Robert Matthews Coin Authentication


Coin Report No. Example 3


Coin submitted by:        Anonymous                              Date:    April 2003


Coin denomination:       Half sovereign     Date:  1910      Insurance value:  £30 - £40




The modern sovereign and half sovereign were first minted in 1817 during the re-coinage of George III. Initially the half sovereign reverse design was a crowned shield containing the Royal Arms. The introduction of the Old Head obverse effigy of Queen Victoria in 1893 also saw a major change of the reverse design. Benedetto Pistrucci’s design of the sovereign reverse, consisting of St. George fighting the dragon was introduced.


Queen Victoria died on 22nd January 1901 and her son Edward succeeded her. The first coins of the reign of Edward VII were dated 1902 and authorised by a proclamation on 10th December 1901. George De Salle, the Royal Mint chief engraver, engraved the obverse effigy of the new king. Pistrucci’s design of St. George and dragon was retained for the reverse design. This design was slightly changed in 1904 with St.George and the dragon being made larger and Pistrucci’s B.P. initials appearing below the exergue. Edward died on 6th May 1910 and this was the last year in which coins with his effigy were made.


The gold fineness used for the sovereign series coins is the twenty-two carat alloy used since Charles II. The only variations being the gradual reduction in the amount of silver present as refining techniques improved over time and the tighter gold tolerances introduced in the Coinage Act 1870. The half sovereign weight was set as 61.63723 grain (3.99402g). 



Part of Coinage Act 1870, First Schedule



Weight (grains)

Weight (gram)

Millesimal Fineness

Remedy (tolerance)







Half Sovereign








In 1910 just over five million half sovereigns were made at the Royal Mint, London. Just below half a million of the coins were also made at the Sidney Mint. The other branch mints did not make half sovereigns during this year. As with all the sovereign series coins which were made by the Sydney Mint, the half sovereign for this year contains a small mintmark, S, in the of the ground of the reverse. The London coins are relatively common, only worth bullion value in a very fine, VF, state, ref. 3.


There have been copies made for cheap bracelets and other jewellery but these are usually of a very poor quality and should not fool a knowledgeable collector.


Main references:


Ref. 1, “Kenyon’s Gold Coins of England” by Robert Lloyd Kenyon, original edition 1884, reprinted with Addendum by Norris D. McWhirter, 1969, Firecrest Publishing, Bath


Ref. 2, “The Gold Half Sovereign” by Michael Marsh, 1982, Cambridge Coins, Cambridge


Ref. 3, “The Coins of England and the United Kingdom”, 38th edition, 2003, Spink, London


Description of the submitted coin




This consisted of a right facing unadorned effigy of Edward VII. The initials DE S were in relief below the truncation. The inside of the rim contained open beading this had almost not been made on the left hand lower side. To the unassisted eye there was no significant damage and only a little wear with some fine details of the hair and beard lost.









This consisted of the classical Pistrucci St.George and the dragon design with the initials  “B.P.” below the right hand side of the exergue. The inside of the rim contained closed rimming. There was no mintmark in the ground. The design had been reasonably made during coining except for the head of St. George and one point on the horse’s tail, that appeared slightly flat. This side again only showed a little wear.


Inscription: the reverse only had the date “1910” below the exergue.






Edge:    milled                                                                                                         


Physical measurements


Weight:   3.9911g                     Diameter, N/S:  19.33mm

    E/W: 19.31mm


Edge thickness: 1.02-1.08mm               Alignment (Die axis): ↑↑                                   




Conductivity:    not required                  Relative density: 17.43g/cc


Magnetic?  No


X-ray fluorescence surface analysis: not required



Microscopic examination




The major impression is of radial striations that covered the coin especially the outer third around the inscription. It was assumed these arose during manufacture but whether from the coinage blank or metal movement during coining could not be ascertained.




Radial striations were again present. The date numerals were all very well struck with no evidence of interference.  The second stop of the initials B.P. was joined to the beading of the rim.




The coin is a genuine 1910 half sovereign.


It is made from the correct gold alloy for the period and has the correct physical parameters.


All the significant design features were correct for this date and type of coin.


It has been reasonably well struck compared with other examples of this date on the market.




Robert W. Matthews C.Chem., MRSC

Formerly Queen’s Assay Master


© R.W.Matthews



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