A Numismatic Rabbit Hole-Identifying the Obverse Varieties of the 1887 Sydney Jubilee Head Sovereign

Being able to accurately attribute the exact obverse die that was used to strike any particular 1887 Sydney Jubilee Head sovereign is, in my opinion, one of the most challenging tasks in Australian numismatics.

Research by the British numismatist David Iverson has shown that the designer’s initials (J.E.B.) were hand-punched onto each of the six different obverse dies used to produce these coins.

It truly is a rabbit hole - one that I’ve been down several times, one that has taken me several hours to re-surface from.

The task is complicated by the fact several different classifications of this coin have been prepared over the years - by Michael Marsh (self-published in “The Gold Sovereign”); by Barrie Winsor (published by Greg McDonald in “The Pocket Guide to Australian Coins and Banknotes"); by Spink (in “The Coins of England and the United Kingdom”) and finally (!) in a definitive work written by David Iverson and Steve Hill, published by Baldwin’s in 2015 titled “The Jubilee Head Gold Sovereign”.

As time has passed, collectors have preferred one system over another - I’ve found the task of aligning the reference numbers from each of them to be one that requires some time to fully reconcile.

Once the different schemas have been aligned with each other, it’s possible to attribute a coin against each of the tables listed above.

Each of the six design elements involved (the three letters and the three stops) can be incredibly difficult to locate in relation to each other, however it is not impossible to achieve with some study.

Although the truly definitive work on the Jubilee Head sovereign varieties written by David Iverson and Steve Hill contains high resolution images, my apparently feeble brain has still found it challenging to align individual coins with the images provided of each type.

The following table contains comments on how I see the two different varieties I’ve recently encountered - I should point out that it’ll be subject to change if any errors can be identified!

Iverson / Hill Spink McDonald Description J 1st Stop E 2nd Stop B 3rd Stop
S1 S# 3868A                
S2 S# 3868D Mc 172 Small spread JEB In line with the base of the 1st stop Sits above the base of the truncation Sits on a line drawn between the 1st and 2nd stops Sits in a recessed area above the base of the truncation The base sits on a line drawn between the 2nd and 3rd stops Sits on a line drawn from the right of the base of the B
S3 S# 3868A                
S4 S# 3868A Mc 174 Long JEB Sits above a line extending left from the base of the 1st stop Sits above the base of the truncation Sits on a line drawn between the 1st and 2nd stops Sits on the edge of the truncation The base is bisected by a line drawn between the 2nd and 3rd stops Sits on the edge of the truncation
S5 S# 3868A                
S6 S# 3868A                

Let me know if you can identify any errors in the above table, I’ll build out the characteristics that each of the other DISH types as we encounter them.

Rim Close Ups



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