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Detailed information about Coin: Sovereign 1859 from United Kingdom

Coin: Sovereign 1859

In 1859, a shipment of gold coin alloy from Australia was rejected by the Royal Mint on the grounds that it was too brittle for use in striking coins. However, a metallurgist employed by the Royal Mint, one George Frederick Ansell, asked to be allowed to experiment with the gold in order to improve it and make it suitable for striking into coin.

Ansell enjoyed considerable success in his efforts, and managed to make the alloy even tougher than that of a normal sovereign. Sovereigns struck from George Ansell's reworked gold alloy were apparently so tough that they could not be broken by an ordinary man even when attacked with a pair of pliers.

George Ansell was rewarded for his work by a letter of thanks from the Mint Master and given a cash bonus of £100 (a considerable sum of money in those days).

An "Ansell" sovereign struck from the reworked gold can be identified by an additional line which is visible in the rear hair band of the Queen's portrait. These sovereigns are listed as Rare 4 in Marsh (15 - 25 surviving examples known) and are very popular with collectors of rare sovereigns.

CountryUnited Kingdom CurrencyPound Sterling (pre-decimal)
Face value1 (x Pound) TypeSovereign (Shield)
Year1859 CurrentNo (demonetised 1971)
Mintage1,715,142 (1.7 million) RarityR (Rare)
NameMint markMintage
Royal Mint No mint mark 1,715,142 (1.7 million), Rarity: R (Rare)
Material0.9167 Gold DesignerJean Baptiste Merlen
MonarchQueen Victoria EffigyPortrait by William Wyon (Young Head)
Production technologyMilled (machine-made) ShapeRound
Size (mm)22.0500 Thickness (mm)1.5200
Mass (g)7.9881

Young head of Queen Victoria facing left wearing ribbon (double fillet) in her hair; the hair is collected up into a knot behind; around, the legend VICTORIA DEI GRATIA (Victoria, by the Grace of God); the designer's initials W.W. (for William Wyon) are incuse on the neck truncation.

In the field below the neck truncation, the date 1859.

Obverse inscription VICTORIA DEI GRATIA 1859

The Ensigns Armorial of the United Kingdom within a plain shield quartered with the arms of England (1 & 4), Scotland (2) and Ireland (3), surmounted by a crown. A branch of laurel is shown on each side of the shield, tied at the bottom by a ribbon. At the bottom, the Thistle, Rose and Shamrock (symbols of Scotland, England and Ireland respectively) are placed with a small flower stop on each side.

Around, the rest of the monarch's legend (continuing from the obverse): BRITANNIARUM REGINA FID: DEF: (Queen of the Britains, Defender of the Faith).

EdgeMilled Edge inscriptionNone

Type IA by Marsh.

The Catalogue of British Commonwealth Coins 1649 - 1971 does not list the Ansell variety, and shows a total mintage of 1,547,603. Marsh has the regular coins with a total mintage of 1,547,603 plus the Ansell variety with an additional 167,539.

References to additional information:

[Book] Remick, Jerome. The Guide Book and Catalogue to British Commonwealth Coins, Regency Coins and Stamps Ltd, Winnipeg, Canada, 1971, p258
[Book] Marsh, Michael A. The Gold Sovereign. Cambridge Coins, Cambridge, UK, 1980. (2017 ed. pp 27-40)

Sovereign 1859: Known varieties
Ansell (Marsh 42A) 167,539 (included in main number), Rarity: R4 (15 to 25 examples known) (hover mouse for text)
Small date unknown (included in main number)
Sovereign 1859: Photos
Sovereign 1859: Photo Coin - Sovereign (Ansell), Queen Victoria, Great Britain, 1859
Coin - Sovereign (Ansell), Queen Victoria, Great Britain, 1859
Copyright: Museums Victoria / CC BY
Notes: Ansell variety.
Sovereign 1859: Photo Coin - Sovereign (Ansell), Queen Victoria, Great Britain, 1859
Coin - Sovereign (Ansell), Queen Victoria, Great Britain, 1859
Copyright: Museums Victoria / CC BY
Notes: Ansell variety.
Sovereign 1859: Catalogue Reference IDs
SourceReference ID
Marsh, The Gold Sovereign42, 42A (Ansell)
Krause, Standard Catalog of World CoinsGreat Britain KM# 736.1, 736.3 (Ansell)
Spink, Coins of England and the United Kingdom3852D, 3852E (Ansell)
Friedberg, Gold Coins of the WorldGreat Britain 245
Sovereign 1859: References to Information Used
Marsh, The Gold Sovereign 2017 Coin description
Remick, Catalogue of British Commonwealth Coins 1971 Mint
Remick, Catalogue of British Commonwealth Coins 1971 Mintage
Museums Victoria Collections 2016 Varieties link Ansell
Krause, Standard Catalog of World Coins Varieties Small date
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Sovereign 1859: Links to sites that (may) sell similar coins
Gold Sovereigns: 1859 Gold Sovereign Victoria Young Head Shield Gold Sovereigns: 1859 'Ansell' Gold Sovereign Victoria Young Head Shield
Sovereign 1859: Some useful external links
Museums Victoria: Coin - Sovereign (Ansell), Queen Victoria, Great Britain, 1859 Victoria 1859 Gold Sovereign
The biggest New Zealand numismatic event of 2017 – the Numismatic Society of Auckland and Royal Numismatic Society of New Zealand DECIMAL 50 conference
The biggest New Zealand numismatic event of 2017 – the Numismatic Society of Auckland and Royal Numismatic Society of New Zealand DECIMAL 50 conference
List of all (149) coins of type: United Kingdom / Sovereign (Pre-Decimal)
Sovereign 1817 Sovereign 1818 Sovereign 1819 Sovereign 1820 Sovereign 1821 Sovereign 1822
Sovereign 1823 Sovereign 1824 St George Sovereign 1824 Shield (Pattern) Sovereign 1825 St George Sovereign 1825 Shield Sovereign 1826
Sovereign 1827 Sovereign 1828 Sovereign 1829 Sovereign 1830 George IV Sovereign 1830 William IV Sovereign 1831
Sovereign 1832 Sovereign 1833 Sovereign 1835 Sovereign 1836 Sovereign 1837 William IV Sovereign 1837 Victoria
Sovereign 1838 Sovereign 1839 Sovereign 1841 Sovereign 1842 Sovereign 1843 Sovereign 1844
Sovereign 1845 Sovereign 1846 Sovereign 1847 Sovereign 1848 Sovereign 1849 Sovereign 1850
Sovereign 1851 Sovereign 1852 Sovereign 1853 Sovereign 1854 Sovereign 1855 Sovereign 1856
Sovereign 1857 Sovereign 1858 Sovereign 1859 Sovereign 1860 Sovereign 1861 Sovereign 1862
Sovereign 1863 Sovereign 1864 Sovereign 1865 Sovereign 1866 Sovereign 1868 Sovereign 1869
Sovereign 1870 Sovereign 1871 Shield Sovereign 1871 St George Sovereign 1872 Shield Sovereign 1872 St George Sovereign 1873 Shield
Sovereign 1873 St George Sovereign 1874 Shield Sovereign 1874 St George Sovereign 1875 Shield Sovereign 1875 St George Sovereign 1876 Shield
Sovereign 1876 St George Sovereign 1877 Shield Sovereign 1877 St George Sovereign 1878 Shield Sovereign 1878 St George Sovereign 1879 Shield
Sovereign 1879 St George Sovereign 1880 Shield Sovereign 1880 St George Sovereign 1881 Shield Sovereign 1881 St George Sovereign 1882 Shield
Sovereign 1882 St George Sovereign 1883 Shield Sovereign 1883 St George Sovereign 1884 Shield Sovereign 1884 St George Sovereign 1885 Shield
Sovereign 1885 St George Sovereign 1886 Shield Sovereign 1886 St George Sovereign 1887 Shield Sovereign 1887 St George, Young head Sovereign 1887 St George, Jubilee head
Sovereign 1888 Sovereign 1889 Sovereign 1890 Sovereign 1891 Sovereign 1892 Sovereign 1893 Jubilee head
Sovereign 1893 Veiled head Sovereign 1894 Sovereign 1895 Sovereign 1896 Sovereign 1897 Sovereign 1898
Sovereign 1899 Sovereign 1900 Sovereign 1901 Sovereign 1902 Sovereign 1903 Sovereign 1904
Sovereign 1905 Sovereign 1906 Sovereign 1907 Sovereign 1908 Sovereign 1909 Sovereign 1910
Sovereign 1911 Sovereign 1912 Sovereign 1913 Sovereign 1914 Sovereign 1915 Sovereign 1916
Sovereign 1917 Sovereign 1918 Sovereign 1919 Sovereign 1920 Sovereign 1921 Sovereign 1922
Sovereign 1923 Sovereign 1924 Sovereign 1925 Sovereign 1926 Sovereign 1927 Sovereign 1928
Sovereign 1929 Sovereign 1930 Sovereign 1931 Sovereign 1932 Sovereign 1937 Edward VIII (not released) Sovereign 1937 (Proof only)
Sovereign 1953 (not released) Sovereign 1957 Sovereign 1958 Sovereign 1959 Sovereign 1962 Sovereign 1963
Sovereign 1964 Sovereign 1965 Sovereign 1966 Sovereign 1967 Sovereign 1968