King George IV Gold Sovereign of 1825-1830 – The Very First Shield Design Sovereign
The first gold sovereigns of King George IV (1821-1825) featured a portrait of the king in classical style by the Italian designer Benedetto Pistrucci, and that same designer’s rendition of the St George slaying the dragon on the reverse.
However, George IV has disliked the way Pistrucci has depicted him and in 1825 this led the king to insist that Pistrucci create a new portrait based on a marble bust by Sir Francis Chantry. Pistrucci, a tempestuous designer, was affronted at being asked to copy the work of another artist and refused – the task was handed to English designer, William Wyon.
Wyon was in his ascendancy and later proved to be possibly the finest British coin designer ever known. He created the Young Portrait of Queen Victoria which adorned sovereigns for fifty years, as well as the Penny Black stamp.
His portrait of King George IV was a refreshingly modern interpretation, and omitted the laurel wreath – the first time since the Restoration that a British king had been so depicted.
Wyon’s bare-handed portrait of the king is accompanied by a reverse design of the Royal Arms within a garnished shield created by a Frenchman, Jean Baptiste Merlen. The royal titles, which Pistrucci had removed just a few years earlier, were restored to the area around the outside of the shield.
With Pistrucci’s popularity with the king on the wane and the St George design so closely associated with him, it was felt the shield was a more ‘British’ design motif. Incredibly, the design that was to become synonymous with the British sovereign coin itself was removed from the coins of King George IV, having been introduced less than a decade earlier.
There were only ever six years of gold sovereign issued with this potrait of the king – 1825, 26, 27, 28, 29 and 30. It was also the very first to feature the Shield of the Royal Arms on the reverse. These constitute just 2% of the total number of British sovereigns minted, and are of great importance to collectors.
The coins of 1825 are the very first date of this first type and are the most highly sought after.