The gold Sovereign was legal tender between 1817 and 1814. During this period , over a billion coins of various denominations were minted . While one of the most common means of payment in Continental Europe, the French franc , only 600 million coins were minted.
At the height of the British Empire, the sovereign was used as a means of payment in more than 30 countries. No other currency in human history has been used on a larger scale.
Thanks to the stability of the gold standard and the sovereign in particular, during this almost a century the British enjoyed an unprecedented rise in the standard of living . A Bank of England report shows that the price level is falling by 30%, while real wages are rising by almost three times. Britons have never before experienced such stability of personal finances. In the last century, real wages have only increased twice.
The End Of The Sovereign And The World Wars
Paradoxically, its use was discontinued for the exact opposite reason for which it was created. After guaranteeing the country’s financial stability for a century , the sovereign ceased to be legal tender with Great Britain’s entry into the First World War on August 4, 1914. The reason was that the population, frightened by the conflict , withdrew physical gold again, causing the Bank of England’s reserves to collapse by 60% in just three days .
In its place, notes with a face value of one pound and 10 shillings were created. With this, gold coins are no longer used in day-to-day transactions in the country. The Bank of England could withdraw all gold, which had a face value of over £100 million, from circulation.
However, the sovereign continued to be struck until 1925 in London (with a break after 1917) and until 1932 in the former colonies. The main reason is that they are used as reserves by the Bank of England and for British foreign debt payments.
Two limited editions were produced in the late 1930s and 1940s. The second depicts King George VI (father of Elizabeth II), but was made using dies from 1925. But the 1930s coins, which are the most limited series in history, they become recorders.
The Most Expensive British Gold Coin In History
Edward VIII was on the throne for less than a year – from 20 January to 11 December 1936 and was the shortest reign in British history. He was also the first ruler to abdicate and the first to insist on being depicted on coins in left profile like his predecessor because he liked it better. During this short period the Royal Mint managed to produce a very small number of coins bearing his image, none of which entered circulation.
After the abdication, they were collected in a box and hidden in the office of the deputy director of an institution. They remained there until the 1970s, when most became part of the Mint Museum. But it seems that some of the coins ended up in the possession of private individuals. Thus, in 2020, a sovereign coin with the face of King Edward VIII was sold to a private collector for £1 million , making it the most expensive British coin in history. A year later, however, another sovereign Edward VIII coin, with a face value of £5, which sold for £1.65 million .
Restoration Of The Sovereign Under Elizabeth II
With the accession of Elizabeth I to the throne of Great Britain in 1952, the Royal Mint prepares the first new series of coins. Their circulation is extremely limited and today they are kept in the British Royal Collection at the Royal Mint. Series production began four years later. Not only is the Queen reintroducing this popular coin, she is also the monarch with the most portraits engraved on the sovereign – five over seven decades. Over 80 million coins were produced during this interval.
There are many reasons for reissuing the legendary coin. The stoppage of production during the First World War created a vacuum in the markets and the demand for gold increased. Therefore, some countries issue almost identical copies of the sovereign for example Saudi Guinea (7.3217 g pure gold, fine .917), produced between 1950 and 1957. But one of them is the fight against counterfeits that have started to flood the markets. after the First World War, produced in particularly large quantities in Italy and Syria.