3 - Proof Sovereigns HM Queen Elizabeth II 1953-2009

Although most collectors will see 1979 as the birth place of the modern proof sovereign, there were actually quite a few before then. All are extremely rare with tiny mintage figures and are almost exclusively held in major collections.

The 1953 Proof sovereign featured the Mary Gillick designed Queens Effigy with the classic Pistrucci St George and Dragon reverse. Although this design was adopted for the currency sovereign introduced in 1957 the words BRITT OMN were omitted from the legend after 1953, and all subsequent Pre Decimal head sovereigns are known as the second issue type. In addition to the 1953, proof examples also exist for 1957, 1958, and 1959, both Matt and frosted cameo types exist for 1963. Needless to say that they are all extremely rare with only a few examples of each known, with the most extensive collection housed within the Royal Mint Collection. These are rarely seen at public auctions, although examples of the 1958 and both versions of the 1963 did appear in the Bentley collection sale. If any do surface you can expect price tags of £10k-£20k for 1957-1963. I understand that there is only one known example of a 1953 sovereign in private hands,  HM the Queen has one, and another is housed within the Royal Mint collection, so I wish you luck in encouraging either to sell to you.

Although it has been catalogued as proof or VIP special striking, the 1976 sovereign only appears to exist as a trial or experimental 'pattern' coin. The coin of which there are only 2 confirmed examples exhibits polished proof surfaces but does not have the frosting generally associated with other proof sovereigns. The only example in public hands was sold as part of the Bentley collection sale for £19,200 back in 2012. I would not be surprised if its value had not doubled in that time especially with the huge interest in the proof coin market today.

For most collectors the modern era of the proof sovereign does not really begin until 1979 when some 50,000 were produced. The second bust sovereign designed by Arnold Machin, incidentally the only bust not to carry the designers initials since 1830. The coin itself is of standard proof type, highly polished flans with frosted detail. Proof Sovereigns struck from 1979-1982 were supplied in leatherette wallets  with insert card, they did not appear boxed until 1983, although the new certificate did state the mintage total they were not given individual numbers until 1985. As for prices, these have gained appeal over the last couple of years, and years like 1979 are not that easy to find, so 1979-1984 will be £500 - £600.

The Arnold Machin 2nd Bust Obverse sovereign complete with original leatherette wallet. The wallets were different colours for each year until 1983, 1979 - Blue / 1980 - Green /1981 - Orange / 1982 - Black.

With the end of bullion sovereign production in 1982, sovereigns dated 1983-1999 which includes the entire 3rd bust design by Raphael David Maklouf were only available in proof version. Added to that the comparative small mintages of just 4000-10,000, they have become highly sought after with values rising still further over the past few years, prices range from @£600 for 1985/6/7/8 with 1990 onwards ranging from £600-£700 for dates such as 1990/1/4/5/6/7/8. The 1992 and 1993 are the most expensive with the 1992 very slightly ahead of the 1993, both priced from @£800 and I have seen PCGS slabbed examples on sale for over £1000 which is probably pushing the boat out a little, but it does go to show that proof coins in general are on the up.

1985-1997 Raphael David Maklouf Queen Elizabeth II 3rd Bust obverse design.

One glance at the table below tells you that sovereigns with one off designs tend to perform better in the market place, and this is certainly the case for superbly worked Bernard Sindall designed 1989 500th anniversary sovereign which is perhaps one of the most beautiful British coins produced by the Royal Mint, and it’s a fact not missed on the collector as prices have risen substantially over the last decade to @£1700.

The superb 1989 500th Anniversary of the sovereign designed by Bernard Sindall, a reworking of the original 1489 coin.

1998 saw the introduction of the Ian Rank-Broadley designed 4th bust, and for the 1st 2 dates proofs were again the only versions available, the BU sovereign did not re-emerge until 2000. All but 3 of the IRB dates, 2002, 2005,2012 carry the classic St George and dragon reverse seen on the previous Maklouf series.

1998 First year of issue Ian Rank-Broadley (IRB) 4th Queen Elizabeth II Bust obverse design.

2002: Shield design based on the original Victorian (1838-1887) Ensigns Armorial with plain shield surrounded by laurel leaves and crown. The initials TN denoting designer Timothy Noad placed within laurel leaves to the right of the shield.

2005: Contemporary design of St George slaying the dragon with sword and carrying shield. Design by Timothy Noad although his initials do not appear on the coin. The date below wing of the dragon slightly to the left of center.

Modern Proof sovereigns generally stay in their protective capsules and are well looked after by their owners and although a few may get melted down over the years the vast majority will remain unlike bullion coins which can see almost entire years wiped out. That is the good part, the bad part is that mintages are tiny in comparison and 5000-6000 collectors’ worldwide means the coin almost disappears off the market or is subject to hefty inflation as the 1989 example pays tribute to. In short you can expect demand for the modern proof sovereign to continue with many still quite affordable and relatively insulated from any downward movement in the gold price. As we will see in next months article this is not a trend that has been missed by the Royal Mint who have stepped up production of proof coins in general over the past decade.

Originally written in 2009, the table below gives information on every year of issue up to 2009 including mintage figures and what the collector should expect to pay to acquire them. I thought it would be of interest to leave my original values as a comparison.

 

Mintage

Obverse Design

Reverse Design

Type

2009

2020

1979

50,000

Arnold Machin 

Classic St George Dragon

2nd Bust

£230

£600

1980

81,200

Arnold Machin 

Classic St George Dragon

2nd Bust

£230

£550

1981

32,960

Arnold Machin 

Classic St George Dragon

2nd Bust

£230

£550

1982

20,000

Arnold Machin 

Classic St George Dragon

2nd Bust

£250

£550

1983

21,250*

Arnold Machin 

Classic St George Dragon

2nd Bust

£250

£550

1984

12,880

Arnold Machin 

Classic St George Dragon

2nd Bust

£260

£550

1985

11,393

Raphael David Maklouf

Classic St George Dragon

3rd Bust

£300

£600

1986

5,079

Raphael David Maklouf

Classic St George Dragon

3rd Bust

£300

£600

1987

9,979

Raphael David Maklouf

Classic St George Dragon

3rd Bust

£300

£600

1988

7,670

Raphael David Maklouf

Classic St George Dragon

3rd Bust

£300

£600

1989

10,535

Bernard Sindall

Queen Seated / Tudor Rose

500th

£1200

£1750

1990

4,767

Raphael David Maklouf

Classic St George Dragon

3rd Bust

£350

£650

1991

4,713

Raphael David Maklouf

Classic St George Dragon

3rd Bust

£350

£675

1992

4,772

Raphael David Maklouf

Classic St George Dragon

3rd Bust

£350

£875

1993

4,349

Raphael David Maklouf

Classic St George Dragon

3rd Bust

£375

£800

1994

4,998

Raphael David Maklouf

Classic St George Dragon

3rd Bust

£350

£700

1995

7,500

Raphael David Maklouf

Classic St George Dragon

3rd Bust

£350

£650

1996

7,500

Raphael David Maklouf

Classic St George Dragon

3rd Bust

£350

£650

1997

7,500

Raphael David Maklouf

Classic St George Dragon

3rd Bust

£350

£700

1998

10,000

Ian Rank-Broadley

Classic St George Dragon

4th Bust

£350

£600

1999

10,000

Ian Rank-Broadley

Classic St George Dragon

4th Bust

£400

£600

2000

9,909

Ian Rank-Broadley

Classic St George Dragon

4th Bust

£290

£600

2001

8,915

Ian Rank-Broadley

Classic St George Dragon

4th Bust

£280

£600

2002

12,500

Ian Rank-Broadley

Timothy Noad – Shield

4th Bust

£375

£725

2003

12,433

Ian Rank-Broadley

Classic St George Dragon

4th Bust

£280

£600

2004

10,175

Ian Rank-Broadley

Classic St George Dragon

4th Bust

£280

£600

2005

12,500

Ian Rank-Broadley

Timothy Noad – St G &D

4th Bust

£375

£750

2006

9,195

Ian Rank-Broadley

Classic St George Dragon

4th Bust

£280

£600

2007

10,000

Ian Rank-Broadley

Classic St George Dragon

4th Bust

£285

£600

2008

12,500

Ian Rank-Broadley

Classic St George Dragon

4th Bust

£275

£600

2009

12,500

Ian Rank-Broadley

Classic St George Dragon

4th Bust

£300

£600


  * 1983 includes proof sovereigns issued within sets all other years are for those issued singularly with presentation boxes and certificates. In addition to the mintages quoted, proof sovereigns are also included in 3 and 4 coin proof sets, these appear on the market when sets are split and if the collector is happy to have a coin without original certificate they can provide savings of 10-15%.

Proof Sovereigns (1817-1887) - Part 1

Proof Sovereigns (1887-1937) - Part 2

Proof Sovereigns (2010-Date) - Part 4

Return to - Knowledge Base Home