The Royal Mint of the United Kingdom entrusted Numismatic Guaranty Corporation® (NGC®) to certify an example of one of the greatest rarities of British coinage: the 1819 George III Sovereign. The Royal Mint sold the sovereign through a ballot, with the winning collector purchasing it for £100,000 (about $129,000 USD).
The 1819 Sovereign was submitted by the Royal Mint to NGC International UK Ltd. (NGC UK), an affiliate of NGC in London. NGC UK was established in 2018 to better serve collectors and dealers in the United Kingdom.
Graded NGC F 12, it is only the second 1819 Sovereign to be certified by NGC.
1819 Sovereigns are exceptional for several reasons: less than 4,000 were minted; the coins were minted for private merchants using gold that they provided; and by 1829, they had all but vanished from circulation.
Today, 200 years after they were struck, there are thought to be fewer than 10 examples of the 1819 Sovereign in existence. Michael Marsh’s The Gold Sovereign reference assigns the highest rarity rating to this coin, making it the most elusive in the entire sovereign series.
The obverse of the coin depicts the laureate head of King George III facing right, dated 1819 below truncation with the legend GEORGIUS III D G BRITANNIAR REX FD (George III, by the grace of God, King of Britain, Defender of the Faith). On the reverse, an image of St. George slaying the dragon—the iconic allegory of good triumphing over evil—is surrounded by a garter with the Order of the Garter’s motto HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE (Shame be to him who thinks evil of it).
The gold sovereign was first issued in 1817 to replace the gold guinea and its denominations, which suffered from heavy wear through circulation and were largely underweight. It was designed by Benedetto Pistrucci, a fiery Italian gem engraver.
Small modifications were made to the design in 1821 (St. George’s broken spear was replaced with a sword, and the garter around the circumference of the reverse was omitted), but the sovereign has remained largely unchanged to the present date. So well regarded is Benedetto Pistrucci’s design that the Royal Mint still strikes its sovereigns with the B.P. initials.
Like the design, the purity of the coin has been consistent. The sovereign was first struck in .917 fine gold to a weight of 7.988 grams in 1817, and it remains the same today. This unvarying standard, combined with its popularity, prompted economic historian Sir John Clapham to dub the sovereign “the chief coin of the world.”
“We were thrilled to present this sovereign to the public on the 200th anniversary of the year it was struck,” said Matt Curtis, the Royal Mint’s Head of Historic Coins. “NGC’s certification will provide confidence in the coin’s authenticity and grade, as well as preserve the 2019 Royal Mint Ballot provenance for future collectors.”
“One can imagine the noble history of this coin over the past two centuries, from heavy usage in commerce until its value as a numismatic rarity was recognized,” said Mark Salzberg, NGC Chairman and Grading Finalizer. “It was a great honor to certify this exceptional sovereign for the Royal Mint.”
Steven Eichenbaum, NGC CEO, adds: “We are glad that our newest location in London made it convenient for the Royal Mint to submit this fantastic coin for grading. We look forward to continuing to serve the Royal Mint as well as collectors and dealers throughout the UK.”