What is the Difference between a Gold Sovereign and a Half Sovereign?
Free & fully insured UK Delivery. Learn more
Secure & flexible payments. Learn more
Buyback Guarantee Learn more
The sovereign is an iconic British coin that is popular amongst investors and collectors. The modern sovereign has been in existence since 1817, and the coin has witnessed the reigns of several British monarchs. The current version features a design of St George and the Dragon, which was created by the famous coin designer, Benedetto Pistrucci.
The sovereign is available in different versions, owing to separate releases during the reigns of different monarchs. The gold coins issued during the reign of Queen Victoria have three different editions – the young head, the Jubilee head and the old head. These variances make the coin extremely attractive to collectors. Excitement is now building for the first Sovereigns to feature King Charles III.
In this article, we will explore the differences between a gold sovereign, otherwise known as a full sovereign and a half-sovereign.
In basic terms, the Sovereign is twice the size of the Half Sovereign. The smaller coin is an exact miniature replica of the larger version, both being made from 22-carat alloy mix and sharing the same front and back design. A full gold Sovereign coin is about the size of a one pence piece and weighs 7.98g, while the half Sovereign is closer to the old halfpenny size and weighs 3.99g. Both have a face value, qualifying them as legal tender in the UK, with the larger coin featuring a £1 value, and the half Sovereign 50p.
The half sovereign goes by that name since it is half the weight of a full sovereign, and has half the gold content. The face value of the half-sovereign is also half a pound. The Bank of England decided to discontinue the gold standard in 1931. Since then, the half-sovereign was minted as a bullion coin. However, it continued to be recognised as legal tender in the UK.
This ultimate guide is a must-read before you invest
When we speak about modern sovereigns, including the half sovereigns, we are referring to the issues beyond 1817. The dimensions of the modern half-sovereign include a diameter of 19.30 mm and a thickness of 0.99mm. The full sovereign, on the other hand, has a diameter of 22.05 mm and a thickness of 1.52 mm. The half-sovereign, weighing 3.99 g is around half that of the full sovereign, which weighs 7.98 g. The half-sovereign, therefore, contains 0.1176 troy ounces of 22-carat crown gold.
The introduction of the half-sovereign into British coinage took place in 1544, during the time of King Henry VIII. In contrast, the original sovereign was released during the reign of King Henry VII’s in 1489. However, the circulation of both coins lasted only till 1604. The long hiatus of both sovereigns finally ended in 1817, when they were reintroduced, following the great British re-coinage of 1816. In the years that followed, the half-sovereign, remained in production, until 1926 in the UK. It is interesting to note that Australia continued to use this coin, till 1933. Production of the half-sovereign was restarted only in 1980, however, there were certain special issues for events like the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
When building a gold portfolio, divisibility is an important factor. The half-sovereign is an invaluable addition to a gold portfolio since it offers the investor the opportunity to invest in a small portion of gold, around half that of the gold sovereign, which contains approximately a quarter ounce of gold. This makes the half-sovereign a more affordable coin for those with modest budgets.
With growing fears of fiat currency devaluation, more investors are seeking the smallest denominated gold coins possible to prepare for possible future bartering.
Both the half-sovereign and the full sovereign are UK legal tender and qualify for CGT exemptions. Since both coins contain investment-grade gold, they can be purchased VAT free.
While the Sovereign may be double the weight of the smaller half Sovereign, it can be bought for less than double the price. The general rule of thumb with prices for standard bullion coins is the smaller the coin, the higher the premium. This is due to relative production costs reducing as coins get bigger. In other words, it’s cheaper to make one 1-ounce coin, than 4 quarter ounce coins. Therefore, investors should understand that they will pay an extra premium for the convenience of owning smaller denominated coins.
Potential values of historical and collectable Sovereigns and half Sovereigns are in theory the same. It all depends on how rare a particular coin is.
We definitely see the smaller Half Sovereigns looking more worn on average than the larger Full Sovereign. The difference is usually apparent when comparing two older coins from the Edwardian or Victorian eras. This is simply due to the Half Sovereign’s diminutive size offering less protection.
Whether you’re in the market to buy half-sovereign, a full one or maybe even gold Britannia coins, you can benefit from great impartial advice when you call the investment team at Physical Gold. Our team can offer you advice based on solid research on the right coins and gold bars to invest in. Call us today on (020) 7060 9992 or get in touch online via our website.
Image credits: Wikimedia Commons and Wikimedia Commons