales but @£7,000 - £8,000 for the 1922-M and @£10,000 for the 1921-M may just put both these in your collection. 1923/24/25-M provide some respect bite for the by now considerably drained of resources collector but again scarcer than coin catalogues suggest with prices of @£500, £600 and £450 respectively. 1926-M is another scarce coin despite its low valuation by Spink, although it is rated as Rare by Marsh with a 'official' mintage figure of just 211,107, expect this to cost @£500-£600 this is another of the underrated Melbourne Mint sovereigns, although not quite as scarce as one may believe. For this we may find clues in the mythical 1927-M quoted by Marsh as R2? Although the records state that 310,156 sovereigns bearing this date were commissioned it appears that none were struck or if they were did not leave the mint as there are no known examples. The most likely scenario is that any striking of the sovereign for 1927 at Melbourne was probably carried out with 1926-M dies. This would certainly seem to fit the availability of the 1926-M today as a total mintage of closer to 520,000 seems to fit the bill.
1926-M King George V Melbourne struck sovereign (Marsh R).
1928-M concludes the Melbourne large head series and is a rare coin with very few left in existence but we have sold 2 in the last couple of years @£2,000 should find a nice example. Similarly the first of the small head series 1929-M which may command a few hundred extra. The 1930-M is another somewhat bargain coin rated as Rare by Marsh and with a tiny mintage of 77,588 and still available at @£700-£800 really makes this a very attractive coin for the future. The final sovereign struck at the Melbourne mint was the 1931-M with a mintage figure of 57,809 so only slightly lower than the 1930-M is a rare if not excessively so coin with us seeing maybe 3 or 4 a year with a price tag of @£1000-£1500 for GEF/AUNC. Melbourne ceased production of the sovereign in late 1931 and none have been struck since.
1930-M King George V Melbourne struck sovereign (Marsh R).
Sydney 1920-1926 contains 2 of the most illusive and rare George V sovereigns of any series. The 1920-S rated by Marsh as R4 with again an 'official' mintage figure of 360,000 of those I understand that less than a dozen examples remain, all in private collections. I feel a R4 rating is far too optimistic and the coin is worthy of R6 with the last sale setting a new world record for a British coin (since exceeded by the £1 Million King Edward VIII Sovereign) as lot No 736 Bentley Collection sale London 2012/13 of £780,000 so you will need to dig very deep for this one. You will note the term I used is official mintage of 360,000 but clearly given the almost non existence of this coin today it is almost certain that only a handful were actually produced bearing the date 1920 at the Sydney Mint. Steve Hill formally of Baldwins gives some insight into this is his Bentley collection auction notes that accompanied the sale of this example. In summary very limited Royal Mint records exist, we know 22 reverse dies were shipped from London to Sydney and arrived in January 1920, it would appear that packing grease used for the journey solidified onto the dies and made them unusable at least 3 of the known examples exhibit a reddish, rusted tone to their reverses. If Sydney did strike 360,000 sovereigns in 1920 they could well have been from 1919-S reverse dies, but in truth no one knows for sure.
1921-S King George V Sydney struck sovereign (Marsh R3).
The 1921-S rated as R3 very rare by Marsh can be found at the relatively inexpensive price of @£1500-£2000 but you may find it a little more difficult securing a top grade example as many we have seen suffer from weak strikes almost obliterating the mintmark in some cases.
Both 1922-S and 1923-S are extremely rare coins neither of which we have had the opportunity of selling so prices are difficult to assess but you will need to put £20k on the table for both these to get the bidding started and expect final figures around £20,000-£30,000 per coin. The 1922-S is rated at R3 by Marsh and is the slightly cheaper of the 2 with 1923-S rated as R4 and almost certainly eating up all if not most of your £30,000 As ever with such seldom seen coins they will almost certainly turn up in auction rather than at a fixed sale and final prices will depend on just how desperately the coin is wanted and remember that its these sales which set book prices and not the other way around.
Back down to earth with the 1924-S rated as R3 by Marsh and slightly easier to find then the 1921-S, we see maybe 1 or 2 a year and you would be doing well if you could pick a good one up for @£1500. The 1925-S is rated as only Bullion value and common by Spink with a whopping mintage figure of 5,332,000 and although these are not too difficult to find they are certainly not available in anywhere near the quantity of their Pretoria or London counterparts. Don’t be put off paying @£450-£500 for a really nice example as certainly most have long since been melted down.
This leads us to the final sovereign struck at Sydney the 1926-S another extremely rare coin and if you have got this far you won’t mind the £30k-£40k price tag it costs. Again expect it to appear at auction with the final hammer price likely to set next years catalogue values. It is likely that the 7 Sydney Sovereigns dated 1920-1926 could well set the collector back around £1 million if purchased today.
If you still have any money left in the pot next month we will conclude the series of George V by taking a closer look at the Perth sovereigns 1916-1931 and those struck at Pretoria 1923-1932. Including a full list of mintages from the Australian and South African Mints.