Everyone should now know that the old round pound ceases to be legal tender on October 15, so now is the time to search your sofa, armchairs and hidey-holes so that you can spend them before they become worthless.

The old round pound as we know it was first minted in 1983 to replace the Bank of England £1 note. That pound note was, of course, worth a 100 new pence but before 1971, a pound was worth 240 old pence or 20 shillings but the pound coin has a much longer history as a sovereign. The sovereign was first issued in the reign of English King Henry VII in 1489 as a 22 carat gold coin weighing just over 15½ grams, and was named that because it shows the King on his throne. Just like today, the price of gold fluctuated. Between 1526 and 1544 the sovereign was valued at 22 shillings. In 1544 the weight was reduced, and the value was once again 20 shillings. It continued to be minted until 1553, during the reign of Edward VI. From 1553 a 23 carat gold sovereign worth 30 shillings was issued and this continued through the reign of Mary I and Elizabeth I. In Elizabeth's reign a new coin, a gold pound worth 20 shillings was introduced. James V of Scotland issued a gold coin worth 20 shillings Scots, a unicorn but it was less than a quarter of the weight of the English sovereign. James I of England minted the sovereign again at twenty shillings between 1603 and 1604, when it was superseded by the Unite, the name being chosen to reflect the union of the thrones and subsequently renamed the laurel. In the reign of Charles I, it became the unite again. Under Oliver Cromwell’s protectorate the coin became a broad of 20 shillings and back to being a unite under Charles II. In 1662, gold coins got new names, the 20 shillings coin was briefly a laurel again and then the guinea was issued; so-named because the gold came from Guinea in Africa.

The value fluctuated between 20 and 21 shillings and in 1717, it was fixed at 21 shillings. The guinea was struck until 1813. The gold sovereign worth 20 shillings returned in 1817 and was struck in every reign since then and is still being struck today. The gold sovereign was also struck in Australia from 1872 to 1931, in Canada from 1908 to 1919, in India in 1918, and in South Africa from 1923 to 1932. In Britain, the Bank of England started issuing £1 Treasury banknotes in 1914 in order to keep gold for payments for imports of food, ships and armaments. From the reign of Victoria onwards, the gold sovereign was the pre-eminent gold trade coin in the world. When Britain stopped minting gold sovereigns in the reign of George V, they were still being used as trade coins, so the forging gold of sovereigns started. Britain resumed minting of gold sovereigns in 1957.

Peter Munro