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HI31930

George III 1819 Sovereign VF30, Finest graded, the rarest London date

George III (1760-1820),gold Sovereign, 1819, first laureate head right, date below, Latin legend commences lower left GEORGIUS III D: G: BRITANNIAR: REX F:D:,rev.St George and dragon right, incuse BP below broken lance at lower left for designer and engraver Benedetto Pistrucci, garter motto surrounding, buckle with incuse WWP for Master of the Mint William Wellesley Pole, French motto HONI. SOIT. QUI. MAL. Y. PENSE., edge milled, weight 7.91g (Bentley 941; Marsh 3 R5; Bull 903 R5; S.3785).The key date to the London series, toned with some darker parts to legend with circulation wear to high points, has been slabbed and graded by NGC as VF30 which is the finest slabbed and graded, the second finest of the 10 known examples and most significantly with the longest provenance for the rarest currency sovereign.

NGC certification 4341038-001. As of September 2023, this is the finest graded at both services (PCGS have never graded an example).

Calendar year mintage 3,574.

The Latin legends translate to on obverse "George III by the Grace of God, King of the Britons, Defender of the Faith." The older Norman-French legend on the reverse translates as "Evil to him, who evil thinks" and is the motto of the chivalric Order of the Garter founded in 1348 by King Edward III.

The legendary 1819 Sovereign has been well known as the rarest London mint Sovereign for some sixty years now. The best write-up on the history of this rare issue appears in the Bentley Collection special edition catalogue pages 24-25. However, in a nutshell the coin has such a low mintage and is so rare because only a small number were struck on five occasions from August to November of 1819 and unusually not from gold supplied by the Bank of England, but from small City of London companies and principally from a firm named Haldimand and Co. At this time banknotes were vying with the gold Sovereign and had taken prevalence in daily spending habits and gold Sovereigns did not make a concerted return to people's pockets until at least two years later, another reason why gold output was so low, however the 1819 Sovereigns did circulate as evidenced by the condition of this coin and the extremely low survival rate to the ten pieces we know of existing today. There was a survey of gold coinage in circulation in 1829 by the Royal Mint and Bank of England who tried to locate x100 sovereigns of each date in issue, however only two 1819 Sovereigns were found in circulation. A survey of 105,000 sovereigns in circulation by a banker named Martin in 1882 also only found two 1819 sovereigns in such a large sample. At the Numismatic Society meeting in London on 17th December 1891, Mr J Clark exhibited an 1819 Sovereign in "Fine" condition, the first mention of one ever exhibited to numismatists. Dr Philip Nelson's listing of English gold coins that appeared in the 1904 Spink Numismatic Circular misses out the 1819 date blissfully unaware of its existence, though the fabled proof 1819 Sovereign that was once supposed to exist appears for sale in the December 1905 edition of the circular (and not seen since a 1939 auction appearance). It took till the 1960s for the true rarity of the coin to be revealed in the writing of J. J. Cullimore-Allen in his 1965 book "Sovereigns of the British Empire" where he literally stopped press to add at the last minute this very coin that he had just acquired a mere two months before publication. There is no 1819 Sovereign in any museum collection we are aware of including the British Museum. The Bentley Collection attempts to list all the known examples as of 2012 which numbered seven confirmed plus the unconfirmed proof, and we are aware of two more appearing since to add to the tally (one sold by Jon Blyth not long after the 2013 Bentley sale and another in the Spink Stratos Sale with loop mount on 15th September 2020), taking the total to nine currency pieces including the coin offered herewith, plus the fabled proof if it even still exists.

The coin offered herewith was the first one known to the major London dealer Seaby and the £1,000 price at that time was directly comparable to on the same list a James I large hammered gold Rose Ryal at £200 and Five Guinea pieces listed at between £120 and £210. This 1819 Sovereign was by far the most valuable coin listed.

Provenance:

Ex Seaby Coin and Medal Bulletin, July 1964, front cover illustration of obverse, listed as G1652 at £1,000.

Ex Captain J. J. Cullimore-Allen Collection, sold by his daughter as "Property of a lady", Spink Coin Auction 90, 15th March 1992, lot 334 for £15,500 hammer.

Ex Mark Rasmussen Numismatist, list 12, Spring 2007, item S2 (Willings Collection).

Ex St James Auction 7, 8th February 2008, lot 559.

Ex St James Auction 11, 8th May 2009, lot 357.

Ex Parkhouse Collection, St James Auction 32, 19th May 2015, lot 3.

Ex A. H. Baldwin, Fixed Price List, Winter 2015, item BM035.

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