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Gold Sovereigns

1872 Melbourne Mint, Australia

22 Carat Gold

Following the discovery of gold in Australia the NSW Legislative Council on 19 December 1851 addressed a petition to Her Majesty Queen Victoria seeking the establishment of a branch of the Royal Mint (London) in Sydney. The intention was to turn the newly won gold into sovereigns and half sovereigns, and to establish a point of sale where the miners would receive the official price of gold as opposed to the often paltry prices paid by the buyers on the fields.

With the discovery of even larger gold fields, Victoria’s Legislative Council petitioned the Queen in July 1852 for a branch of the Royal Mint to be set up in Melbourne. The NSW petition, lodged 19 December 1851, was successful and the Sydney branch of the Royal Mint commenced operations on the 14 May 1855. Melbourne’s bid failed and it was not until 1865 that a further petition brought a favorable response. This delay is surprising in view of the fact that by 1860 there were over 80,000 alluvial miners on the fields and, by 1861 Victoria had over half of the Australia’s total population of 1,145,000.

A proclamation and Order – in – Council issued on 7 August 1869 constituted the Melbourne branch of the Royal Mint declaring that: ‘gold coins made at the Melbourne branch Mint will be legal tender in all parts of Her Majesty’s dominions in which gold coins issued from Her Majesty’s London Mint are legal tender'. The Melbourne Mint began production 12 June 1872.

1872 Melbourne Mint Shield Gold Sovereign Reverse

1872 Melbourne Mint Shield Gold Sovereign Obverse

Young Head , Shield Reverse.
The first portrait for Queen Victoria was the "Young Head", which was used on sovereigns from 1838 to 1887 inclusive. It was refined and modified a number of times during this period. In the case of Shield reverse the date appears below Victoria's portrait ( With St George, the date appears on the reverse. ) The design can best be described by the Master of the Royal Mint, when writing to Queen Victoria regarding its proposal in 1837:
“.... the Ensigns Armorial of the United Kingdom .... Contained in a plain shield, surmounted by the Royal Crown and encircled with a Laurel Wreath, with the inscription BRITANNIARUM REGINA FID DEF, having the united Rose, Thistle and Shamrock placed under the shield.".
The nature of this design is such that shield sovereigns tend to be marginally concave on the reverse - because it is to a small extent protected by the rims.
It can be difficult to accurately distinguish between different grades. For the same reason, shields are generally well struck. As with all coins however, some small differences will occur.
The Melbourne Mint had a great deal of trouble when it first began production, the dies were not getting any where near the life they should with Michael Marsh quoting figures of "an average of 14,000 for the reverse dies and 8,000 for the obverse dies."
From top to bottom, some of the more prominent points are:
  • The orb at the peak of the crown, the gems directly below this point, and the cross directly below the gems;
  • The diamonds across the base of the crown, and also the fur directly at the base;
  • The edge and separators of the shield;
  • The upper edges of certain leaves comprising the surrounding wreath;
  • The faces on the lions in the upper left and lower right quartiles of the shield;
  • The bust and torso of the angel in the lower left quartile of the shield.



Composition: 91.67% Gold
8.33% Copper
Gold Content: 0.2354 oz
Edge: Reeded
Weight: 7.9881 grams
Size: 21.5 mm
Reverse: Jean Baptiste Merlen
Obverse: William Wyon
Chard Gold Sovereigns Andrew Crellin of Monetarium

The Sovereign
Daniel Fearon & Brian Reeds
17 Windmill Drive
Croxley Green, Hertfordshire
United Kingdom

Token Publishing

The Gold Sovereign
Golden Jubilee Edition

Michael A Marsh
25A St Neots Rd
Cambrigeshire CB3 7QH
United Kingdom