Counterfeit Detection: Australia 1917P Gold Sovereign
Posted on 6/9/2015
The British sovereign is one of the world’s most famous gold coins. Named after an English gold coin struck until 1604, the modern gold sovereign has been issued by the United Kingdom since 1817. The obverse features a portrait of the British monarch while the reverse usually shows the iconic image of Saint George slaying the dragon by engraver Benedetto Pistrucci.
The first sovereigns were struck by the Royal Mint in London, but eventually other mints in the British Empire and, later, the British Commonwealth, would issue sovereigns. Sovereigns were struck by mints in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth in Australia; Bombay in India; Ottawa in Canada and Pretoria in South Africa. In 2013, a mint in Delhi, India, began to strike gold sovereigns, which makes it and the Royal Mint in London the sole present-day manufacturers of these coins.
Gold sovereigns weigh just under 7.99 grams and are struck in 22 carat gold (91.7% gold), which gives them an actual gold content of approximately 0.2355 ounces. Counterfeiters have long targeted gold sovereigns, not only because they have historically been a popular and valuable circulation issue, but also because certain rare dates carry significant numismatic premiums.
NGC graders recently identified a fake 1917 gold sovereign with the “P” mintmark of the Perth Mint in Australia. Although the Australia 1917P Sovereign is not scarce, the premium that collectors pay for these coins presents considerable opportunity for profit to a counterfeiter.
This forgery exhibits a couple of particularly noticeable problems. First, all of the fields have raised lumps, especially around the perimeter. These lumps can be easily seen under magnification around the obverse lettering and the date on the reverse. Second, the design elements on both sides, including the letters and date, are weakly defined, a telltale flaw seen on many spurious coins. This softness is obvious when this piece is compared to an authentic example.
In addition, a depression in the center of the king’s head is likely repeated on all fakes made by this counterfeiter. As a result, it can serve as a helpful, easy-to-find diagnostic. This depression, combined with the raised lumps and poorly defined design elements, makes identification of this counterfeit very straightforward.
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