200 years of the Sovereign – Britain’s flagship coin

In 2017, we will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the modern sovereign – a coin renowned for its impeccable quality and craftsmanship.

The ‘Great Recoinage’ was the British government’s attempt to re-stabilise the currency of Great Britain following economic difficulties caused by both the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. On the 22nd June 1816, the Coinage Act was passed and was given Royal Assent. 

Not only were silver coins reintroduced into circulation, the Gold Sovereign returned to become the symbol of Britishness across the Empire.

As we approach the 200th anniversary, we take a look at some of the key Sovereign designs through the years…


The designs that have appeared on Sovereigns throughout the years are all of significant importance but since the first ‘modern’ Sovereign 200 years ago, Benedetto Pistrucci’s St George and the dragon has become synonymous with the Sovereign, the gold coin that set new standards for accuracy that defined a currency.

Click here to download a pdf version of the Change Checker Sovereign graphic.

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Today you can reserve the brand new 2017 Bicentenary Gold Proof Sovereign

The coin that built the British Empire

The Gold Guinea coin was the most popular coin during the time Britain became the world’s major colonial power. 2013 marked 200 years since the last Guinea was officially struck.

To celebrate this anniversary, a £2 coin was issued in 2013 featuring an interpretation of the original ‘Spade Guinea’ design using the Arms of George III. 

2,990,000 Anniversary of the Golden Guinea £2 coins were issued and the coin has a score of 21 on our Scarcity Index, making it less common.

But how did the very first Guinea come to pass?


2013 Anniversary of the Golden Guinea £2


The history of the Guinea

At the end of the civil war in the 17th century, when Charles II was restored to the throne, he was desperate to restore faith in the British currency. The British currency  had literally taken a battering during the war and people would clip bits of silver off coins to make money.

A more trustworthy coinage was needed

In exile Charles II had observed coins being produced on a machine – a mill and screw press. The coins created had greater definition and a more regular shape and size compared to the medieval process of hammering.

The new process was employed and a new coin “the Guinea”, worth 20 shillings, was born.


The ‘Rose’ Guinea is so called because of the coin’s reverse design which features the Royal Arms elaborately decorated in a way which is compared to an open rose.

The Guinea was a world first

The ‘Guinea’ is one of the world’s most famous coins and was minted in the United Kingdom between 1663 and 1813.

The Guinea takes its name from the African country of Guinea, the source of the Gold used to mint the coin.

The Guinea was actually the very first machine-made British coin and is still one of the most-renowned British coins of all time. It was a coin that could be trusted.


Charles III Guinea

The George III Spade Guinea was the predecessor of the modern Sovereign and the last guinea to be issued for general circulation.

The foundation of the British Empire

The East India Company is historically the most famous company ever. At one time it occupied over half of all global trade and, at its peak, it kept a private army of 27,000 soldiers.

They did not set out to change the world but they laid the foundations of the British Empire and its trading success was founded on the Guinea.

The legacy of the Guinea

The designs of the Guinea coin varied widely during the 150 years of production and captured many of the turbulent political changes of the times.

Even after the coin ceased to circulate, the name Guinea was long used to indicate 21 shillings or £1.05 in decimalised currency.

It was finally replaced by the Sovereign with the Great Recoinage of 1816.



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