Varieties of the Jubilee Head Half Sovereign
Struck during a relatively short period from 1887 and 1893, the Jubilee Head series is arguably one of the more popular half sovereign series to collectors, partly due to its affordability, but also to its numerous varieties which have fascinated collectors for decades.
The Jubilee Head half sovereign was struck from the Sydney and Melbourne mints during the odd years only resulting in a total of 4 years to collect with the 1887 struck at both the Sydney and Melbourne mints increasing that count to 5.
For each year that the half sovereign was struck, a number of varieties occurred.
- In 1887 the designer's initials 'JEB' varied in shape and size
- In 1889 and 1893 the number of pearls on Queen Victoria's neck varied between 12 and 13
- In 1891 the designer's initials 'JEB' were either present or absent.
The Sydney mint struck a total of 134,000 half sovereigns in 1887, identifiable by an 'S' under the shield on the reverse. This mintage figure however, includes the Young Head design though this comprises of a minority of the figure. The type is reasonably common and is one of the easier dates in mint state with at least 30 known examples.
There are four varieties varying the formation of the designer's initials 'JEB' on the coin's obverse.
||JEB as IEB
- A wide and short formation, commonly referred to as 'Wide JEB' or 'Small-Spread JEB'. This is one of the more common varieties and generally does not command a premium over typical prices.
- A medium formation, commonly referred to as 'Medium JEB' or 'Normal JEB'. This is roughly equally common to the 'Wide JEB' and does not carry a premium either.
- A narrow formation, commonly referred to as 'Narrow JEB' or 'Close JEB'. This is a slightly scarcer variety and carries slight premiums over the normal prices.
- A formation with an angled 'J' or I in the designer's initials 'JEB'. This is a very scarce variety, identified by only 3 examples to date.
The Melbourne mint struck a total of 64,000 half sovereigns in 1887, identifiable by an 'M' under the shield on the reverse. This mintage figure includes the Young Head type though very few Young Head half sovereigns were struck by the Melbourne mint that year leaving a mintage figure for the Jubilee Head type at around 50,000. This type is reasonably common despite its low mintage figure and is one of the easier Victorian half sovereigns in top grades with numerous examples emerging from the Ballarat hoard.
There are three varieties varying the formation of the designer's initials 'JEB' on the coin's obverse.
- A wide and short formation, commonly referred to as 'Wide JEB' or 'Small-Spread JEB'. This is a scarcer variety though does not usually command a significant premium.
- A medium formation, commonly referred to as 'Medium JEB' or 'Normal JEB'. This variety is anything but normal, with probably fewer than 20 examples available and represented by only 1 example at the Reserve Bank of Australia sale.
- A narrow formation, commonly referred to 'Narrow JEB' or 'Close JEB'. This variety is the most common of the year, particularly in higher grades making it an excellent choice for a type coin.
In 1889, the Sydney mint struck a total of 32,000 half sovereigns making the type the scarcest Jubilee Head half sovereign and one of the scarcest half sovereigns overall with an estimated 500 examples surviving today.
There are two varieties to consider for this year.
- The '13 pearls' variety which displays 13 pearls on Victoria's necklace is the more common of the two which is easily identifiable by a doubling of the leftmost pearl in her majesty's necklace.
- The '12 pearls' variety which displays 12 pearls on Victoria's necklace is the scarcer of the two with a study of 45 examples of the year revealing just 4 examples of this variety. Considering the year's survival count, this ratio indicates a total count of approximately 50 examples.
The Sydney mint struck a total of 91,000 half sovereigns in 1891 with two distinct varieties.
The 'With JEB' variety features the designer's initials 'JEB' in the truncation under the bust of Queen Victoria. This is by far the scarcer variety occurring approximately once per 10 examples.
The 'Sans JEB' variety does not feature the designer's initials on the obverse and is the more common variety of the year.
There are approximately 1000 examples of the year surviving today leaving approximately 100 examples of the 'With JEB' variety rendering it reasonably scarce, particularly in higher grades. I have only catalogued 1 example in about uncirculated condition and none higher.
The Melbourne mint struck a total of 134,000 in 1893, assumingly the Jubilee Head type though 5 circulated Veiled Head half sovereigns are known for the year. The varieties for the year are identical to the 1889 Sydney mint half sovereign with a varying pearl count in Queen Victoria's necklace.
A sample of 40 1893 Melbourne mint half sovereigns revealed 6 examples of the 12 pearl variety and considering a total survival count of approximately 900 examples, we can assume a survival count of the 12 pearl variety to be approximately 135 pieces.
While the Jubilee Head may seem like an easy series to complete with only 5 dates needed, a close look at the varieties of each year reveal a total of 13 pieces to collect to produce a complete set, well that is, excluding the pattern strikings.