The Meaning of Marks
The tradition of marking a coin’s surface to help identify its provenance has been in use since the time of the Ancient Greeks, who first developed the practice. It is an important part of identifying the origin of the metal used or the mint at which the coin was struck, but when it comes to commemorating a special occasion, a special engraving called a privy mark is used.
Unlike a mint mark, which is often a single letter, these privy marks tend to use an attractive symbol that is tied to the meaning of the commemoration.
To celebrate the 95th birthday of Her Majesty The Queen, a special privy mark features on all the coins in The Sovereign 2021 Collection. “We felt that it was necessary to celebrate this incredible milestone by using a special privy mark on our flagship coin.
The Sovereign is so iconic that there are lots of considerations when adding a privy mark, and it had to do justice to the existing design.” Geraint Evans, Product Manager at The Royal Mint Ensuring the privy mark could be successfully struck alongside Benedetto Pistrucci’s classic interpretation of St George and the dragon was no easy task – size, style and placement had to be considered. The final design chosen represents the royal cypher crown with the number ‘95’ to mark the celebration of Her Majesty’s 95th birthday. As a classic symbol of royalty, the crown makes a fitting choice for this extraordinary moment in British royal history.
Some of the most famous mint marks can be found on wartime editions of The Sovereign. In 1918, during the First World War, The Sovereign was no longer used as day-to-day currency in the United Kingdom, but coins were still being made in branch mints across the globe.
Striking coins near gold sources was a strategic decision – removing the time, risk and cost of shipping the metal to London to convert into Sovereigns. A small mint mark, distinctive to each branch mint, was incorporated into the reverse design to help identify the origin of a particular Sovereign.
These special identifying marks make The Sovereign even more desirable now because these days the coin is only struck by The Royal Mint at its home in Llantrisant – making mint marks a rare addition to the famous coin. Mint marks and privy marks have also featured on other famous coins. Guineas bearing the marks ‘VIGO’ and ‘LIMA’ refer to the battle of Vigo Bay, when precious metal was captured from two Spanish and French treasure ships and was later melted down and used to strike coins.
The guinea has featured a variety of marks, and the most common was the elephant, or elephant and castle, which was the mark of the Africa Company that supplied gold to The Royal Mint.
Celebrating a Milestone
We have marked many landmark moments for Her Majesty The Queen and now, as she enters her 95th year, we’re celebrating this personal milestone with a special edition of The Sovereign. Find out more about Her Majesty’s remarkable reign and how we are commemorating the occasion.
The Sovereign of the New Elizabethan Age
When Elizabeth II was officially proclaimed queen, thousands of people lined the streets to catch a glimpse of their young queen, while millions more watched the ceremony on television. It was the perfect moment for The Royal Mint to welcome the return of The Sovereign coin, marking the historic occasion by striking a handful of Sovereign Proof sets. From the limited striking of the Proof coin sets, one was gifted to the British Museum and another to the Royal Collection. One set was kept at The Royal Mint Museum, where it remains in the collection today, along with the pattern pieces and the original dies. This special striking heralded the return of The Sovereign coin. Just a few years later, in 1957, the highly regarded gold coin was also struck as bullion, becoming the flagship coin of The Royal Mint, famous across the world as a symbol of quality, accuracy and a masterpiece of design. For this reason, The Sovereign was also stockpiled as an emergency ransom fund by the military during the 1950s, in case of war in the Middle East.