The 1855 gold sovereign is the eighth date for the Queen Victoria "second head" shield sovereign. This second type of Victoria sovereign was issued from 1848 to 1872, has a slightly larger head in lower relief, and the reverse legends are repositioned.
There are three variations of the 1855 sovereign:
-> the usual design (raised engraver initials)
-> the usual design (incuse engraver initials)
-> an error where the 1 in 1853 has been replaced incorrectly by a Roman letter I (incuse engraver initials).
For further information about the engravers initials, please see the More Info section below.
See the rest of the 1855 Sovereign Collection.
Photographs shown may not be the actual coin and may differ in terms of grade, die numbers, design flaws and other minor details. Contact us if you require a photograph prior to purchase.
Until we came to show the Michael A Marsh reference numbers in the listings on this page, we had not realised for some reason that Michael Marsh's book "The Gold Sovereign" only makes passing reference to the fact that some sovereigns in this series have the engraver's initials WW on the truncation of Queen Victoria's neck incuse rather than raised. Spink show these as a separate and distinct variety. You can read more about this variation on our Raised and Incuse WW Initials - A Marsh Anomaly page.
All shield sovereigns from 1838 to 1852 have raised initials, all first type shields from 1856 to 1863 have incuse (cut-in) initials, while the three dates from 1853 to 1855 occur in both varieties.
We cannot think why Michael treated both varieties as the same. He states in both the 1980 and 2002 Golden Jubilee editions "These letters also appear incuse on some coins". Michael quite rightly went into great detail on a number of other coins, such as the 1859 Ansell variety which has an almost unnoticeable double ribbon line. Compared with the Ansell, we believe that the incuse WW initial are important enough to be recognised as a distinct and separate sub-type.
I had the pleasure and good fortune to have a lengthy telephone conversation with Michael about 6 months before his death. He expressed an intention to publish an updated version of The Gold Sovereign, incorporating research he had done since the publication of the Golden Jubilee edition, and also some material which, although known at the time of publication, he did not feel he had researched sufficiently for publication. He explained that he had not been in the best of health, and was hoping to be able to continue before too long. During the conversation, I formed an intention to try to find time to visit him to discuss sovereigns, and I offered him the use of one of our photographs for the next edition. Sadly none of this came to pass.
Hammered gold coins called 'sovereigns' had been minted on and off between 1489-1604, whereupon James I (VI) changed the name of the 20/- gold piece to a 'Unite'. The reform coinage sovereign of 1817 onwards was issued as a normal circulation type coin, and also as a proof.
Designed by William Wyon, Chief Engraver, the obverse features the second (large) young head portrait facing left of the young Queen at just 18 years old. This larger bust fills more of the area of the coin and shows Victoria's hair held by a double fillet and gathered into a loosely knotted bun. The initials W.W. are set in the truncation. Depending on the variation, the engraver's intials are either raised or incuse.
The inscription reads
VICTORIA DEI GRATIA
and the date (1855) appears below the portrait.
The reverse of the 1855 sovereign was designed by engraver, Jean Baptiste Merlen. It features the shield design, which is mounted by a crown. It also has a branch of laurel leaves on either side. The branches are tied, with a ribbon in a bow, below the shield.
Beneath this, the reverse displays the thistle, rose and shamrock (symbolising the unity of Scotland, England and Ireland) with a small flower stop on each side.
The inscription reads
BRITANNIARUM REGINA FID: DEF:
completing the monarch's legend, which begins on the obverse.
|Weight / Size||Full|
|Gold Weight Troy Ounces||0.23535|
|Fineness / Carat||0.917 / 22|
|Obverse Designer||William Wyon|
|Reverse Designer||Jean Baptiste Merlen|
|Issuing Monarch||Victoria (1837-1901)|
|Mint / Brand||The Royal Mint|
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Bullion coins are provided as is and on occasion may have some minor scratches or edge knocks. These are not regarded as faulty or damaged goods as their gold content and value as a bullion coin is not affected. Any coin sold for a value less than a 180% intrinsic is considered a bullion coin.
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