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How Much Gold is There in a Gold Sovereign vs a Half Sovereign

The gold Sovereign is the pride and joy of British coinage and has been around for a very long time. The modern gold Sovereign was launched in 1817, however, the Sovereign has a history that dates back even longer. The 1817 coin was part of the great British Re-coinage of 1816. The original 1817 gold Sovereign was designed by the Italian designer, Benedetto Pistrucci, who created the classic image of St George slaying the dragon. This is the image that appears on the gold Sovereign. At the time, the brother of the Duke of Wellington, William Wesley Pole commissioned the Italian designer to create the new coin for the re-coinage. Thereafter, the Sovereign was created to replace an older British coin called Guinea.

How Much Gold is There in a Gold Sovereign vs a Half Sovereign
A fine example of an 1838 Gold Sovereign

The early history of the Gold Sovereign

The gold Sovereign is based on an even older British coin called the English Sovereign. This was issued in 1489 by King Henry VII. The English Sovereign weighed of 15.55 g in gold. It was the first coin with a value of 1 pound, and its size and fineness of gold changed over the years. In 1603, when King James I acceded to the throne of England, a Sovereign was released to commemorate the occasion. After that, the Sovereign was withdrawn from circulation and did not resurface until 1817.

Insider's Guide to gold and silver

How much gold did the 1817 Sovereign contain

Under the proclamation of King George IV in 1817, the weight of the gold Sovereign was set at 5 pennyweights, three grains, Troy weight of standard gold. When we calculate this amount in grams, it becomes clear that the 1817 gold Sovereign contained approximately 7.942 g of gold. According to the proclamation, the 1817 gold Sovereign would also be known as the 20 shilling coin. It was this occasion that heralded the birth of the modern Sovereign, as we know it.

The changing Sovereign

Over the years, the design of the Sovereign was modified with the reign of each British monarch. For example, the Sovereign of King George IV features a laureate head of the King. Once again, when King William IV took over the throne in 1830, a new makeover of the sovereign was created.

By the reign of Queen Victoria, the full Sovereign contained 7.98 g of gold, with a purity of 91.7%. The coin, popularly known as the Young Head, had a diameter of 22.05 mm and a thickness of 1.56 mm.  However, the gold content of the Sovereign was eventually brought down to 7.32 grams of gold. This weight continued through the reigns of King Edward VII, George V, right up to the 2022 gold Sovereign of Queen Elizabeth II. Currently, the half Sovereign of Queen Elizabeth II contains 3.66 g of gold.

How Much Gold is There in a Gold Sovereign vs a Half Sovereign
The obverse of the Sovereign of King George IV with a laureate head

Both coins are tax-free when bought and sold in the UK. A full Sovereign contains 7.32g of gold, with the smaller coin containing exactly half that amount. Half Sovereigns tend to cost more per gram to buy but provide more divisibility to a coin portfolio. A mix of both types of Sovereign is preferable for a balanced collection.

A bullion coin

Both the full Sovereign and the half Sovereign are now released by the Royal Mint as a bullion coin. Since 1932, the Sovereign has been withdrawn from circulation. However, it continues to enjoy its status as a legal tender coin. In the UK. However, its gold value makes it unfit for use in the economy as a payment method.

Talk to the gold experts to know more about the British Sovereign

Physical Gold is proud to be one of the largest and most reputed gold dealers in the UK. If you wish to invest in gold Sovereigns, please speak to our investment team, who can guide you on getting the best deals for this coin. Call us on (020) 7060 9992 or drop us an email via our website.


Image credits: Public.Resource.Org and Wikimedia Commons



Daniel Fisher formed physical Gold in 2008, after working in the financial industry for 20 years. He spent much of that time working within the new issue fixed income business at a top tier US bank. In this role, he traded a large book of fixed income securities, raised capital for some of the largest government, financial, and corporate institutions in the world and advised the leading global institutional investors. Daniel is CeFA registered and is a member of the Institute of Financial Planning.

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