The Five Pound Piece

The Five Pound Piece


The Five Pound piece, otherwise known as the Quintuple Sovereign, was one of the original gold coins denominations forming part of 1816’s Great Recoinage. After the reformation of the coinage, the first strike produced of the five-pound denomination was seen in 1820, as a pattern piece. George IV saw the reappearance of the Five Pounds in 1826, included in the proof set of that year, and there is record of one 1829 in existence. The famous Una and the Lion coin was minted in the reign of Queen Victoria, produced in 1839, with a total mintage of perhaps 400 examples; another of the Royal Mint’s greatest engravers, William Wyon, is credited with producing this particular masterpiece.


As part of the Jubilee coinage of 1887, the Five Pound piece returned once again, with the final example of Queen Victoria’s reign coming in 1893, featuring the queen’s veiled head portrait, and notably including “IND IMP” within the obverse legend, short for INDIAE IMPERATRIX, or “Empress of India”, in light of Victoria’s lobbying for her full titles to be included on the coinage. Five Pound coins were issued at both face value in currency, and within the proof sets issued commemorating King Edward VII’s coronation in 1902. A tiny number were struck in Sydney that year, but these are extremely rare. Bertram MacKennal’s depiction of George V is seen in 1911’s Five Pound piece, seen in the coronation proof sets of that year.


Edward VIII wanted his profile to feature a left-facing portrait, breaking a tradition to reverse the direction of portrait dating back to 1660. Pattern coins were struck bearing Thomas Humphrey Paget’s depiction of the King, but Edward’s abdication in December 1936 ended any further production. As a result, only two of these Five Pound pieces are known to be held in private collections, one selling in 2021 graded PR67 Ultra Cameo by NGC for US$2,280,000 (£1,654,000) by Heritage Auctions. George VI’s reign only featured a Five Pound piece in 1937, released as part of his coronation proof sets.


Five Pound pieces were produced in miniscule numbers to mark the year of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953, but these were not released to the public; neither were those minted slightly later on in 1957. These coins no longer bore “IND IMP” in the obverse legend, reflecting Indian independence achieved in 1947. No more Five Pound pieces were struck until 1980, and from then onwards, the Royal Mint have struck examples in most years, excluding 1986, 1987 and 1988 in proof condition, as well as having no 1983 Five Pound piece at all. Principally featuring Benedetto Pistrucci’s design, these have been interspersed by specific designs of other engravers, such as the 500th Anniversary of the Sovereign Coin design by Bernard Sindall in 1989, the Golden Jubilee design of 2002 by Timothy Noad, and the 2012 Diamond Jubilee design by Paul Day.


Using the current portraits of the time of her late majesty, the Five Pound pieces passed through portraits by such famed names as Mary Gillick, Arnold Machin, Raphael Maklouf, Ian Rank-Broadley, James Butler, and Jody Clark. Following her late majesty’s death in 2022, King Charles III has opted for a depiction created by the esteemed sculptor Martin Jennings; this piece also reflects his wider choice to have his name shown in vernacular English within the obverse legend, rather than the more traditional Latin inscription.


As an auction house we have broken records achieved for Five Pound pieces in recent times, with our November 2023 auction achieving the highest yet! A 1980 Five Pounds graded PF70 UCAM reached £9,200, with an equivalent for 1997 reaching £7,700 (both including buyer’s premium), breaking our own records earlier that year for these pieces.

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