2 - The Proof Sovereign 1887 -1937
(Originally written in 2008 this article is currently being revised)
We continue our look at the proof sovereign with the 1887 Queen Victoria Golden Jubilee Head coin. The sovereign features the Joachim E. Boeham designed queen’s effigy and classic Pistrucci St George and Dragon reverse with long tail and small B.P. The initials J.E.B can be found in the truncation as in the currency version but unlike that type the proof version only appears with the repositioned crown as far as we know that is? The coin is of cameo type and has frosted detail on mirrored fields with edge milling and although these not going to be found in bullion batches from a proof perspective can only be considered as scarce rather than rare. With that said finding a top example will not be easy as most have collected considerable hairlines from cleaning but they do exist in near FDC condition so its worth holding out for a nice one. There is also a Sydney struck version of this coin but it is extremely rare and very seldom seen and I would expect it to be in the region of 4 or 5 times more expensive.
S.3866 Queen Victoria (Jubilee Head) : 1887 plain edge proof sovereign.
The 1887 coin is really the only accessible proof Jubilee head for most collectors but there are others 1888 / 1889 / 1891 and a 1892 which you can see at the Asmolean Museum, all exist with rarity ratings of 7 and all will command significant 5 figure sums. Although I have not seen one I also believe that the coin exists in platinum for 1890 but whether this was an official proof or not is open to question?
In 1893 the new Victorian coinage featuring the Thomas Brock designed veiled head or widow head was introduced along with a proof sovereign of that date. The coin itself was struck in the same manner as the Jubilee Head with edge milling and the initials T.B this time below the bust. The 1893 proof sovereign is somewhat more difficult to find then its 1887 cousin although the same rules apply regarding hairlines and again waiting for the best example would be prudent. Unlike the Jubilee head coin there are no known proofs for other years in this series although a pattern or trial sovereign exists for 1893 designed by Allan Wyon.
The first of the generally available Matt proof sovereigns appeared in 1902 to mark the coronation of King Edward VII. In the opposite process to producing highly polished dies the die of a matt proof is actually roughened using a similar technique to sand blasting. The result is a coin which looks to have a matt finish to all surfaces, this type of coin does not have frosted detail. The effigy again bears the designers initials De S. (G. W. De Saulles) just below a left facing King with the reverse being that of Pistrucci’s classic design small B.P and long tail. One thing to note about these is that they are good pointers as to what detail should be expected on a good grade currency type coin, Edward VII was not bald although his hair was thin and closely shaven the detail can clearly be seen on a good proof sovereign and is often the first detail to be lost on the standard coin. There is another proof Edward VII sovereign produced in 1906 similar in design and detail to the 1902 but with a rarity rating of 7 it will not come cheap with the only example I am aware being still with its makers the Royal Mint.
S.3969 King Edward VII : 1902 milled edge matt proof sovereign.
King George V’s 1911 coronation was again marked with the production of a proof sovereign designed by Bertram Mackennal and the initials B.M. can be found just below the truncation of George V facing to the right. The coin is neither a matt proof nor a frosted cameo on mirrored fields like previous Victorian proofs rather somewhere in between. It has somewhat duller or flatter fields to its Victorian counterparts but is highly polished and there is no frosting to the detail on this coin, its important as there is also an extremely rare 1911 matt proof sovereign again housed within the Royal Mint collection with a rarity rating of 7. With a mintage figure of 3750 the 1911 is a tad more difficult to find then the 1902 but still reasonable priced for a nice example and due to their finish do not suffer as much in the hairline department as the Victorian proofs but one should look closely for lines which appear to go in one direction across the coin as this indicates it has been cleaned rather to vigorously with an abrasive cloth. The matt proof version of this coin is unlikely to surface but if it does it is likely to command a significant 5 figure sum. Unlike earlier reigns there were no more proof sovereigns struck until the next monarch.
A quick mention of King Edward VIII there were no proof sovereigns produced for the new king but there were a very small number of pattern sovereigns struck and are extremely rare, again if you want to see one there is one in the Royal mint collection.
Upon the abdication of Edward, King George VI assumed the thrown in 1937 and 5001 proof sovereigns were produced. These were a return to the cameo highly polished mirrored field with frosted detail type last seen in Victoria’s reign. The coin itself again showed a right facing King designed by Humphrey Paget with the initials H.P. in field just below the truncation.
S.4076 King George VI : 1937 plain edge proof sovereign.
The reverse was the by now standard Pistrucci designed St George and Dragon with small B.P in exergue. The coin has become very desirable over the last 10 years with prices rocketing for nice examples. Beware these were not encapsulated and many have suffered quite badly with cleaning and rough handling over the years, but a number of top grade examples do still exist. There is again a matt proof sovereign for this year which all I can you tell you is housed within a private collection somewhere and as you have already guessed extremely rare and expensive.