1855 Sydney Mint Type I Sovereign PCGS AU50
Obverse: Type I portrait of Victoria to left, legend around and date below
Reverse: Crown above AUSTRALIA and wreath, legend around
This 1855 sovereign has great flash in the devices on either side and has an even dusty patina.
A milestone in the development of our country from a British colony to an independent nation, the introduction of Australia's first gold coins embodies much of the country's social and economic change following the gold rushes of the 1850s. Just as Australia's unique landscape and isolation, the Great Depression and our participation in World War I have helped to shape our national character, the discovery of gold in 1851 had considerable bearing on our culture and economy.
Australia's first sovereigns were struck at the Sydney Mint on June 23rd, 1855. The Type I sovereigns were produced in order to alleviate currency problems in the wake of the discovery of gold in Western NSW in 1851. They were 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.
The Type I Sydney Mint sovereign has several unique characteristics that have ensured a high level of demand from type collectors of gold coins right around the world. They are:
1. The portrait of Queen Victoria is different to that seen on sovereigns produced in London;
2. A notation of the coin's value was included for the first time;
3. The name of the mint was also included in writing; and
4. The coins were inscribed with a national name that did not become a political entity for almost half a century.
Due to the way these coins were produced, they are not seen with sharp detail in the portrait. The number hoarded in India, melted in Australia and actively withdrawn once the Imperial designs were introduced means that they may be considered extremely scarce in any grade, and very rare in high grade.
This particular example has strong detail on both sides and retains plenty of original "flash" in the devices.
Click the PCGS icon below to verify the certificate details for this coin directly on the PCGS website.
PCGS Certificate Number: 34688144
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