Coin Curiosity

Exploring Old and New Coins of the British Commonwealth

Australian Veiled Head Sovereign Varieties 1893-1901

Posted on 27 April 2020

In a relatively recent discovery it was found that Australia's Veiled Head sovereigns were struck using two different obverse dies. The first obverse (generally referred to as a type 1) has the A of VICTORIA pointing at a rim denticle and the second obverse (generally referred to as type 2) has the A of VICTORIA pointing between rim denticles.

Type 1 Veiled Head Sovereign Obverse
Type 1 Veiled Head Sovereign Obverse
Type 2 Veiled Head Sovereign Obverse
Type 2 Veiled Head Sovereign Obverse

It remains unclear why a second obverse was created but obverse varieties exist in many other British coins of the same era so it is likely due to some design improvement in 1893 or 1894 - likely a change to improve die life.

Known Veiled Head sovereign varieties
YearMintageType 1Type 2
1893S1,346,000YesNo
1893M1,914,000YesNo
1894S3,067,000YesYes
1894M4,166,874NoYes
1895S2,758,000YesYes
1895M4,165,869NoYes
1896S2,544,000YesYes
1896M4,456,932YesYes
1897S2,532,000YesYes
1897M5,130,565YesYes
1898S2,458,000NoYes
1898M5,509,138NoYes
1899S3,259,000NoYes
1899M5,579,157NoYes
1899P690,992NoYes
1900S3,586,000NoYes
1900M4,305,904NoYes
1900P1,866,089NoYes
1901S3,012,000NoYes
1901M3,987,701NoYes
1901P2,889,333NoYes

The true mintage breakdowns will probably never be known but mintages were relatively high and many examples survive: Briggs' research found that for 1894S sovereigns the breakdown is 14% type 1/86% type 2; for 1895S sovereigns the breakdown is 23% type 1/77% type 2; for 1896S sovereigns the breakdown is 0% type 1/100% type 2 (though type 1 coins do exist); for 1896M sovereigns the breakdown is 15% type 1/85% type 2; for 1897S sovereigns the breakdown is 39% type 1/61% type 2 and for 1897M sovereigns the breakdown is 14% type 1/86% type 2 (the author's research shows the type 1 is around 30%) (p21, Briggs, Imperial Australian Sovereigns 1893-1901 Old or Veiled Head Major Update in Australasian Coin and Banknote Magazine, April 2020). No usage of type 1 is known in 1898 or beyond.

Images provided by Museum Victoria and Museum Victoria under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International