Live prices
  • Gold £1,903.00 oz 1.61%
  • Silver £24.75 oz 5.52%
  • Platinum £871.15 oz 2.23%
Gold 1.61%
£1,903.00 oz
Silver 5.52%
£24.75 oz
Platinum 2.23%
£871.15 oz
Gold 1.61%
£1,903.00 oz
Silver 5.52%
£24.75 oz
Platinum 2.23%
£24.75 oz
Intrinsic Value Library
January 11, 2024
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February 6, 2024
1489 Tudor Sovereign

The First Gold Sovereign

Henry VIII commissioned the first ever Gold Sovereign in 1489 which was set to change the course of Britain's currency. The first Gold Sovereign was not the first Gold coin that Britain had seen but it was the first to have a nominal value of one pound and one shilling

First Gold Sovereign Specifications

The first Sovereigns were a higher Gold purity than modern-day Sovereigns. At 95.83%, they were 23 carat and were also larger at half a troy ounce, making them close to the weight of a modern-day Double Sovereign. Henry VII was the first monarch to feature on the British Gold Sovereign coin and it is interesting to see there was no face value struck on the coin, showing it's role as a bullion coin

The coin's design focused on a portrait of Henry VII seated on the throne with his gown. The obverse saw the striking of the famous Tudor Rose which was later commemorated by the 1989 Gold Sovereign which celebrated the 500 year anniversary of the 1489 Sovereign

Mintage figures for the 1489 Sovereign are unknown, although there are a couple of these original Sovereigns known to exist, most likely in museums rather than private hands. A total of five different designs were used under Henry VII's reign

Background and Predecessor

Britain had previously used the Spur Ryal which was the coin of choice under James I, the coin continued to circulate under Henry VII, Edward VI, Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Mary

The first Gold Sovereign was initially called the Double Ryal but was later changed to the 'Sovereign' by Henry VII

The Sovereign was retired from production by King James I who replaced it with the Gold Unite, a tribute to the union of England and Scotland. The Sovereign was not introduced again until George III's reign in 1817

This is classified as the 'modern-day Sovereign' and shares the same specifications as the Gold Sovereigns that the Royal Mint continues to issue today

Gold Spur Riyal coin
Spur Ryal

An Early Debasement

1544 saw a shift in policy for coin production. Henry VII's excessive spending on wars and personal luxury meant that he needed to debase the currency by reducing the precious metal content of the coin's alloy in favour of cheaper based metals such as copper

Coin Gold purity fell in 1545 91.67%, or 22 carat. A further debasement occurred in 1546 which saw Gold coins set to 20 carats, this being 83.3%. The reason to why modern day Gold Sovereigns are a purer Gold coin is that Edward VI increased the Sovereign's purity to 91.67% which he justified by reducing the overall size of the coin

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