1931 is a momentous date in British history and an end of a golden era.
In 1717, Sir Isaac Newton, as master of The Royal Mint, set up a new mint ratio that dramatically reduced the amount of silver in circulation, an act which was followed by the introduction of the new gold Sovereign in 1816.
These factors led to the establishment of the world’s first formal gold specific standard in 1821, in which the monetary unit was tied to the value of circulating gold coins.
Following Britain’s adoption of the gold standard, several other countries began to follow suit – first Canada in 1853 and then Newfoundland in 1865.
The US established its own standard in 1873, using the eagle as its unit, while Germany followed America’s lead in the same year with the introduction of the gold mark.
For years, the gold standard was successful in providing a way for countries to keep their exchange rates stable and encourage the growth of international trade.
But the onset of the First World War put the system under great strain, as high levels of inflation drove the value of paper money down well below the value of gold.
Confidence in the gold standard began to wane, though many countries continued to back it, with the British Government reaffirming its commitment in 1926.
What finished the standard off as a way to maintain the value of a currency, however, was the Great Depression of 1929 that sent the global economy into meltdown.
Britain finally left the gold standard in 1931 and brought about the end of an era that stretched back to Sir Isaac Newton himself.
The following year signalled the end of The Sovereign as a circulating coin – the last year that Sovereigns were struck by any of the branch mints. This original 22 carat gold Sovereign was one of the last sovereigns produced for circulation. It features the SA mint mark on the reverse, beneath Benedetto Pistrucci’s St George and the dragon, and the portrait of George V by Bertram Mackennal on its obverse.
|Alloy||22 Carat Gold|
|Reverse Designer||Benedetto Pistrucci|
|Obverse Designer||Bertram Mackennal|
|Pure Metal Type||Gold|