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British Gold Sovereign
1838

A sovereign with a sovereign
Featuring Queen Victoria on one side and the royal coat of arms on the other, this gold sovereign is one of two remaining from the bequest of James Smithson in 1838. Smithson, an English scholar, provided in his will "to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase and diffusion of Knowledge among men." Smithson's bequest amounted to 105 bags of British gold sovereigns-worth about $500,000. All but two were melted down, restruck into U.S. currency, and used to fund the Smithsonian.

Notes
Deposited in the Smithsonian by the U.S. Mint, 1923
The sovereign was the major trade coinage of the 19th century
James Smithson, born 1765, Paris, France; died June 27, 1829, Genoa, Italy
Web display only

Learn more!
· National Numismatic Collection, NMAH
· From Smithson to Smithsonian: The Birth of an Institution, an NMAH "virtual" exhibition

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