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1884 Melbourne Mint, Australia
22 Carat Gold
|Shields comprise between a mere 15% & 20% of the total
amount struck. Although the exact number of shields & St George reverses struck each
year would have fluctuated, it is a general rule that shields are the scarcer of the two
The shield design was used on Australian sovereigns between 1871 and 1887, and the design described below was adapted slightly from that first seen on the new coinage of King George IV in 1825.
Interestingly, the vast majority of, if not all shield sovereigns struck were exported to India. Evidently, there were some objections there to the St George reverse design on religious grounds. St George being the patron saint of England, in their opinion his image on coinage nigh constituted idol worship - taboo in a number of Eastern religions. Another less sensational explanation for the use of this reverse type in India is that “the people there had become accustomed to that pattern.”
Young Head , Shield Reverse.
At the time when William Wyon's design was introduced, the nation was in its infancy.
Australia had a growing gold mining industry, a land boom was in progress, the future
looked bright for the fledgling nation. Needless to say, a sovereign during this period
had a high value indeed, accounting for at least half a week’s wages for the
The first portrait for Queen Victoria was the "Young Head", which was used on sovereigns from 1938 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.
From top to bottom, some of the more prominent points however are: