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The Sovereign 1980

As the 1980s began, politics was a hot topic and the television of the time reflected this with millions tuning in to watch the satirical 'Yes Minister'. A recession loomed but Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher insisted, "The lady's not for turning," and John Lennon was shot dead at his New York home. Many were sad to see the pre-decimal sixpence withdrawn from circulation, but it lived on in the Christmas puddings of many a family home!

The Sovereign has become something of a constant through such changing times, and this Sovereign was struck in 1980 in 22 carat gold with the famous Saint George and the dragon design, perfected in The Royal Mint's Proof finish. The nostalgic coin's obverse features the second circulating coinage portrait of The Queen by Arnold Machin, perfect to enhance any collection or evoke special memories of 1980.

Although the switch to decimalisation did not happen until 1971, decimal coins entered circulation before then. The 5p and 10p pieces were introduced in 1968 to replace the existing shillings and florins. They were the same size and value as the pre-decimal coins, so were able to circulate together until ‘D-Day’ in 1971. It was a useful first step in preparing the public for what was to come.

To help the new coins stand out from the older currency, a new portrait of The Queen was commissioned. Designed by Arnold Machin RA, the new portrait showed The Queen wearing a tiara instead of a wreath. The tiara had been given to The Queen by her grandmother, Queen Mary. Like Mary Gillick before him, Machin avoided using a ‘couped’ portrait – cut off by the neck – which had been the norm on coins issued earlier in the century.

Interestingly, a modified version of Machin’s portrait has appeared on British postage stamps since 1967, which means it is probably the most reproduced image in history.


Specification Value
Denomination Sovereign
Alloy 22 Carat Gold
Weight 7.98 g
Diameter 22.05mm
Reverse Designer Benedetto Pistrucci
Specification Value
Obverse Designer Arnold Machin
Quality Proof
Year 1980
Pure Metal Type Gold
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