The gold sovereign came into existence in 1489 under King Henry VII, with a value of one pound sterling. The obverse design showed the King (ie sovereign) seated facing on a throne … and it is from this image that the new coin gained its name - the sovereign. The reverse type is a shield on a large double Tudor rose. Sovereigns were then struck for Henry VIII, and for most monarchs until the first coinage of James I.

In 1816, there was a major change in the British coinage, powered by the Industrial Revolution. The Royal Mint moved from The Tower of London to new premises on nearby Tower Hill, and acquired powerful new steam powered coining presses designed by Matthew Boulton and James Watt. The reverse design was introduced featuring Saint George slaying a dragon, designed by a brilliant young Italian engraver, Benedetto Pistrucci. This beautiful classic design remains on our gold sovereigns today, almost two hundred years later. The specifications have also remained unchanged: 7.9881 grams of 917 fine (22 kt) gold, 22.05 mm. diameter.

Production at the Royal Mint stopped in 1917, although some were minted again in 1925.
The branch mints continued to produce sovereigns, Ottawa in Canada until 1919, Bombay in India in 1918, Sydney Australia until 1926, Melbourne and Perth Australia until 1931, and Pretoria South Africa until 1932.

No new sovereigns were issued for circulation until 1957, although sovereigns were included in the George VI proof set of 1937 which was available for collectors, and sovereigns were also minted but not issued for Edward VIII in 1937, and for Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.

From 1957, bullion sovereigns were issued almost every year until 1968, then not until 1974 when regular production was restarted. In 1979, an annual proof version was issued, and this practice continues to the present. In 1989, a special 500th Anniversary commemorative design was produced, inspired by the very first gold sovereign of 1489, showing H.M. Queen Elizabeth II seated facing on a throne.

For 2002, a shield was used on the reverse for just one year to mark the Queen's Golden Jubilee, and then the design reverted to the classic St. George slaying the dragon by Pistrucci.