The sovereign is a gold coin of the United Kingdom, with a nominal value of one pound sterling. Struck from 1817 until the present time, it was originally a circulating coin accepted in Britain and elsewhere in the world; it is now a bullion coin and is sometimes mounted in jewellery. In most recent years, it has borne the well-known design of Saint George and the Dragon on the reverset; the initials (B P) of the designer, Benedetto Pistrucci, are visible to the right of the date. The coin was named after the English gold sovereign, last minted about 1603, and originated as part of the Great Recoinage of 1816.
Many in Parliament believed a one-pound coin should be issued rather than the 21-shilling (1.05 pounds) guinea struck until that time. The Master of the Mint, William Wellesley Pole, had Pistrucci design the new coin, and his depiction was also used for other gold coins. With that competition gone, the sovereign not only became a popular circulating coin, but was used in international trade and in foreign lands, trusted as a coin containing a known quantity of gold. In creating the sovereign William Wellesley Pole, elder brother of the Duke of Wellington, was appointed Master of the Mint (at that time a junior government position) in 1812, with a mandate to reform the Royal Mint.
Pole had favoured retaining the guinea, due to the number extant and the amount of labour required to replace them with sovereigns. Formal instruction to the Mint came with an indenture dated February 1817, directing the Royal Mint to strike gold coins weighing 7.988 grams, that is to say, the new sovereign. The Italian sculptor Benedetto Pistrucci came to London early in 1816. His talent opened the doors of the capital's elite, among them Lady Spencer, who showed Pistrucci a model in wax of Saint George and the Dragon by Nathaniel Marchant and commissioned him to reproduce it in the Greek style as part of her husband's regalia as a Knight of the Garter.Pistrucci had already been thinking of such a work, and he produced the cameo. The model for the saint was an Italian waiter at Brunet's Hotel in Leicester Square, where he had stayed after coming to London. In 1816, Pole hired Pistrucci to create models for the new coinage. After completing Lady Spencer's commission, by most accounts, Pistrucci suggested to Pole that an appropriate subject for the sovereign would be Saint George. He created a head, in jasper, of King George III, to be used as model for the sovereign and the smaller silver coins. He had prepared a model in wax of Saint George and the Dragon for use on the crown; this was adapted for the sovereign. The Royal Mint's engravers were not able to successfully reproduce Pistrucci's imagery in steel, and the sculptor undertook the engraving of the dies himself.
Pistrucci's design for the reverse of the sovereign features Saint George on horseback. His left hand clutches the rein of the horse's bridle, and he does not wear armour, other than on his lower legs and feet, with his toes bare. Further protection is provided by the helmet, with, on early issues, a streamer or plume of hair floating behind. Also flowing behind the knight is his chlamys, or cloak; it is fastened in front by a fibula. George's right shoulder bears a baltens for suspending the gladius, the sword that he grasps in his right hand.
The art critic John Ruskin later considered it odd that the saint should be unclothed going into such a violent encounter. The saint's horse appears to be half attacking, half shrinking from the dragon, which lies wounded by George's spear and in the throes of death. When the sovereign entered circulation in late 1817, it was not initially popular, as the public preferred the convenience of the banknotes the sovereign had been intended to replace.Another reasons why few sovereigns were struck in 1819 was in furtherance of a proposal, eventually rejected, by economist David Ricardo to eliminate gold as a coinage metal, though making it available on demand from the Bank of England. Once this plan was abandoned in 1820, the Bank encouraged the circulation of gold sovereigns, but acceptance among the British public was slow. Beginning in 1829, the Mint was able to eliminate the silver, but the drain on sovereigns from before this continued.
Obverse Text: GEORGIUS III D:G:BRITANNIAR:REX F:D. Axis: The 1820 Sovereign is struck on a reverse die axis. The item "Rare Antique (1820) English King George III Full Gold Sovereign Coin & Capsule" is in sale since Tuesday, October 22, 2019.
This item is in the category "Coins\Coins\British\Milled (1816-1837)\Sovereign". The seller is "santoor-uk" and is located in Salford, Greater Manchester. This item can be shipped worldwide.