Great Britain 1917 sovereign

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Hertage sale 3037, lot 31182
Great Britain H3037-31182r.jpg
This specimen was lot 31182 in Heritage sale 3037 (New York, January 2015), where it sold for $23,500. The catalog description[1] noted,
"Key Date 20th Century George V gold Sovereign 1917 MS61 PCGS, Royal mint. When it comes to British coins, we've been privileged to see just about everything...but not this coin! The present 1917-dated sovereign marks our first opportunity to offer this storied 20th century rarity at auction. Minted in numbers that just eclipsed the million mark, the 1917 sovereign was never truly released, the Bank of England holding it in reserve during World War I. Later, almost the entirety of the date was exported to war allies as repayment for debts accrued. As history allows us to deduct, most of these wound up going to the U.S. and their likely resting place at Fort Knox. When the Gold Reserve Act was passed in January of 1934, significant amounts of gold specie was melted and re-barred, including what turned out to be most of the mintage of the 1917 sovereigns. Today, while the exact number of survivors is unknown, infrequent appearances at auction allows this date to maintain its legendary status.

A pleasing Uncirculated example, the present piece is just about average for the date, with a few surviving examples showing signs of handling and a few displaying slightly less evidence of having been stored and shipped long distances in bags. Despite the grade however, no significant marks are seen with only minor scattered ticks defining the designation. Like all survivors, the surfaces are somewhat pebbly with corresponding luster that maintains moderate flash. All considered, one of the more storied coins that this impressive sale has to offer, and with the popularity of the sovereign denomination being as strong as it's ever been with collectors, a coin that deserves much bidder attention."

This was issued in large numbers 1911-17 with another issue in 1925 during Britain's last attempt to maintain the gold standard. Sovereigns minted since 1937 were for collectors and bullion investors and not intended to circulate.

Recorded mintage: 1,014,999.

Specification: 7.98 g, .917 fine gold.

Catalog reference: KM 820, S-3996.


  • Bressett, Kenneth E., A Guide Book of English Coins, Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, 2nd Ed., Racine, WI: Whitman Publishing, 1962.
  • Cuhaj, George S., and Thomas Michael, Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1901-2000, 42nd ed., Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 2014.
  • Lobel, Richard, Mark Davidson, Allan Hailstone and Eleni Calligas, Coincraft's Standard Catalogue of English and UK Coins, 1066 to Date, London: Coincraft, 1995.
  • Skingley, Philip, ed., Standard Catalogue of British Coins: Coins of England & the United Kingdom, 46th edition, London: Spink & Son, 2011.
  • [1]Bierrenbach, Cristiano, Warren Tucker and Scott Cordry, Heritage Signature Auction 3038, featuring the Empire, the Santa Catarina, the Law and the Santa Maria Collections, Dallas, TX: Heritage Auction Galleries, 2014.

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