United Kingdom Gold Sovereigns

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United Kingdom Gold Sovereigns are literally the gold standard in British bullion coinage for much of the last thousand years of British mint history. Gold coin collectors are always interested in and seeking out these beautiful pieces. The British Royal Mint has been manufacturing such Gold Sovereigns since the reign of the infamous King Henry VIII six centuries ago. Throughout the intervening centuries, these coins have been minted on five different continents all around the British Empire on which the “sun never set.”

United Kingdom Gold Sovereigns Background and History

United Kingdom Gold Sovereigns originally ran in continuous production from the late 1400s through 1604 when the last of the original series was struck. The coin saw a second lease on life with the Great Recoinage of 1816 as the British government attempted to revitalize the national currency and economy after the Napoleonic Wars and French Revolution had finally ended. The first of the newer Gold Sovereigns appeared in 1817. They were struck on and off over the next century. From 1917 to 1957, the coin saw a restrike in 1925 as Winston Churchill labored to get the British Empire back to the stabilizing economic influence of the Gold Standard. In the years 1949 to 1951, the ever popular bullion standard coin again saw a revival as the Royal Mint struck them with the 1925 dies featuring the portrait of His late majesty King George V, rather than his contemporaneously reigning son King George VI. In 1957, the nation resumed its yearly production of the Gold Sovereigns consistently. Up through 1932, these stunning coins circulated heavily as the empire still ascribed to the Gold Standard.

There have never been remotely close to as many coins made in a competing coinage as the Royal Mint has struck in Gold Sovereigns. Over one billion of these lovely coins have been minted so far. These staggering numbers also include the ones which were melted down and re-struck as new coins. Many millions of them were also melted down by the U.S. into gold bars because of national regulations of the day. The average lifespan of the United Kingdom Gold Sovereigns has amounted to fifteen years. These coins have remained a worldwide accepted standard for international trade since the late 1400s, making them an unparalleled universally-recognized and -accepted form of payment for fully five centuries of modern history.

United Kingdom Gold Sovereigns have come in various sizes and denominations, but the most common one historically was the .2354 troy ounce version of a face value with one pound Gold Sovereign. The coins have usually featured a bust or portrait of the reigning monarch on the day of mintage. This makes them popular historical keepsakes as well as strong and dependable gold bullion investments. The most commonly minted version hails from the reign of King George V. These were struck around the empire from 1911 to 1932. Such coins all contained a left side facing bust of George V on the coin's obverse. In latin were inscribed phrases translating to “George the Fifth, by the Grace of God, King of all the Britons, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India.”

From the end of the Gold Standard officially in 1932 through today, these historical coins have been principally issued in the form of bullion coins. Bullion and proof quality versions of the coins began appearing after 1982. Since the second historical series of these circulating coins in 1817, Gold Sovereigns have been minted at international branches of the famed Royal Mint around the globe including London, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Ottawa, Bombay, and Pretoria. There is no more an internationally-struck historical world gold coin than the United Kingdom Gold Sovereigns. Mint marks include all of the various mints that made them in Australia, Canada, Britain, India, and South Africa.

United Kingdom Gold Sovereigns Physical Characteristics

United Kingdom Gold Sovereigns are today produced solely by the British Royal Mint in Llantrisant, Wales. They presently come in denominations of one pound sovereigns, double sovereigns, and five pound sovereigns. The first Gold Sovereigns bore a reverse image of a crown and shield motif that was surrounded by a heraldic wreath. Next in the series came the Medieval portrayal of the legendary Saint George killing the dragon. This 1817 series' feature the St. George and the Dragon imagery as designed by Benedetto Pistrucci, coin and gem engraver who attained the position of Chief Medalist for the Royal Mint. These reverses have varied during the reigns of King William IV, Queen Victoria, King George IV, and Queen Elizabeth II. Today's United Kingdom Gold Sovereigns still feature the original St. George and the dragon design.

Coin Design

The front side of coins is called the “obverse.” United Kingdom Gold Sovereigns' obverse today carries the portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. This is the second specially designed portrait of the Queen in her impressive so far 63 year long reign. The portrait is stamped deliberately off center for the first time to give the coins a greater collector demand.

Coin enthusiasts refer to the rear side of coins as the “reverse.” United Kingdom Gold Sovereigns feature a classical rendering of the St. George the Dragonslayer figure. He is heroically mounted atop his horse and in the process of slaying the dragon. This design is the historical one from the 1817 sovereigns second series revived issue designed by the legendary Benedetto Pistrucci.


These coins are struck today in a single, double, and five pounds denominated Gold Sovereign sizes. United Kingdom Gold Sovereigns' one pound denomination sizes are historically the most popular of these long-running series of coins. Their dimensions are as follows:

  • Mass:  .2354 troy oz
  • Diameter: 22.05 mm
  • Thickness:  1.52 mm
  • Purity: 91.70% gold

United Kingdom Gold Sovereigns Pricing

United Kingdom Gold Sovereigns come with a standard one pound face value, while larger sizes are struck in two and five pound denominations. These coins today are legal tender within Great Britain as they have been since they were originally struck in the late 1400s. Despite the smaller face value of these gold coins, their intrinsic value is far higher. Even the single pound sovereign coins have nearly a quarter ounce of gold within them. This is why their market value is mostly based on the spot price of gold in world markets.

The intrinsic value of gold more or less makes the market value of these coins as measured in an investment or retirement portfolio. These coins trade at some premium over spot gold because of their historical collectability and constant demand from collectors year in and out. The market value of the coins goes up and down every trading day along with the prices of gold. You can track today's current gold prices by going over to our homepage.

Can IRA Accounts Contain United Kingdom Gold Sovereigns?

The most important question about United Kingdom Gold Sovereigns for retirement investors has to do with whether or not these stunning coins are allowed to be included in American IRA accounts in any or all of their various incarnations. The coins have a long-standing tradition of a consistent nearly quarter ounce of pure gold at .9170 gold fineness. It is up to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service as to which bullion pieces may be included in such accounts. They use a rigorous dual standard on both gold purity and coin issue collectability to determine which coins pass muster for the self directed IRA accounts.

Opening such an account requires that you initially fund the precious metals IRA account with at least $5,000 worth of sanctioned gold and/or silver bullion. After this is done, you can always choose to add more in $1,000 or higher minimum increments. If you already own an IRA account now, you can relatively easily roll it over into a precious metals IRA. After your new bullion is received by your IRA account administrator, they will transport it to a third party IRS approved vaulting company which the IRS allows to hold IRA bullion coins and bars. These holdings will be maintained and safeguarded on your behalf until such a time as you give orders to sell them or take them as a distribution from your IRA retirement account.

Despite the fact that these are among the longest lasting and proven gold coin series with a tradition spanning five centuries back, the IRS disallows them in any of their sizes, dates, or denominations. The primary reason for this is because the coins do not meet the 99.5% exacting purity level with only 91.7% gold purity. Their long time collectibility would also ensure that the IRS quashed their inclusion in these accounts even if they contained the required gold purity. Despite the fact that these historical and stunning gold bullion pieces may not be included in your own IRA account, they make wonderful additions to other types of retirement and investment portfolios and collections. You are able to buy the new releases directly from the Royal Mint in Wales through their sophisticated website, and older versions from reputable coin and bullion dealers throughout the world.

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