The George III sovereign made at The Royal Mint in London in 1819 is a very rare coin and a key date in the London series. There are only seven known examples in private hands, and ten known surviving examples in total. Two of these are ex-jewellery and have residual solder, and one is holed.
This coin is graded as “about EF” and is the finest known example by a full British grading step.
Details of the Sovereign
The obverse side has the laureate head portrait of George III. This was designed by Benedetto Pistrucci and his name can be found on the truncation of the coin.
The reverse side was also designed by Pistrucci, and again his name can be seen underneath the main image. The design is St George on a horse, slaying the dragon. This imagery was first used on gold sovereigns in 1817.
Why is the George III Sovereign of 1819 so Rare?
This coin is a bit of a mystery and the mintage that year was only 3,574. The Royal Mint produced sovereigns on just five separate occasions in 1819, between August and November. This was due to specie payments (i.e., coin money) being suspended by the Bank of England at that time. It is said that the gold used to strike these coins was supplied by private institutions, most likely City of London firms. Whether some of the coins struck were then distributed to these sources is unknown.
It is rumoured that the majority of these coins may have found their way abroad as the preference of the British public at that time was to spend and save moneywith banknotes rather than gold. A contemporary banker, Hudson Gurney, is recorded as telling a Parliamentary committee that he had never seen a circulating 1819 sovereign.
In 1829, the Royal Mint, in collaboration with the Bank of England, conducted a survey to study the wear and tear of circulating sovereigns. The Bank was asked to supply, from their vaults, 100 pieces of each date then in circulation from 1817 to 1829. They managed this easily with the exception of the year 1819. For this year, they could only find 2 examples! And this was just 10 years after they had been minted.
In 1882, a private banker named Martin conducted a survey of how gold sovereigns in circulation were faring. Of the 105,000 pieces examined and weighed, only two coins from the year 1819 were seen. This does seem to have been a useful exercise; after this survey, all sovereigns dated prior to 1838 were declared non-legal tender and withdrawn from circulation due to wear and tear.
A George III sovereign of 1819 was previously auctioned at Sotheby’s on 15 October 1998, and sold for £55,000 including the buyer’s premium (BP). Then, this was sold by Baldwins as part of the Bentley Collection of British Milled Sovereigns on 8 May 2013 for £186,000 including the BP. This coin is the finest known example of the 1819 sovereign in private hands.
There is supposed to be a “specimen or proof” version of this coin. However, even assuming it was correctly identified, it hasn’t been seen since the “North Country Collector” sale of 1939.
In July 2019, the Royal Mint held a ballot to sell a George III sovereign of 1819 for £100,000. This was to commemorate two hundred years since the birth of Queen Victoria. This coin had appeared in London in 1974. The London Evening Standard reported then that a dealer called B. A. Seaby had been offered an 1819 sovereign. The Royal Mint then acquired it 40 years later and presented it for sale.
Find more details about this rare coin here.