England (1590-92) sovereign Fr-209

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Heritage sale 3030, lot 24078
England c1583 sovereign rev H3030-24078.jpg
This specimen was lot 24078 in Heritage sale 3030 (New York, January 2014), where it sold for $12,925. The catalog description[1] noted,

"A Final Issue Sovereign of 'Fine Gold' Elizabeth I (1558-1603) gold "Fine" Sovereign ND, of 30 Shillings, 6th Issue of 1583-1600, Queen Enthroned with portcullis at her feet, London, "fine" gold (.995 pure), Hand mm (1590-92), VF Details "Cracked Planchet" NGC, struck on a full broad flan, slightly wavy with a thin short crack from the rim just past "E" in the queen's name extending downward 8 mm, the portrait faint in the queen's face, legends all complete and sharp, surfaces quite choice for issue without damage or noticeable marks and sheathed in lovely, bright yellow golden hues. Comparing this to numerous other hammered gold coins graded by NGC, it seems a bit nicer than their standard VF to the cataloguer. No matter. It's an appealing historic coin, always in demand, and fairly rare in any state of preservation.

While the gold Sovereign coin was only introduced in the reign of the then-princess Elizabeth's father, Henry VIII, it had become a familiar coin at Court and among the wealthy merchant class by the 1590s. Meant to be imposing, and of considerable intrinsic value at 30 Shillings, made of nearly pure gold, it measured well against the biggest coins of Europe. Its fineness was universally recognized, and its existence furthered English trade and commerce. The dies used to make these large coins were massive, and must have been a challenge to engrave. Strikings were inconsistently fine, and difficult, resulting in many coins that were cracked when minted. No collars were used, meaning that flans were usually far from round and often ragged. And yet, despite being made with primitive tools, these are magnificent coins, among the finest from the English Renaissance. All too soon they would disappear as a type. In the coming reign, James I would employ the same design for a few years, through the first indenture, or official legal contract from the Crown to the mint-masters to create money, before introducing a huge new gold coin called the Rose-Ryal in 1604-05. Its nominal value would be identical but its engraving would eclipse that of the Sovereign, and the Tudor rose would disappear. Elizabeth's gold Sovereigns were the largest Tudor coin. Many would be exported. Many would be melted by foreign mints as they were deposited by bankers. Few would survive four centuries."

Both Friedberg and Lobel list this coin as a fifth issue and the only sovereign (thirty shillings) of the reign. Seaby[2] classes this as a sixth issue.

Recorded mintage: unknown.

Specification: gold, 240 grains.

Catalog reference: S-2529, North-2003 (rare); Fr-209.


  • Friedberg, Arthur L. and Ira S. Friedberg, Gold Coins of the World, From Ancient Times to the Present, 7th ed., Clifton, NJ: Coin and Currency Institute, 2003.
  • [1]Bierrenbach, Cristiano, Warren Tucker and David Michaels, Heritage World and Ancient Coins Auction 3030, featuring the RLM Collection, the Isaac Rudman Collection, the Hans Cook Collection and the Collection of Donald E. Bently, Dallas, TX: Heritage Auction Galleries, 2013.
  • Lobel, Richard, Mark Davidson, Allan Hailstone and Eleni Calligas, Coincraft's Standard Catalogue of English and UK Coins, 1066 to Date, London: Coincraft, 1995.
  • [2]Skingley, Philip, ed., Standard Catalogue of British Coins: Coins of England & the United Kingdom, 46th edition, London: Spink & Son, 2011.

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