European Gold Coins and the History Behind Them – The British Sovereign

European Gold - British Sovereign


Minted primarily from the early 1800s to the 1930s, European Gold coins were used heavily as currency during the times of their issuance, so specimens surviving in uncirculated or mint state condition today are relatively scarce. Pricing on most items in this category are similar to bullion Gold prices, but with the advantage of centuries of European heritage. Shop our selection of European Gold today.

The Most Popular British Gold Coin

Did you know there are 44 countries in Europe and that at one time or another, every one of them have issued Gold coins? Some of these coins are seldom encountered while some are household words. We will examine two very popular European Gold coins – the British Sovereign and the French Angel.

The British Sovereign was first minted in 1817 during the reign of King George III. The Sovereign replaced the British Gold Guinea that had been Britain’s most important Gold coin for commerce, minted since 1663. The obverse of the Sovereign bore the profile of the reigning monarch while the reverse displayed the symbolic depiction of St. George Slaying the Dragon.

The reverse depiction of St. George was the work of Italian Medalist and Coin Engraver Benedetto Pistrucci. He moved from Italy to Britain in 1815, but his work was well-known to the wealthy patrons all across Europe who prized the cameos he created bearing their likenesses.

The master of the British Royal Mint persuaded Pistrucci to create a representation of the famed St. George encounter with the dragon for the reverse of the new Gold coins, which Pistrucci completed, to mixed reviews in London.

The public preferred the convenience of carrying paper currency instead of heavy Gold coins but the British monarchy liked the Gold coins. Paper currency was actually changed to carry denominations higher than one pound.

In order to make the Sovereign the coin of international trade, the British government paid foreign governments in Sovereigns on numerous occasions. In fact, to spur the use of Sovereigns, they were struck in a number of British colonies as well – Canada, Australia, South Africa and India – with each carrying a special mintmark to designate their location of mintage.

The Sovereign was unavailable during World War I, although it was struck at some of the colonial mints during those years. Minting stopped worldwide in 1932 but the coins continued to circulate in the Middle East and Asia. The British Royal Mint eventually struck new Sovereigns in 1957 and annually thereafter. Today it is the most popular British coin around the world!

Gold Coins of Europe such as the Sovereign are recognized as one of the most advantageous ways to invest in Gold. These classic Gold coins have been universally accepted for hundreds of years and with multiple sizes there are options for varying budgets. APMEX offers Gold coins from not only Great Britain and France, but also Austria, Italy, Switzerland and many more.

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