One of Australia's rarest coins, the 1920 Sydney Sovereign


The 1920 sovereign is an extremely rare Australian gold coin. You may be asking why. Well, only five of these coins are believed to be in existence, with one of them impounded in the Royal Australian Mint Collection in Canberra!

The coin features King George V on the obverse and Saint George slaying a dragon on the reverse. King George V reigned in the United Kingdom from 1910 (when his father King Edward died) until his death in 1936. Saint George was a Roman soldier who was executed in 303AD for refusing to renounce his Christian faith.

Why the 1920 Gold Sovereign is so rare?

The production of gold coins in the years immediately following the end of World War 1 (1914-18) was impractical due to the high price of gold at the time. The cost of minting a single gold sovereign in Australia was 30 shillings, when its face value was only 20 shillings. Australian mints suspended sovereign production between 1917 and 1925 accordingly. The only sovereigns that were produced in 1920 were done so because of a special order placed by Mr Jacob Garrard.

Who is Mr Jacob Garrard?

Mr Garrard was a prominent former New South Wales politician, at that time, and a trade unionist. In 1880, he was elected to the NSW Parliament as the local member for Balmain. In 1885, he was responsible for having Labour Day public holiday officially declared. He also became a successful Estate Agent and auctioneer as well as chairman of the City and Country Investment Land and Building Society, amongst other great achievements. In 1895, he became the first Minister for Labor and Industry in NSW, however, narrowly lost his seat in NSW Parliament in 1898, he remained active in public and community life for several years after that. We can only presume that Mr Garrard held some considerable sway in at least some circles in Sydney in 1920, from the circumstances of his special order.

Image 1: Mr Jacob Garrard

Mr. Garrard's special order

Mr Garrard ordered a limited number of sovereigns from the Sydney Mint itself to give as a gift to his and Rebecca's (his wife's) children in celebration of their 50th golden wedding anniversary on 15th April 1920. Five sons and two daughters were the subjects of the gifts, however the exact number of sovereigns actually produced still remains a mistery.

This gesture created arguably the greatest gold coin rarity in the history of the British empire.

The rarity of the 1920 coin is highlighted by the fact that more than 400,000 official gold sovereigns were produced by Australian mints in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth between 1855 and 1931 (the year in which the Australian pound was distinguished in value from the British Pound Sterling, which was the nominal value of a gold sovereign). Almost 200 different gold sovereign designs were produced by Australian mints. They featured different years, monarchs, and ‘tails’ designs.

The modern-day value of the 1920 Gold Sovereign

1920 sovereign coins have changed hands at auction three times in the past decade, fetching incredible prices due to their rarity.

  • Sydney Monetarium Auction $844,000 (June 2009)
  • Baldwin’s London Auction $1.2 million (September 2012)
  • St James’s London Auction $979, 125 (March 2014).

Image 2: One of the 1920 Sydney Sovereigns

Jaggard’s purchased each of these coins on behalf of our clients, helping them complete their full collection of Australian gold sovereigns. We have specialised in Australian gold coins since our founding in 1963.