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Artefacts: The NMR Historic Sovereign Collection

History of the collection

In the late twentieth century, N M Rothschild & Sons Limited collected and curated a collection of historic British and British Empire gold sovereigns. Known as the NMR Historic Sovereign collection, or 'The New Court Sovereign Collection', the collection was built up largely at the behest of Victor, 3rd Lord Rothschild (1910-1990) starting in the late 1970s. The collection was added to up until the early 1990s.

Exactly when the late Lord Rothschild began the collection is not known, but the collection was created in part, in recognition of the long involvement of N M Rothschild & Sons in the mining, refining and trading of gold. In the late 1970s, the Dealing Room of N M Rothschild & Sons Limited at New Court had an active Gold Coin trading desk, sourcing coins from producers, including The Royal Mint for sovereigns, and The Rand Refinery for Krugerrands, and selling them to both retail and wholesale investors. In the corner of the banking hall was a small Coin desk, where retail clients could both purchase and sell their gold coin investments.

The collection was displayed in the third New Court. When the third New Court was demolished in 2008, the decision was taken not to display the collection in the fourth New Court building. The collection, now in the custody of the Archive, (on temporary deposit) remains privately owned by the business but is no longer on public display.

The NMR Historic Sovereign Collection

The collection commences with the first sovereign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) dated 1838 and ends with the commemorative proof issue for the coronation of George VI (1936-52) in 1937. It is unusually comprehensive, covering every year in which gold sovereigns were minted during that period. Every issue of both the shield back and St George reverse designs is represented and every sovereign issued by each of the Colonial Mints that produced them: Australia (the Sydney Mint, the Melbourne Mint, the Perth Mint); Canada (the Ottawa Mint); India (the Bombay Mint) and South Africa (the Pretoria Mint). The collection includes the extremely rare issue of 1920 from the Sydney Mint, the rarest sovereign in the world.