It might seem like just a few months ago that The Royal Mint issued the 2021 Sovereign family (where does the time go?) but 2022 releases are now just around the corner and a recent Royal Proclamation has given us some hints about the design.
It seems that Benedetto Pistrucci's classic Saint George and the Dragon design will not appear on the reverse of next years Gold Proof Sovereigns. The Royal Mint have given us a hint as to what will replace the traditional image - used on and off for more than two centuries - and we've been speculating in The Britannia Coin Company offices about what the 2022 reverse might look like.
Read on to find out what the Proclamation says and get an idea of what you can expect from 2022 Gold Proof Sovereigns.
Proclamations from The Royal Mint
In accordance with the Coinage Act 1971, new coins and changes to existing denominations are authorised by Royal Proclamation, with advice from the Privy Council. Royal Proclamations - formal state announcements - are then published in the Government’s official journal of record: The London Gazette.
Studying the pages of The Gazette supplies coin collectors with insider hints about upcoming releases. Proclamations don’t provide much detail but certainly enough to speculate on. If you're planning your acquisitions for the year then the smart thing to do is browse The Gazette regularly.
Our latest perusal of the proclamations has turned up two fascinating announcements, published on 25 June 2021. Both detail proposed amendments to the design of UK gold coins that are of serious interest to Sovereign collectors.
The London Gazette is the oldest surviving English newspaper and publishes official notices, including Royal Proclamations concerning UK coinage. You can browse all notices for free on The Gazette website.
The Classic Saint George Reverse
The first proclamation amends a 2008 annoucement that established the specifications for the quarter sovereign, introduced the next year. The second proclamation, amends a 9 October 1953 proclamation that detailed the denominations and designs for the first coins issued under Elizabeth II, a few months after her coronation. The older announcements described the reverse of the Five Pound piece, Two Pound piece, Sovereign, Half Sovereign and Quarter Sovereign like this:
'… the image of Saint George armed, sitting on horseback, attacking the dragon with a sword, and a broken spear upon the ground, and the date of the year.'
It's clear that what’s been referred to here is the design created by Italian engraver, Benedetto Pistrucci for the first modern gold Sovereigns, issued in 1817. The timeless image of England's warlike patron saint appeared on the Sovereigns of George III, George IV and was then revived for use on some of Queen Victoria's gold coins from 1887 onwards. Successive monarchs, including Elizabeth II, have continued to use this recognisable motif on their money. You can read more about Pistrucci's most famous coin in another article from The Britannia Coin Company: Saint George and the Dragon : Benedetto Pistrucci's Enduring Masterpiece.
Though Saint George has been a perennial presence on British gold coins, other reverses have been used and it looks like Sovereigns issued in 2022 will become part of that highly sought after contingent.
The equestrian portrait on the reverse of most modern gold Sovereigns is based on the 1817 George III Gold Sovereign: the first circulating coin to feature Benedetto Pistrucci’s Saint George and the Dragon.
Royal Arms to Feature on 2022 Sovereign
Both Royal Proclamations came into force on 24 June 2021 so will impact Five Pound pieces, Double Sovereigns, Full Sovereigns, Half Sovereigns and Quarter Sovereigns issued thereafter. With 2022 Sovereigns anticipated for release in November of 2021, it's clear that its the 2022 Sovereign family is the subject of this Gazette notice.
The June Proclamations amend the old description, offering instead a short but pretty clear summary of what is likely to appear on new gold coins
'… a depiction of our Royal Coat of Arms and the date of the year.'
The Royal Coat of Arms is the official coat of arms of the current monarch: a potent and complex heraldic symbol, used both by the royal family and the British government.
Technically, a coat of arms is the heraldic design that features on an escutcheon (otherwise known as a shield). However, when people talk about the Royal Coat of Arms they are often referring to the full 'heraldic achievement': an armorial bearing which consists of the shield, supporters, a crest and motto.
The Royal Arms contains a variety of symbols which speak to national history and identity: including representations of the four constituent countries of the United Kingdom: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom contain numerous royal and heraldic symbols, including the lion of England and the unicorn of Scotland as supporters. Will these arms appear on the 2022 Sovereign?
The Royal Arms on British Coins
Variations on the Royal Coat of Arms have appeared on numerous British coins down the centuries: too many to count really. In fact, if you have any change in your pocket right now, you’ll probably find that some of it features the Royal Arms.
Most UK coins worth 50p and under currently bear a clever design by Matthew Dent, chosen following a public competition in 2008. Pick up examples of each coin from a fifty pence piece to a penny and you can fit them together like a puzzle, revealing the Arms of the United Kingdom.
Could the 2022 Sovereign be inspired by the past? Shields appear on plenty of historic coins too, from copper to gold though the arms themselves have changed with the Kings and Queen's under which they were issued. Here's some favourites, all currently available on on The Britannia Coin Company website.
Left: This hammered silver Edward VI Shilling, struck in 1551, has a quartered shield of Royal Arms to the reverse. Tudor monarchs maintained a claim on the French throne so the escutcheon Edward used included French fleur-de-lis.
Center: The reverse of this 1813 Full Gold Military Guinea features the Royal Arms of George III inside a crowned garter. These gold coins were minted to pay the Duke of Wellington's armies.
Right: This gorgeous 1847 Queen Victoria 'Gothic' Crown has a highly decorative reverse that breaks down Queen Victoria's Royal Arms into four separate shields, arranged in a cruciform pattern.
Alternate Gold Sovereign Designs
Over the past few years, The Royal Mint has stuck with the Saint George and the Dragon reverse for their Proof Sovereigns, making minor modifications: the addition of a special crown privy mark in 2021, a garter encircling the central motif for the 2017 Gold Proof Sovereigns.
The last significant change was a modern reinterpretation of the Pistrucci classic, crafted for the 2012 Sovereign by British sculptor Paul Day. This appeared on both the Proof and Bullion issues and was produced in honour of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.
Might the 2022 Sovereign feature a similarly creative take on the Royal Arms? We like this trend, seen on the 2012 issue for reverses where the figures dominate the frame, pushing aside the legend and almost leaping off the surface. No doubt a heavy weight UK artist will be brought in to tackle the important 2022 commission or a member of The Royal Mint's talented staff will be put to the task.
The 1989 Sovereign - the first commemorative Gold Sovereign - was another year in which a very different design was used, both for the obverse and the reverse. The reverse for the 1989 Sovereign actually featured Elizabeth II's Arms, crowned at the centre of a Tudor rose, inspired by the appearance of 16th century sovereigns. Could the 2022 Sovereign have a similar design? It’s certainly possible.
In 1989 The Royal Mint celebrated the 500th Anniversary of the Gold Sovereign with a shield reverse based on Tudor gold coins.
2022 Proof Sovereign Specifications
While we don't know exactly what the 2022 Sovereign reverse will look like, we do know that it will have the same specs as all Sovereigns minted since 1817: 7.98 grams of 22 carat gold with a 22.05 millimetre diameter. The Royal Proclamations don't authorise any change except to the reverse design so the standard weights and measures will apply for Full Sovereigns as well as Quarter Sovereigns, Half Sovereigns, gold Two Pound pieces and Five Pound pieces.
The new design might only be available on Proof coins or on Bullion issues too as was the case in 2012. We'll have to wait and see on that one.
The mintage will likely be very limited: we’re guessing below 5,000 for the 2022 Gold Proof Full Sovereign. This would be similar to the number offered in 2012 (5,501) when the design was last changed but would be significantly lower than the 2021 Proof Full Sovereign, of which nearly 8,000 were issued. Given that the design will be unique and anticipating a low mintage we are confident that demand will be extremely high for all Sovereign denominations.
A Platinum Sovereign?
Since 2022 marks Her Majesty's Platinum Jubilee, might we see the first platinum sovereign? That would be almost as good as an extra bank holiday but there would likely need to be another Royal Proclamation issued to approve this.
The Royal Mint certainly issues platinum bullion coins, including 999.5 fine platinum versions of their Queen’s Beasts designs. Platinum proof Britannias have been offered since 2018 so we know the tech is there.
Elizabeth II will be the first British monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee which marks 70 years on the throne. The occasion will be marked in June 2022 with four days of public events and community activities. The Royal Mint is bound to offer commemorative coins with some, no doubt, in platinum. But would there be a better tribute than a platinum Sovereign?
A platinum Sovereign for the Platinum Jubilee? Here's what that might look like.
Share Your Thoughts
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Frequently Asked Questions
We now know that the 2022 Sovereign will not have the timeless Saint George and the Dragon reverse, common to most Sovereigns from The Royal Mint. Instead, a design inspired by the Royal Coat of Arms will be used, paired with Jody Clark’s portrait of Elizabeth II on the obverse.
Like previous years, The Royal Mint will offer a full family of Proof Gold Sovereign denominations, including the Five Pound piece; Two Pound or Double Sovereign; a Full Sovereign, a Half Sovereign and a Quarter Sovereign. Some will also be available in a Bullion grade finish.
The 2022 Sovereign design will be revealed in late 2021, probably November in line with previous issues. The design will be revealed close to the same time that 2022 Sovereigns go on sale. Sign up to The Britannia Coin Company newsletter or follow us on Facebook to be the first to know when 2022 Sovereigns are available to purchase.
It seems that the classic Saint George and the Dragon pattern, designed by Benedetto Pistrucci and used on the majority of sovereigns down the years will not appear on the reverse of the 2022 Sovereign. Instead a design featuring the Royal Coat of Arms will be featured.
We do not know the exact release date for the 2022 Sovereign but we anticipate that it will be in November 2021. Sign up to The Britannia Coin Company newsletter or follow us on social media to be the first to know when 2022 Sovereigns are available to purchase.
The reverse design of Bullion Sovereigns might change for 2022. When The Royal Mint has used a design other than Saint George and the Dragon they sometimes change the pattern for both but sometimes just for the Proof finish version. We will just have to wait and see.
We do not know yet how many Sovereigns will be minted in 2022 but we anticipate that only a small number of 2022 Full Proof Gold Sovereigns will be issued, perhaps as few as 5,000. Similarly exclusive numbers might well be seen for other Sovereigns including the Double Sovereign and Half Sovereign.
Several modern Sovereigns have reverses that do not feature Saint George and the Dragon. This includes the first commemorative sovereign of 1989 and the 2012 Diamond Jubilee Sovereign. Many historic Sovereigns of Queen Victoria have a shield of Royal Arms on their reverse.