The George Holloway Collection of Fine Sovereigns of Elizabeth I
George Prendergast Holloway
The coins in this catalogue are representative of one man’s remarkable study, over almost 60 years, of all the known examples of Elizabeth I’s magisterial series of fine gold sovereigns. Mr Holloway, fondly remembered by members of the British coin trade as a diligent researcher of these coins, has left an archive detailing no less than 341 different specimens, each of them described in the detail that only a true enthusiast can muster, right down to the most minor striking characteristic.
The largest denomination issued by Elizabeth, her predecessor Mary and successor James I, the fine sovereign, a denomination originally introduced by her grandfather Henry VII, was tariffed at 30 shillings and made its debut under Edward VI in 1550; the last such coins, popularly known as rose ryals, were coined in 1624. On 31 December 1558 Elizabeth issued a commission to Sir Edmund Peckham, authorising him to strike sovereigns and other denominations in fine gold (23ct 3.5 grains [= 240 grains]), together with a range of crown gold divisions (22 carat). As David Brown and Chris Comber observed, initially very little crown gold was struck at the commencement of her reign, but by 1562 it had entirely displaced fine gold in the mint output, presumably because its better wearing qualities commended it to the merchants. The second series of Elizabethan fine sovereigns, struck in 1584 and the following years, owe their initial existence to the government authorizing their issue, along with ship ryals, as a means of financing the expedition of the Earl of Leicester to the Netherlands in 1585. A handful of dies from the early lis and cross-crosslet issues were overstruck with the Lombardic A privy-mark for re-use in the second series, and one such coin is in the Holloway collection. The second series is thought to have continued until the Spring of 1593.