The inception of the branch mints
It was in May 1851 that gold discovered in Australia, first in New South Wales and shortly afterwards in Victoria, and this led to heavy demands being made on the currency coinage of the colonies. These demands could not be met, and a petition by the Council of New South Wales was addressed to Her Majesty on 19 December 1851. It asked for a branch of the Royal Mint to be established at Sydney so that the people could convert their gold into money. In London it was seen that this was a reasonable request.
The Sydney Mint
Sydney was offered the opportunity provided the local government would pay all the associated costs, the new mint would be under British control and the sovereigns bore a Sydney design (so as not to impact on the international renown of the Royal Mint sovereign should anything go wrong). These terms were met in Sydney and the first Branch of the Royal Mint outside Great Britain was established and began producing sovereigns and half-sovereigns in 1855. The first coins were generally based on the designs of the British shilling by William Wyon but in 1857 a new obverse of the Queen by Leonard Charles Wyon was adopted.
In 1857, a new portrait of Queen Victoria appeared on sovereigns produced by the Sydney mint. Designed by Leonard Charles Wyon, this portrait was only used on the Australian sovereigns. Similar to his father, William Wyon’s Young Head portrait, the bust continued to show a youthful Queen wearing her hair loosely braided and a laureate.
The last strike of this mint was in 1926, a number of 116.704.050 sovereigns were produced by the Sydney Mint.
The Melbourne Mint
In 1870 there was another overhaul of the Royal Mint. The Master of the Mint was to be the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the day to day business the work of a Deputy Master and Comptroller. At this same time Victoria was again pushing for its own mint and pointing to the continuing and large amounts of gold being recovered. Again London offered the local government the opportunity but this time it was decided that the Branch Mints could strike coins of the same design as the Royal Mint; the quality of the coins from the Sydney Mint had never been faulted.
Melbourne Mint began production in 1872. Following the success and quality of the Sydney mint sovereigns, it was agreed that both the Sydney mint and the Melbourne mint would be allowed to produce sovereigns bearing the same obverse and reverse designs as The Royal Mint in London.
To differentiate the mints, a mint mark would be added to the Australian sovereigns, S for Sydney and M for Melbourne.
The last strike of this mint was in 1931. A total of 148,211,120 sovereigns were struck in Melbourne.
Once there were two branch mints it was difficult to refuse other reasonable requests; Perth came next in 1899 (mint mark P); Ottawa in 1908 (mint mark C for Canada creating a new tradition); Bombay in 1918 (mint mark I) and Pretoria in 1923 (mint mark SA).
The Perth Mint
It was not long before another Australian branch mint opened in Perth. The gold rush had continued across Australia to Western Australia. Between 1869 and 1900 the population grew from 23,000 to 180,000. In 1899, the Perth mint opened and started producing sovereigns for Australia and other countries of the Empire. The mint mark for Perth is a P.
From 1899 to 1931, the Perth mint struck over 106 million sovereigns and 730,000 half sovereigns – over 27 million ounces of gold.
The Ottawa Mint
For the first fifty years of Canadian coinage (cents meant to circulate in the Province of Canada were first struck in 1858), the coins were struck at the Royal Mint in London, though some were struck at the private Heaton Mint in Birmingham, England. As Canada emerged as a nation in its own right, its need for coinage increased. As a result, a branch of the Royal Mint was authorized to be built in Ottawa in 1901 after being first proposed in 1890.
This branch mint was opened in 1908 and struck sovereign coins for ten years, between 1908 to 1919 (they did not produce sovereigns in 1912). Many sovereigns were sent to the Canadian mint to be melted down into gold bars to pay Britain’s war debt in the First World War.
The mint mark for the Ottawa mint is a C for Canada.
The Ottawa mint became the Royal Canadian Mint in 1931. Canada mint sovereigns tend to be sought after by collectors, with some years achieving particularly high prices. Only 628,152 sovereigns in total were struck at the Ottawa mint.
The Bombay Mint
The mint was established in 1829 by the then governor of the Bombay Presidency. In 1918, a branch of the Royal Mint of London was set up to issue British sovereigns. In April 1919, after manufacturing (1,294,372) 1918 George V Sovereigns it was shut down. This mint produced in one year more sovereigns than the Canadian mint produced in a decade.
The mint mark for the Bombay mint is an I which is located in the ground above the year date on the reverse of the sovereign.
In 2013, The Royal Mint issued a licence to MMTC-PAMP to produce commemorative sovereigns in India. Also, in 2014 were issued half sovereigns . Both sovereigns and half sovereigns were issued inside a coin card which is also numbered.
The South African Mint
Following the discovery of gold in the South African Republic (causing the 1886 Witwatersrand Gold Rush), the country’s President Paul Kruger decided to establish a national mint. This was established in 1890 and opened on 6 July 1892 in Pretoria. After the end of the Second Boer War in 1902, the country was annexed into the British Empire and became the Transvaal Colony, leading to the closure of the mint after the pound sterling became the legal tender of the new colony. Although sovereigns were not used for circulation in Great Britain at this point, they were still used overseas and were popular investment coins all over the world. Only 423 sovereigns were struck by the Pretoria mint in 1923 making this a highly sought after coin.
Under the Mint Act of 1919, the British established a branch of the Royal Mint on 1 January 1923, which produced 83,114,575 sovereigns during its lifetime. The last sovereign was struck by the South African mint in 1932.
As South Africa began cutting ties with Britain, the mint closed on 30 June 1941 only to be later reopened as the South African Mint, which produces circulation coins and proof Krugerrands today.
Over the years the branch mints ceased production as their need for the coin diminished. Sydney was closed in 1926 but Melbourne went on striking until 1931 and Pretoria until 1932. Melbourne and Perth continued as branch mints, their main work being the treatment of gold and production of gold bars with contracts from the Australian Government to strike local coins. Royal Proclamations dated 29 May 1970 officially ended the role of Branches of the Royal Mint for Melbourne and Perth mints on 1 July 1970.
How to define the Mint of a sovereign
On Victoria Young Head sovereigns with shield reverse, the mint marks are found on the reverse below the bow of the wreath but above the rose.
For the Victoria Young Head sovereigns with the St George and the dragon reverse, the mint mark appears on the obverse under the head.
In 1887, three different sovereigns were issued: the Victoria Young Head shield reverse (mint marks are located on the reverse below the shield and bow), the Victoria Young Head (mint marks are located on the obverse under the truncation) and the Victoria Jubilee Head (mint marks are found on the reverse in the ground above the date).
Sovereigns issued between 1888 to 1932 that have been struck by one of the overseas branch mints all have the mint mark on the reverse in the ground above the year date.
If no mint mark is present, this indicates that the sovereign was issued by The Royal Mint in London.
Marsh Book ”The gold Sovereign”