The Sovereign was revived in 1817 near the end of George III’s long reign. The timing of its return meant George III was the first monarch to appear on the modern coin, affording him a special place in The Sovereign’s story. Paired with Benedetto Pistrucci’s St George and the dragon, commissioned especially for the new coin, Sovereigns bearing George III’s portrait were issued for four years until his death in 1820.
To mark the 200th anniversary of the end of George III’s reign, all of the coins in The Sovereign 2020 Collection feature a special mint mark in the form of the king’s royal cypher. Created by Royal Mint coin designer Kerry Davies, the mint mark’s size, style and placement were key to ensure it could be struck alongside Pistrucci’s signature design. In heraldry, the cypher is a device that combines the initials of the monarch with their title. This particular mint mark combines George III’s first initial ‘G’ with ‘R’, an abbreviation of ‘Rex’, which is the Latin word for king.
The use of cyphers can be traced back to the Tudor times and were used as a means of identification, appearing in conjunction with the Royal Arms. From the reign of Henry VIII onwards the letter ‘R’ was added to the monarch’s first initial. This identifying mark was usually found on government papers and is still used by the monarch today in the form of ‘EiiR’ which stands for Elizabeth Regina (‘Regina’ is the Latin word for Queen).
Originally, mint marks were used as a form of quality control and, in the event of a problem, coins could be traced back to the mint that struck them. The use of mint marks has evolved over time and today, when a coin is embellished with a mint mark, it’s usually a symbol of prestige marking a significant event or anniversary.