The Historic Bicentenary of the World’s Most Famous Gold Coin

05/01/2017 15:06  |  Sovereigns

Marking exactly 200 years since the first ‘modern’ Sovereign was released, The Royal Mint’s new 2017 Solid Gold Proof edition is the year’s most sought-after UK release. As the world’s most famous gold coin, it is testament to the immaculate quality and exceptional craftsmanship of The Royal Mint, whose renown dates back centuries.

Originally struck in 1489 during the reign of King Henry VII, the Sovereign was decommissioned early in the reign of James I. But over 200 years later in 1817, the little known gem engraver Benedetto Pistrucci, was commissioned to create a new design for the revival of the majestic coin.

Originally from Rome, the Italian engraver came to England in 1815 under the patronage of the Prince Regent. His exceptional talent was soon recognised and he was appointed to design new coinage for King George III. However, it is his magnificent interpretation of the legendary Saint George slaying the Dragon in a glorious triumph of good over evil for which he is remembered today. His classical rendition of England’s patron saint moved away from the traditional medieval style portrayal, and proved so popular that it has featured on more modern day Sovereigns than any other design.

The new ‘200th Anniversary’ edition of the UK’s flagship gold coin has been struck in Solid 22-Carat Gold to the highest Proof finish and features Pistrucci’s original ‘George and the Dragon’ masterpiece. Using tools remastered from the very ones the designer himself used, the new coin replicates the 1817 version perfectly, complete with original garter border and inscription ‘HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE’, which translates to ‘Evil unto him that thinks evil of it’. The obverse features Jody Clark’s fifth definitive portrait of Queen Elizabeth II and, most unusually, the coin’s year of issue; the first time since 1887 that the date appears on the obverse.

Changes to the UK’s most famous coin are incredibly rare, and those that include a unique design are among the world’s most coveted coins. For example, a previous anniversary version issued in 1989 has since become one of the most in demand issues of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, and is now worth approximately £2,000. Indeed, in just a matter of weeks the new 2017 Proof Sovereign officially sold out at The Mint, making it a must-have addition to any numismatic collection.

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