Gold Half-Sovereign of King Edward VI, minted 1551-1553 at the Royal Mint (known as the Tower Mint at the time). Third Period, Crown Gold (22 carat). Diameter 31mm and weighs 5.5g. SCBA: 2451. North: 1928.
The Obverse shows the crowned half-length figure of King Edward VI holding a an orb in his left hand and a sword in his right, all contained in an inner circle of beads. Legend is "EDWARD VI D G AGL FRA Z HIBER REX". The mint mark on this coin is a tun, which is a small barrel, which indicates 1551-3 but can also be 'y' indicating 1551 and the Southwark mint.
The Reverse is a crowned quartered shield of arms of England and France. Initials ER divided across. Inner bead circle. Legend is "IHS AVTEM TRANSIE PER MEDI ILLO IBAT" meaning But Jesus, passing through the midst of them, went His way. The mint mark is a tun.
Half-Sovereign are 10 shilling coins.
Image credit: Museums Victoria
Mintage: Not known
Minted at The Royal Mint.
Edward died on 6 July 1553 (just 15 years old) after a serious illness and was buried in Westminster Abbey. Edward had decided that his first cousin once removed, the 16-year-old Lady Jane Grey, should become Queen. However, after his death his half-sisters Mary and Elizabeth desputed the succession and after only nine days Jane was removed from the throne (and subsequently executed) and Mary became Queen of England and Ireland.
The Half-Sovereign wa introduced a long time ago, in 1544 during the reign of Henry VII. However it was discontinued in 1604 (along with full sovereigns) and no more were minted until 1817. Production ended again in 1926 (1933 in Australia) and except for a few special issues during the Coronation years, it was 1980 when we saw half-sovereigns again.
As the value is half of one sovereign, that gives the half-sovereign a face value of half a pound or ten shillings - 50p in post-decimal money, although you're going to have to pay somewhat over the gold price if you want to buy one.
The Obverse is the Monarch's head (Edward VI) and the Reverse is most often St George and the Dragon (usually the Benedetto Pistrucci version), although other backs have been used.
Specifications for 1551-1553 Gold Half-Sovereign - Edward VI
- Weight: 3.99 g
- Diameter: 19.30 mm
- Thickness: 0.99 mm
- Purity: 22 carat = 91.67% (11/12ths gold, 1/12th copper. Adding copper makes the coin more scratch and dent resistant)
- Gold Content: 3.6575 g = 0.1176 troy ounce
- Face value: £0.50 = 10 shillings (decimal: 50 pence)
- Monarch: Edward VI
- These specifications apply to half-sovereigns from 1817.
Up until 1604 there was a coin called the English gold sovereign and in 1816 when there was the "Great Recoinage" the name was revived. At that time standard gold (22 carat) was valued at £46 14s 6d per troy pound; this meant a £1 coin needed to weigh 123.2744783 grains or 7.988030269 g. The weight is still the same today.
As a historical note: to maintain the Gold Standard, in 1816 the value of silver was set at 66 shillings for one troy pound and silver coins were only legal for denominations up to £2.
The diameter of a half-sovereign is 19.3mm and is only slightly smaller than a full sovereign (22.05mm) so first appearance may confuse inexperienced buyers. You can see in the image on the right, the half-sovereign on the right hand side is quite similar to the full sovereign on the left.
While you can buy half-sovereigns, many collectors only own them as part of a set.
Formed in the reign of Alfred the Great about the year 886, during the period 1279-1812 it was generally referred to as The Tower Mint as it was housed at the Tower of London. The Master of The Royal Mint has included famous figures such as Sir Isaac Newton.
Since 2010 it has operated as Royal Mint Ltd, a company owned by HM Treasury, under an exclusive contract to supply all coinage for the UK although it also produces medals and coins for other countries. It is currently located at Llantrisant, Wales.
There is also an on-line shop at The Royal Mint Shop.
The orignal coinage was Pounds, Shillings and Pence but since decimalisation on 15 February 1971, it is £1 = 100p, that is One Pound = 100 pence. The coinage of the UK is also a long history, the Royal Mint being established as long ago as 886AD when coins were hammered. Today there is perhaps 30 billion coins in circulation, and many (numismatic) collectors coins and sets are issued frequently in gold, silver and other metals.
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