Queen Victoria 1855 Gold Sovereign Sydney Mint good EF / PCGS AU 55
Obverse: Type I portrait
Reverse: Australia within wreath
A superior example, with much detail remaining in the portrait of Victoria and clean fields both sides. Attractive lustre remains in the devices, and the coin is devoid of contact marks so often seen on similar examples.
The first sovereigns were struck at the Sydney Mint on June 23rd, 1855, produced in order to alleviate currency problems in the wake of the discovery of gold in Western NSW in 1851.
They were in initially declared to be legal tender only within NSW and were actually derided not only in London, but also in Melbourne and Adelaide.
One school of thought at the time was that London did not want to risk the international reputation by permitting possibly inferior coins from Sydney to circulate among the trusted British sovereigns coursing through the world’s commercial centres. The success of the Sydney Mint sovereigns proved beyond doubt that Australian manufacturing expertise paralleled that of London, and this pride today remains evident in the esteem with which collectors hold the Type I Sydney Mint sovereigns.
Ironically, the intrinsic value of the Type I Sydney Mint sovereigns was actually higher than the sovereigns struck at the Royal Mint in London. The home authorities decided to test the quality of the colonial sovereigns in January 1856, and their results showed that they had a higher intrinsic value than the British coins, primarily due to the percentage of silver included in them.
Once these results were known, Australian merchants began melting the Sydney sovereigns in order to profit from their intrinsic value. Indians also hoarded as many of the coins as were exported to them, and in fact made special efforts to obtain them.
Due to the different alloy, the Sydney sovereigns had a lighter colour than British sovereigns. The softer alloy also saw the metal flow through the dies at a slightly higher rate. Discerning collectors can tell that these coins feature a slightly smoother appearance as a result of this nuance in their manufacture.
The Type I obverse featured a filleted bust of Victoria, and approval for it quickly waned after introduction. James Wyon was ordered to engrave a new obverse, uniquely Australian and quite different to British sovereigns. It included a Banksia wreath in place of the cloth fillets. In 1862, a Select Committee recommended that new designs be introduced.
Sydney sovereigns were to be exactly the same as those from the Royal Mint, were also to feature a Sydney mintmark, and the colonial sovereigns were to be withdrawn as quickly as possible. These recommendations were covered by Imperial Proclamation in 1867, and implemented in 1871.
This particular Sydney Mint sovereign has circulated far less than most - there is minimal friction across the high points, the surfaces retain a great deal of lustre both sides.
The 1855 sovereign in high grade (EF or better), is far, far rarer than the Type II Adelaide Pound, however market values don't yet fully reflect that fact. The PCGS population report shows no less than 24 Type II Adelaide Pounds in AU 55 or better, while there has only been 10 1855 sovereigns graded in the same range.Click the PCGS icon below to verify the certificate details for this coin directly on the PCGS website.
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