AUSTRALIAN COMPLETE SOVEREIGN SET, CIRCULATION STRIKES (1855 -1931)
This set consists of all the different gold sovereigns issued by Australia and its Sydney, Melbourne and Perth mints from 1855 to 1931. The size and cost of this set makes it remarkable: 192 coins, over 45 ounces of gold, quite a few really tough dates with some definite rarities. The Sovereign during that time was the chief coin of commerce in the world.
My goal is to put together a high grade complete date and mint collection of Australian Sovereigns. My love of the Sovereign began with my father's interest in the coin. My collection has grown significantly over the years and I will continue to upgrade the set when feasible. The history and personalities surrounding the Sovereign is fascinating. The importance of the Sovereign in world commerce is unprecedented. My appreciation for Sovereign rose to new heights after researching and later obtaining Sovereigns from the Quartermaster, Bentley, George and Park House collections.
The Reign of Queen Victoria (1837 - 1901); King Edward VII (1902 - 1910); King George V (1911 - 1932)
Australian Victoria Sovereigns:
1855 - 1856 Imperial Young Head, Australian Reverse
1857 - 1870 Australian Young Head, Australian Reverse
1871 - 1887 Imperial Young Head, Shield Reverse and St. George Reverse
1887 - 1893 Imperial Jubilee Head, St. George Reverse
1893 - 1901 Imperial Veil Head, St. George Reverse
Sydney Mint 1855 - 1901; Melbourne Mint 1872 - 1901; Perth Mint 1899 - 1901
Australian Edward VII Sovereigns:
Edward VII, St. George Reverse
Melbourne Mint 1902 - 1910; Perth Mint 1902 - 1910; Sydney Mint 1902 - 1910
Australian King George V Sovereigns:
George V (Large Head) 1911 - 1929; (Small Head) 1930 - 1932
Sydney Mint 1911 - 1926; Melbourne Mint 1911 - 1931; Perth Mint 1911 - 1931
Queen Victoria is the second longest reining monarch recently surpassed by Queen Elizabeth II. She ascended to the thrown in 1837 and the first Sovereign under her reign was minted in 1838. She ruled until her death in 1901. Her son Edward, became King Edward VII. There are three main Queen Victoria portraits - young head, jubilee and old/veil head. There are many varieties including, but not limited to, portrait size and position, existence and size of initials, spread of initials, and the length of the horse's tail.
Queen Victoria's reign saw great cultural expansion; advances in industry, science and communications; and the building of railways and the London Underground.
In 1840, Queen Victoria married her cousin, Prince Albert, the son of her mother's brother. Since Victoria was Queen, Albert couldn’t propose to her. So she proposed to him.
At first, the British public didn’t warm up to the German prince and he was excluded from holding any official political position. At times their marriage was tempestuous, a clash of wills between two extremely strong personalities. However, the couple was intensely devoted to each other. Prince Albert became Queen Victoria’s strongest ally, helping her navigate difficult political waters.
King Edward VII took over the British throne after the death of Queen Victoria. He was a popular ruler who strengthened his country prior to World War I.
Edward VII, born in London on November 9, 1841, became king upon the death of his mother, Queen Victoria, in 1901. A popular member of social and sporting circles, Edward VII strengthened England's ties with the rest of Europe. His reforms of the military and navy prepared them well for World War I.
Prior to becoming King, Prince Edward married Princess Alexandra of Denmark. The marriage, arranged by Edward's parents. Before his marriage but after his engagement, Edward fell into a scandalous love affair with actress Nellie Clifton. So distraught was his father, Prince Albert, over the disgrace to the royal family, that he personally went to his son to reprimand him. The affair was ended, but two weeks later Albert fell ill and died of typhoid. Queen Victoria fell into a deep depression and blamed Edward for her husband's death, never to forgive him. Edward continued to have many affairs throughout his marriage. Actresses Sarah Bernhardt and Lillie Langtry, as well as Lady Randolph Churchill (Winston's mother) and Alice Keppel (great-grandmother of Camilla, wife of Charles, the current Prince of Wales) were among his many trysts.
With Queen Victoria's retreat from public life, Edward was allowed to represent her at official state events, but not given any responsibility in political matters.
The Edwardian period (1901-1910) was seen as the golden age for the upper class in Britain.
Edward's legacy is marked by criticism for his pursuit of self-indulgent pleasures but also praise for his affable personality and diplomatic skill.
King George V was the second son of Edward VII. Initially, due to the untimely death of his older brother, Albert, George was placed on the throne. He became king in 1910 and played an active role supporting the troops during World War I. Though lackluster in personality, he won the loyalty of the middle class and many in Great Britain with his steadfast dedication to his country.
George immediately faced a constitutional crisis, known as the budget controversy of 1910. In an unprecedented move, Tories in the House of Lords rejected the budget proposed by Liberals in the House of Commons. George V threatened to create enough Liberal nobles in the House of Lords to pass the measure, and the Tories gave in. George V’s threat foretold future actions where he would support the middle class over the gentry.
The reign of George V saw many changes within the British Empire. Rebellion in Ireland in 1916 resulted in an independent Irish parliament and later a geographic division along religious lines. The post–World War I period also brought change to the empire itself as Canada, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa demanded and received the right of self-governance and formed the Commonwealth of Nations in 1931. India followed, achieving some degree of self-determinism in 1935.
King George V became a popular King that cultivated good relationships with the Labor Party and unions during the economic depression of the 1930s. While he lacked intellectual curiosity and sophistication, he was hardworking, deeply devoted to Great Britain and widely admired by the British people.
The Sydney Branch Mint:
Millions of pounds of gold bullion were shipped from Australia to London each year to be minted into coin. However, it soon became apparent that it would be easier to refine the gold and turn it into coins at source, rather than transport it to Britain and have it turned into coins there. Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide each submitted to be the venue of a branch of the Royal Mint and after some deliberation the British government awarded it to Sydney, which began issuing coins in 1855. This Mint issued coins with its own design from 1855 until 1870. In 1871, the Royal Mint insisted that all gold sovereigns regardless of Mint should carry the British design.
The need for a Mint to produce coin in Australia and convert the local gold from the goldfields, without sending out of the country, finally came to fruition when an Order of Council was issued and ratified on 19 August 1853. Designs, dies and pattern coins were produced in 1853. The Sydney Mint opened on 14 May 1855 and the first type design from the 1853 pattern was adopted for currency.
The design of the Sydney Sovereigns was to be quite different from the Imperial British type. The original intention was for them was to be legal tender in Australia only. This changed with the Colonial Branch Mint Act of 1866, when they became legal tender in the UK and other colonies. This led directly to the harmonization of the Imperial type designs at the Sydney Mint. The 1855-1868 yellow gold Sovereigns of the Sydney mint that were alloyed with silver were most popular in export trade with India. They were more revered than the British Sovereign for their yellow color, signifying the more valuable alloy with silver as opposed to the red gold color of the British Sovereign alloyed with copper. This changed in 1868 with the first step towards harmonization. Sydney started mixing copper in the alloy, rather than silver, making some of the 1868 dated issue and all for 1870 of the red gold color.
When the Sydney Mint stopped producing Sovereigns in 1926, the total number of Sovereigns struck of both Australia and Imperial types from 1855-1926 stood at 144,435,1926.
Imperial Type Sovereigns in Australia
With the significant Coinage Act of 1870 in Great Britain came a sweeping change to harmonize the design of the coins minted from the Australian output of gold with that produced from the Royal Mint in London. The fact that the Australia design coins were legal tender only within Australia had obviously affected export trade. The Colonial Branch Act of 1866 made the Australia type coins legal tender in the UK and in trade, useful especially with closer neighbors in India and Asia. However the British Imperial gold Sovereign was already a respected trade coin with its shield reverse and more acceptable than the Australia type coins.
The Melbourne Mint:
During the 1850s, Victoria alone contributed more than one-third of the world’s gold output. Although a Mint opened in Sydney in 1855, it had difficulty keeping pace with the output of the goldfields and in 1871 a new branch of the Royal Mint opened in Melbourne.
The new Melbourne Mint was scheduled to open in 1870. However, due to circumstances beyond their control, the Mint opened late on 12 June 1872. This tardiness was mostly because the ship Rangoon had sunk near Galle Harbour in Ceylon while carrying all the new 1871 dated dies from the mint in London. A very limited number of the dies were salvaged and these later came into use with the overdate 1872 over 1. By the end of 1872 nearly three quarters of a million Sovereigns with the shield reverse had been produced, all with the mint letter M under the wreath on the reverse. The St. George reverse Sovereigns and gold Half Sovereigns were produced from 1873. Both the shield and St.George reverse coins were produced in most years until 1887. The shield design was retained at the Australian branch Mints only, as it was still the preferred coin in trade with India and Asia. The St. George reverse was preferred in England. The Mints were given the choice of which to strike according to demand, which is why some years do not exist for certain reverse types.
According to the publication Royal Sovereign, a Chinese General, Wong Yung Ho, visited the Melbourne mint in 1887 and confirmed that the shield design was preferred by the Indians when trading with the Orient. The Indians feared they would upset the Chinese if they paid for their wares with the St George reverse coin. This was because of the humiliating position of the Chinese national symbol the dragon under the horseman and therefore this reverse design was not generally seen in commerce in Asia.
The Melbourne Mint stopped producing Imperial type gold Sovereigns in 1931. The total quantity of Sovereigns was 147,282,731 pieces. This was the highest total of gold Sovereigns from the three branch Mints based in Australia.
The Perth Mint:
Gold was first discovered in Western Australia in 1884 and gold mines became established at Kimberley in 1886. The gold mines at Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie quickly became recognised as two of Australia’s richest. The problems of transporting the raw gold over 2,100 miles to the nearest Mint in Melbourne were obvious and so a new branch of the Royal Mint was authorised and opened in 1899.
The Colony in Western Australia had been granted Government in 1890. John Forrest, the first Premier and Treasurer, was instrumental in establishing the Perth Mint.
Permission was granted for a Mint from London in 1894, as long as certain conditions were met. The Perth Mint Bill went through Assembly in July 1895. In 1897, a renegotiation was necessary with a new completion date of 1 January 1898 established. A Proclamation for the new Mint was ratified by Queen Victoria 13 October 1897. All gold coins would carry the Mint letter P.
However, as usual with all large building projects, there were some delays, and the Perth Mint building was finally completed on 17 October 1898. The Mint was ready in June and the very first Perth Mint Sovereign was struck on 20 June 1899.
When the Perth Mint stopped producing Imperial type Sovereigns in 1931, the total quantity of Sovereigns was 106,384,197 pieces.
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The Hyde Park Collection - Complete Australian Sovereign Set 1855 - 1931
The goal of this collection is clearly stated in its title, and it will include 192 coins when finished. A few 20th Century entries are still lacking, but the coins already in place are in high grades for their respective issues. Each specimen is accompanied by good illustrations and numismatic data. The owner’s introductory text describes the various monarchs represented and also includes profiles of the mints which coined sovereigns for Australia. This collection will be amazing when completed.
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