The first commemorative gold sovereign in history
The modern British sovereign that celebrates its 200th anniversary in 2017 owes its existence to the earlier issue of sovereign coins in England. In 1989, to celebrate the 500th anniversary of those first English sovereigns of King Henry VII, an extraordinary coin was issued – Queen Elizabeth II Gold Sovereign Proof of 1989. The coin was the first commemorative sovereign in history, and for the first time in over 100 years a design other than St George and the dragon appeared on the reverse side. For the first time in over 300 years, the monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, was depicted not with a portrait but enthroned.
The Royal Mint guards the reputation of the gold sovereign jealously. It’s worldwide reputation means that it is rare for St George and the dragon to be replaced. However, this 500th anniversary marked half a millennium of this world renowned coin and therefore warranted a design of suitable magnitude to match the importance of the anniversary.
The design chosen was a modernised version of the design on the earliest sovereigns of Tudor times, struck by King Henry VII in 1489.
On the obverse side, which would usually carry a portrait, is the Enthroned Portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, depicting her seated, facing front, wearing a crown and robed in regal splendour, holding two sceptres. This gold issue of 1989 is the only time this enthroned portrait has ever been used on the coinage of our monarch.
The reverse side is just as beautiful, depicting a crowned shield of the Royal Arms, set upon a double Tudor Rose, a modernised version of the design that appeared on the earliest sovereigns of Henry Tudor.
The reverse legend is also worth noting: it reads ANNIVERSARY OF THE GOLD SOVEREIGN 1489-1989, which is the only time in history the word ‘sovereign’ has ever appeared on a British coin.
This design was only ever struck in the year 1989 onto the gold half sovereign, sovereign, double sovereign and quintuple sovereign. These commemorative sovereign coins were only ever struck in Proof quality as collector’s pieces.
Only 23,471 sovereigns were minted.
This exceptional design makes each of these coins one-year types which are sought-after by all sovereign collectors around the world.