In 1853, there were two varieties of shield sovereigns, both types are of the second portrait, issued from 1848 to 1872. The second (large) head portrait has a slightly larger head, is not as raised as the first series and the reverse legends are repositioned. The difference between the two variations is the engraver's signature, W.W., which is raised on the first 1853 type, and incuse on the second 1853 type. In addition to the variations mentioned above there are also coins with errors. These only appear in the coins with initials in relief; one where the V in VICTORIA has been replaced by an upside down A and one which has been over struck with an F over the E in DEF.
A proof coin was also struck in 1853 in the incuse variation. This proof coin in FDC achieves high prices.
We did not know about the irregularities between William Wyon's initials until we read about them in "The Gold Sovereign" book by Michael Marsh. 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 198 and 22 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 1856 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.
The obverse by William Wyon features the date underneath the portrait with the engraver's initials W.W. in relief in the truncation on one variation of the coin and is incuse in the truncation on the other.
The reverse of the 1853 second (large) young head portrait sovereign was designed by engraver, Jean Baptiste Merlen. It features the Ensigns Armorial shield design, with branches of laurel leaves on each side. The laurel branches are tied with ribbons into a bow with an arrangement of a rose, a shamrock and a thistle below with small flower stops on each side. The legend on the reverse of the second (large) young head portrait has been repositioned.