Coin Curiosity

Exploring Old and New Coins of the British Commonwealth

Australian Veiled Head Half Sovereign Varieties 1893-1901

Posted on 29 February 2020

Veiled Head half sovereigns were not struck every year in Australia, but the short series of low mintage coins does exhibit two different obverse die varieties. On the first obverse (generally referred to as a type 1), the first I in VICTORIA points between rim denticles and on the second (generally referred to as type 2) the first I in VICTORIA points at a rim denticle.

Type 1 Half Sovereign Obverse
Type 1 Half Sovereign Obverse
Type 2 Half Sovereign Obverse
Type 2 Half Sovereign Obverse

The reason for existence of two different obverse dies is unknown but Veiled Head obverse die varieties exist in many other British coins so it can be assumed that some minor change or improvement was made in 1893 or 1894. Crellin suggests that the increase in rim denticles from type 1 to type 2 may have been made to improve the strike quality of the half sovereigns (Crellin, Obverse Varieties of Australia's Veiled Head Sovereigns and Half Sovereigns). The continued use of the type 1 obverse into 1900 was probably to not waste existing dies.

Known Veiled Head half sovereign varieties
YearMintageType 1Type 2
1893S250,000YesNo
1893M5 knownYesNo
1894MPatterns onlyUnknownUnknown
1895MPatterns onlyUnknownUnknown
1896M218,946YesYes
1897S130,000YesYes
1897MPatterns onlyUnknownUnknown
1898MPatterns onlyNoYes
1899M97,221YesYes
1899PPatterns onlyNoYes
1900S260,000YesYes
1900M112,920NoYes
1900P119,376NoYes
1901MPatterns onlyUnknownUnknown
1901PPatterns onlyNoYes

The relative rarities of the different varieties can be difficult to estimate as not only were the coins produced in low numbers, their survival rate was not particularly high either. Briggs' research suggests that for 1896M half sovereigns the breakdown is 8% type 1/92% type 2; for 1897S half sovereigns the breakdown is 12% type 1/88% type 2 and for 1900S half sovereigns the breakdown is 5% type 1/95% type 2. The 1899M type 1 is not recorded by Briggs (p42, Briggs, Veiled or Old Head Half Sovereigns in Australasian Coin and Banknote Magazine, November 2019). Further, a number of patterns have no known photographs so their types cannot be determined.

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