News & Views

The 1855 Sydney Mint Sovereign, Australia's first gold sovereign

The 1855 Sydney Mint Sovereign (and its partner the 1855 Sydney Mint Half Sovereign) are the nation's first official gold coinage.

Their minting was spawned by the Gold Rush of 1851. 

Whereas South Australia overcame a currency shortage by circumventing protocols and striking the 1852 Adelaide Pound without royal assent, New South Wales had in 1851 decided to follow convention and petition for a branch of the Royal Mint London to be established in Sydney.

On the 19 August 1853 Queen Victoria gave approval to establish Australia’s very first mint at or near Sydney in New South Wales.

It was decided that, as the coin would only be legal tender in the colonies, a design specifically attributed to the Sydney Mint should be produced.

Designs of Australia’s first gold coinage were prepared in 1853 at the Royal Mint London. The Royal Mint also manufactured the dies.

Test pieces of the proposed Sydney Mint designs were minted in 1853 to proof quality.

The sovereign reverse design incorporated the words Australia and Sydney Mint, the inclusion of the word Australia, a point of fascination with historians. At the time the nation was operating as separate colonies. Australia did not operate under a single Government until Federation in 1901.

The Sydney Mint was established in a wing of the 'Rum Hospital' in Macquarie Street, Sydney. The mint began receiving gold on 14 May 1855 and issued its first gold sovereign soon after on June 23. Months later, the Sydney Mint issued half sovereigns.

In their infancy the Sydney Mint sovereigns and half sovereigns were legal tender only in the colony of New South Wales.

In 1857, the legal scope was widened to include all Australian colonies and Mauritius, Ceylon and Hong Kong. In 1868 the Sydney Mint Sovereigns and Half Sovereigns became legal tender throughout the British Empire.

The design of Australia's first sovereigns and half sovereigns - referred to as the Sydney Mint design -  lasted until 1870 and was the only time the word Australia appeared on our gold sovereigns.

From 1871, Australia's sovereigns and half sovereigns took on a traditional British design. 

available now - proof 1855 Sydney Mint sovereign
Available now - 1855 Sydney Mint Sovereign - gEF / aUNC

Useful information if you are buying an 1855 Sydney Mint Sovereign.

Every circulated coin has a grading level at which serious rarity kicks in. That is the point at which the balance between acquiring a coin as a collectible - and as an investment - shifts more towards the latter.

For the 1855 Sydney Mint Sovereign the level at which extreme rarity cuts in is ‘About Extremely Fine’.

At Very Good, the 1855 sovereign is virtually denuded of design. At Fine, the design is recognisable but most of the significant design elements have been worn away. At Good Very Fine, there are signs of wear and the high points are flattened.

In a quality range of Very Good to Very Fine and even up to Good Very Fine, the 1855 Sydney Mint Sovereign is reasonably readily available. Refer the blue section of the pie chart.

A buyer could realistically expect to see several well circulated examples offered annually with prices ranging from $2000 to $10,000.

It’s at the quality level of About Extremely fine, through to Uncirculated and Brilliant Uncirculated that the going really gets tough for sovereign collectors and that prices start to escalate.

1855 Sydney Mint Sov Pie Chart

Our respect for the 1855 Sydney Mint Sovereign is well documented. It is the nation’s first official gold coin and in the upper quality levels is extremely rare. A rarity that far outweighs demand.

The ’55 sovereign is sought by the collector that is targeting key dates. The very first year of our official gold currency is an important date in Australia’s numismatic and financial history.
The 1855 sovereign also appeals to the sovereign collector.

And given the scarcity of the '55 sovereign in the upper quality levels, it also appeals to the investor.

enquire now


Uncirculated and extremely rare.
There is no wear to the high points of the design. Note the continuity in the hair lines on the forehead: a tell-tale high point.


Uncirculated and extremely rare.
No wear to the high points of the design and virtually no bag marks marks in the fields.


About Uncirculated and still, extremely rare.
A hint of wear to the high points of the design evidenced in the hair lines on the forehead.


About Uncirculated and still, extremely rare.
A hint of wear to the high points of the design.
Slight evidence of usage in the fields.


Extremely Fine and the point at which rarity cuts in for the 1855 Sydney Mint Sovereign.
Note the wear to the hair on the forehead and to the left of the ear.


Extremely Fine and the point at which rarity cuts in for the 1855 Sydney Mint Sovereign.
Evidence of usage in the fields and slight wear to the high points.

Browse & Buy
Recent Sales
Latest Catalogue
News & Views


PO Box 1060 Hawksburn Victoria Australia 3142

© Copyright: Coinworks 


Discover new coins and collections added weekly.
Please provide your first name
Please provide your last name
You must provide an email address
I am not a robot is required