One of the oldest, most popular and well regarded gold bullion coins is the British Gold Sovereign. It is over 500 years old, the first one being issued in 1489 and is produced every year by the Royal Mint. In the past the gold sovereign has been used in general circulation, but nowadays the gold sovereign is simply a Gold bullion coin. The modern full gold sovereign was minted from 1817 and is also available in half, quarter and double versions.
The modern full gold sovereign (minted from 1817) contains 0.2354 troy ounces of gold, has a diameter of 22.05 mm, thickness of 1.4 mms and an overall weight of 7.9881 grams. The early design featured a shield and crown on the reverse.
The modern gold sovereign always carries the same design of Saint George slaying a dragon on horseback, with the mint year at the bottom under the design. This design was produced by Benedetto Pistrucci a distinguished Italian Gem-engraver, Medalist and Coin-engraver who later became Chief Medalist at the Royal Mint. The only changes to this in recent times were in 1989 which has a 500th anniversary design, 2002 for the golden jubilee, and 2005 when a more stylized version of the dragon design was used for a year.
The obverse side of the coin features Ian Rank-Broadly’s image of HM Queen Elizabeth II.
Though the gold sovereign is quite a small coin by modern standards, it is estimated that the face value of £1 it had in 1895, is equivalent to the same purchasing power as £150 in 2007.
In the motion picture From Russia with Love (1963), James Bond is issued a travel briefcase with 50 gold sovereigns hidden in a secret compartment. The coins have also been issued to RAF pilots in recent times (for example in the gulf war) as part of their bailout kit to help them buy their way to safety if shot down behind enemy lines.
Gold Sovereign Technical Specifications
The Gold sovereign's intrinsic value is determined, by the gold content, however, Sovereigns usually trade at a signifiacntly higher premium to the gold price than some other bullion coins such as the Krugerrand. This is due to the higher unit cost of the Sovereign, the higher demand for the Sovereign from collectors, and the higher costs of identifying and stocking a numismatic coin.
At time of writing for UK residents the Gold Sovereign was exempt from Capital gains tax as well as the Gold Britannia.