O’Brien Coin Guide: GB & Ireland Gold Sovereigns (William IV)


Introduction:

William IV (b. 21 August 1765, d. 20 June 1837) was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Ireland and King of Hanover from 26 June 1830 until his death in 1837. He was the third son of George III and he succeeded his elder brother George IV. Like his elder brother, he was lampooned by the media of the day.

William IV gold sovereigns are, generally, quite scarce nowadays. His reign was short and there are only 6 dates to collect.

  • In general, his coins are scarcer than those of Victoria and are quite highly sought after.
  • His gold coins sell at a substantial premium over bullion values.

Technical Specifications:

Sovereigns minted since 1817 have been produced according to the act of 1816 (56 George III chapter 68):

  • Weight: 7.988052 g (0.2817702 oz)
  • Thickness: 1.52 mm (0.060 in)
  • Diameter: 22.05 mm (0.868 in)
  • Fineness: 22 carat = 916⅔ / 1000 (± 2/1000)
  • Gold Content: 7.322381 g = 0.235420 (exactly: 1320/5607) troy ounces or 113.0016 grains

The Trial of the Pyx is the procedure in the United Kingdom for ensuring that newly minted coins conform to required standards. Trials have been held from the twelfth century to the present day, normally once per calendar year; the form of the ceremony has been essentially the same since 1282 AD.

  • They are trials in the full judicial sense, presided over by a judge with an expert jury of assayers.
  • Trials are now held at the Hall of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths.
  • Formerly, they took place at the Palace of Westminster.

Coins to be tested are drawn from the regular production of the Royal Mint. The Deputy Master of the Mint must, throughout the year, randomly select several thousand sample coins and place them aside for the Trial.

  • These must be in a certain fixed proportion to the number of coins produced.

The jury is composed of at least six assayers from the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths. They have two months to test the provided coins, and decide whether they have been properly minted. Criteria are given for diameter, chemical composition and weight for each class of coinage.

Gold Sovereigns (William IV)

William IV followed in his father’s design taste, opting for a ‘bare head’ design by William Wyon, with a coat of arms (shield) on the reverse.

1831 William IV (Wyon portrait)

  • Obverse:
    • Bare head portrait of William IV by William Wyon
      •  Legend:
        • “GULIELMUS IIII D:G:BRITANNIAR:REX F:D”
      • Full Latin text:
        • GULIELMUS IIII DEI GRATIA BRITANNIARUM REX FIDEI DEFENSOR
      • Translates as:
        • William the Fourth, by the Grace of God, King of the Britains, Defender of the Faith.
  • Reverse:
    • Ensigns Armorial of the United Kingdom within a shield, with the Hanoverian Arms in the Centre, surmounted by a small crown, and a large crown at the top of the shield
      • Legend:
        • “ANNO 1831”
      • Translates as:
        • Year 1831

Mintage & Market Values

(All coins minted in London by The Royal Mint)

1831-1837 William IV gold sovereign mintages

Notes:

Mintage figures are not a good guide to scarcity because the Royal Mint had a policy of melting ‘older’ bullion coins to produce new ones for later monarchs. In addition to this, the British government withdrew gold coins from circulation in the early days of WW1, resulting in fewer coins being available for collectors. Survival rates are, therefore, more relevant than mintage figures in determining scarcity.

As always, the most important issue in determining price is grade. Since many gold coins were used as jewellery, it is not uncommon for one side to have been polished down to an F (Fine) grade, whereas the side facing inwards (in the mount) is often EF (Extremely Fine) grade or even as good as Uncirculated.

Nowadays, the bullion value often determines price at local auctions, so a keen-eyed collector can pick up a bargain if they know which dates are scarcest.

 

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