A new chapter has begun for The Perth Mint Gold Proof Australian Sovereign.
Previously portraying the Australian Coat of Arms, the annual release now pays tribute to an historic colonial design.
1855 – 1870 Sydney Mint Sovereign
With the discovery of payable gold in New South Wales, permission was granted to open a branch of the Royal Mint in Sydney.
In 1855, the new mint began converting locally-mined gold into a universally accepted form – sovereigns and half-sovereigns of the same weight and fineness as those made in London.
The design, however, was not the imperial type. Instead, Leonard Charles Wyon created a colonial alternative that broke with a number of traditions.
- The design’s principal motifs consisted of a crown and laurel wreath.
- It identified the place of manufacture with the inscription SYDNEY MINT and bore a notation of value – ONE SOVEREIGN – absent on imperial types.
- Of even more interest, it included the name AUSTRALIA, which did not become a political entity until almost half a century later.
According to Rennicks, it was the first and last time the Royal Mint ever assented to break from traditional designs in any of the colonies.
The Sydney sovereigns were at first legal tender only in Australasia. Had they proved inferior, this and their distinctive design would have minimised potential damage to the reputation of Britain’s gold coinage.
But as Andrew Crellin has pointed out, it didn’t take long for it to become “clear to even the greatest sceptic in Britain that these attractive coins deserved every confidence they enjoyed.”
Ironically, this success was their undoing. In 1870 Wyon’s unique colonial design was revoked and henceforward standard British designs appeared on Australia-made sovereigns.
A source of considerable colonial pride for 15 years, the original Sydney Mint sovereign is the inspiration for our sumptuous 2013 Australian Sovereign gold proof coin.