1839 Queen Victoria Gold Full Sovereign Young Head Shield Back
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Very rare 1839 Sovereign of Queen Victoria: one of just 503, 695 issued for circulation in this year.
Victorian Gold Sovereigns
Queen Victoria came to the throne at the age of 18 in 1837. She would wear the crown for 63 years, living through a period of unprecedented social, political and industrial change in the UK and the wider British Empire that would later be known known as the 'Victorian era'.
The new Queen's first coinage was issued in 1838: the year she was crowned at Westminster Abbey. Collectors enjoy Victorian coins for their beautiful designs, as well as the possibility of assembling a long continuous series, through to her final issues in 1901. The three Australian branch mints (Sydney, Melbourne and Perth) that were opened during Victoria's reign add additional variety for the dedicated numismatist.
Victorian gold Sovereigns are particularly sought after. The appearance of these coins changed significantly over the course of the nineteenth century but the tightly controlled specifications, established during the reign of King George III, remained the same. These 7.98 gram coins were used throughout the British colonies and elsewhere, trusted to contain a known quantity of gold.
The Young Head Portrait Of Victoria
The first Sovereigns struck in the reign of Queen Victoria featured a portrait by the famed William Wyon. Born in Birmingham, the engraver had been employed by the Royal Mint since 1816, rising to the position of Chief Engraver in 1828.
The 'Young Head' as this effigy became known, shows the youthful queen facing left, her hair caught up in a knot at her neck, pulled back from her face by a double ribbon. The date appears below and the portrait is surrounded by the legend 'VICTORIA DEI GRATIA'. This design, in modified form, would remain in use on British and colonial coinage for decades, long after it ceased to be an accurate portrayal. The artist can generally be identified by the 'W.W.' initials to the truncation of the Queen's neck.
Wyon's depiction of Victoria, created from life in sittings held in August 1837, would become the dominant image of the Queen in the early part of her reign. It was adapted for use on postage stamps, beginning with the Penny Black. Wyon was also responsible for another famous portrait of Victoria, seen on the Gothic Crown as well as engraving her profile for several medals.
'Shield Back' Victorian Sovereigns
The reverse of this 1838 Sovereign shows an attractive design that led to these Victorian gold coins being referred to as 'shield backs'. The distinctive motif comprises of a square topped shield of royal arms, surmounted by a crown, within a wreath of laurel, tied at the bottom with a ribbon. Below this are intwined national flowers. The legend reads 'BRITANNIARUM REGINA FID: DEF:'. Later examples show a die number above the flowers.
This is the work of Jean Baptiste Merlen, a French medallist and engraver who joined the Royal Mint in 1820. Working alongside William Wyon, Merlen produced reverse designs for Victoria's early gold and silver coinage, similar to crowned shield reverses that he had previously created for money issued by George IV and William IV.
Later in the century, an older design would be revived for use on gold Sovereigns. Benedetto Pistrucci's Saint George and the dragon engraving is now closely associated with these coins and is still used on many modern releases. Merlen's shield reverse, however, remains the calling card of early Victorian Sovereigns. It's a motif that's instantly recognisable to those interested in these gold coins.
A Very Rare Queen Victoria Gold Coin
1839 Sovereigns are among the rarest of these gold coins ever issued for circulation by the Royal Mint. Just 503,695 Sovereigns were struck at Tower Hill, London in this year: much fewer than in 1838, the first year of issue under Victoria, when some 2,718,694 were minted. These 1839 coins are rare in any condition but especially hard to find in high grade.
Grade: EF - Excellent details, some minor contact marks and dinks under magnification to obverse, 'VICTORIA' appears slightly weakly struck: Extremely Fine or very near so, and very rare in all grades.
Victorian Sovereigns conform to the narrow specifications established for these coins when they were first issued in 1817. Each one is composed of 7.98 grams of 22 carat (916.7) gold and has a diameter of 22.05 millimetres. Their gold content means that these coins are free from VAT in the UK and the EU while their face value of £1 / One Pound lends them an important Capital Gains Tax exemption.
How To Sell An 1839 Gold Sovereign?
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