Most valuable and rare Australian sovereigns
By CAA | Wednesday, 18 January 2023
Two and five pounds and other Australian gold coins were intentionally excluded from this list. Only Half-sovereigns and Sovereigns coins with circulation finish are included, except some proofs, patterns and specimens that are added at the end of the list.
An estimate of 21,000 of these were produced. In 2009, during the Quartermaster Collection sale, an example sold for $305,950. Another one sold in January 2015 for $48,800 (NGC VF-35) and more recently, a NGC EF-40 (Scratch) exemaple sold for $43,400 in January 2016. Only 3 are graded by NGC and 11 by PCGS. The highest graded one is EF-45 PCGS.
One of the rarest Australian sovereign to find in Mint State condition. An estimate of 502,000 of these were produced. In 2009, during the Quartermaster Collection sale, an example sold for $179,350. A NGC MS-61 piece sold for $49,000 in 2021.
This is the second Australian Sovereign made with a circulation strike finish. Even if the number of 1856 Sovereign struck is almost the double of the 1855 one, around 40% less are graded by NGC and PCGS with the highest one being MS-62. In 2009, during the Quartermaster Collection sale, an example sold for $131,875. In January 2015, a NGC MS-61 example sold for $54,500.
Half-Sovereign 1858 - Die Error
In 1858, a small number of Sovereign were made in HALF SOVRREIGN insteand of HALF SOVERING. Less than 10 are currently known since its discovery in the 1980s. No uncirculated piece is known for this rare variety.
Sovereign 1920 - Sydney
Because of the rising price of gold (127s 4d per ounce) after World War I, the Royal Mint suspended the production of the sovereign. The mint branch in Sydney, Australia already started to produce some of them. 360,000 is the official minting of the 1920 Sydney Gold Sovereign, but only four circulating examples are known, one of them is part of the Royal Australian Mint Collection in Canberra. 1 specimen is also known.
On September 7, 2012, one example sold for $1,020,000 and in 2021, another specimen sold for $1,193,200.
Sovereign 1921 - Melbourne
In May 2020 a PCGS MS-64 example sold for $51,166. With a very low mintage of 240,121, this is one of the rarest Melbourne sovereign ever produced. Most of these gold coins were melted. In 2018, another example, also certified MS-64 PCGS sold in April for around $50,700.
In 2016, a MS-63+ PCGS Sydney piece sold for $43,757 and another coin from Melbourne sold for $66,270, also certified by PCGS. Perth examples are more common.
Sovereign 1923 - Sydney
Mintage of 416,000 pieces, but in the understanding that some 90 million Sovereigns were melted down and converted into bars for the Bank of England in the early 1930s, with a sizeable portion of those coming from the South African and Australian mints. Thus, it is believed that an extremely small group of specimens, perhaps no more than 25 pieces with this date and mint combination, have survived.
An example sold in 2020 for around $44,000 (PCGS MS-64). This exact same piece sold previously in 2015 for $51,100. It was described as:
An outstanding selection from the Sydney mint with exquisite, harvest-gold color that dazzles across fresh, satiny fields, tied for finest graded by either NGC or PCGS. Other than a few small ticks on the reverse motif which preclude a finer designation, this piece is seemingly free of any noteworthy blemishes.
Sovereign 1926 - Sydney
In January 2015, a PCGS MS-64 example sold for $68,620. Another example sold in January 2020, certified MS-65 NGC for $38,280. In 2009, during the Quartermaster Collection sale, an example sold for $48,530.
- Half Sovereign 1857 - 7/5
- Sovereign 1857
- Sovereign 1858
- Sovereign 1861 - 1/0
- Half Sovereign 1864 - Roman 1
- Sovereign 1865 - 5/4
- Sovereign 1879 - Shield - C/O
- Sovereign 1880 - Shield - Melbourne
- Half Sovereign 1893 - Melbourne
Proofs, Specimens and Patterns examples
Most of these are extremely rare. Here some of the most valuable ones.
Half Sovereign 1853 - Pattern
Just 4 Proof 1/2 Sovereigns were originally produced for this date, one of which is held by the British Museum, with two others in the possession of the Royal Mint Museum in Wales.
Deemed too costly to ship all the way back to England to use for the Crown's coinage, the Legislative Council of New South Wales had petitioned Queen Victoria as early as December 1851 to establish a local mint near the port at Sydney for the coining of this gold, a petition that was followed in subsequent years by further appeals, particularly after the closure of the Government Assay Office at Adelaide in February 1853. While James Wyon's trademark fillet head design would only see use in circulation for less than a year after the Sydney branch mint opened in 1855, the monetary revolution it heralded in Australia would endure for decades to come.
A PR-62 NGC example sold for $295,800 in 2023. It previsouly sold, in 2022, for $218,400.
Sovereign 1853 - Pattern
Only 1 pattern for this date is in private hands, all other specimens are in museum collections. One presently residing in the British Museum, with the other two in the Royal Mint Museum in Wales. There are none in Australian institutions, and this date was absent from famed Murdoch Collection for both the Sovereign and 1/2 Sovereign.
Sovereign of 1853, the first Sovereign for the colony and one of only 4 originally produced. Commissioned following the announcement that Sydney would host the first Royal Mint branch outside of Britain in August 1853, this issue was produced by James Wyon as what was intended to be a design unique to the new mint. Completed over a year before the first circulating coins were struck at Sydney on June 23, 1855, Wyon captured a youthful portrait of Victoria in resolute and lifelike proportions that would be only slightly altered in the final design by his cousin, Leonard Charles Wyon, used on the emissions of 1855. It is thought that the reverse was loosely modeled on contemporary English 6 Pences and Shillings, with "Sydney Mint Australia" and the denomination arranged around a splay of flowers and a crown.
A NGC PR-63 Ultra Cameo example sold at Heritages auction for $537,600 in May 2022 and again in January 2023 for $452,400.
Half-Sovereign 1855 - Pattern
In 2022, a PR-66+ NGC example sold for $260,400. It sold again a couple months later early 2023 for $243,600. Only 6 known.
In Proof Finish
- Noble Numismatics Auction 62 (November 1999, Lot 1419); Spink Noble Numismatics Auction 39 (July 1992, Lot 1044); Spink Australia Auction 6 (November 1981, Lot 983); John Ahbe Collection; Captain Vivian Hewitt Collection; Virgil Brand Collection; J. G. Murdoch Collection (Sotheby's July 1903, Lot 615) [part]
- The British Museum specimen (1935,0401.9027). Bequeathed to the British Museum by Thomas Bryan Clarke-Thornhill in 1935
In Circulated Condition
- The Museums Victoria, Melbourne specimen (NU 3130); Transferred from the National Gallery of Victoria, March 15, 1976; Donated by A.H.F. Baldwin in 1929
- The Walter Eigner specimen. Noble Numismatics Auction 112 (July 2016, Lot 1769); Spink Australia Auction 15 (March 1985, Lot 474). Certified VF Details (Graffiti) by PCGS.
- The W.E. Purnell specimen; Noble Numismatics Auction 101 (November 2012, Lot 1477)
Sovereign 1855 - Pattern
An example of this rarity sold for $336,000 (PR-65 NGC) in 2022. It has been supposed that only some three pattern examples of this issue exist in private hands, with the last having appeared on auction in January 2019 (PR-65 Cameo by PCGS), and another piece known in the Murdoch Collection. First portrayal of Wyon's famous "banksia" head. This design would not be formally adopted on the circulating coinage until 1857.
Half-Sovereign 1856 - Pattern
3 traceable examples in auction records from the last several decades and likely still held privately. A PR-65+ NGC piece sold for $201,600 in 2022 and sold again in 2023 for $208,800.
Sovereign 1856 - Pattern
Three known specimens including two in private hands. A PR-65+ NGC example sold in 2022 for $327,600. The other one owned by a collector, certified PR-62 NGC sold for $154,290 in 2020.