Great Britain has a long and noble tradition of striking gold coins. In fact, that statement is literally true. One of the early British Gold Coins was actually called the Gold Nobel. The Nobel was the first British Gold Coin struck in quantity and was first minted during the reign of King Edward III in 1344–1346. Even into Shakespeare's time, the Gold Nobel was well recognized. In fact, it's mentioned several times in Shakespeare's plays.
In 1489 the most famous British Gold Coin of them all was authorized by King Henry VII, the British Gold Sovereign. In 1816, the Gold sovereign became the standard British Gold Coin, and with a value of one pound, it was struck all over the world during the 19th and 20th century and is still being minted today. These modern sovereigns display the most recognizable image of all for British coins: Saint George slaying the dragon, designed by Italian sculptor Benedetto Pistrucci.
Many other British Gold Coins were minted prior to the appearance of the modern Gold Sovereign. The Gold Guinea was minted between 1663 and 1814. It was the first machine-struck British Gold Coin (up to the 1660s all British Gold Coins were hand struck, one at a time). It was originally worth one-pound sterling, equal to twenty shillings. Two Guinea Coins were also struck in small quantities.
The £5 (Five Pound) Gold Coin first appeared during the reign of King George III, the British Monarch who lost the American Colonies during the American Revolution. The coin was normally issued as a collector Proof issue and rarely circulated. It was struck in small quantities and when they appear on the market today they can easily sell for tens of thousands of dollars.
When Queen Victoria mounted the Throne of Great Britain a special £5 "Una and the Lion" Gold Coin was struck. It shows the young queen leading the British Lion with her scepter.
Staring in 1980, the collector version of the Proof £5 Gold Coin was revived and struck on a regular basis showing a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II and the familiar St. George and the Dragon reverse. These coins are the equivalent of Five Gold Sovereigns. In 1980, the Mint also began to strike Proof Gold Half and Full Sovereigns on an annual basis, and in 1985 they added £2 Proofs. Later, tenth-ounce Gold Sovereigns were also issued.
The First Britannia Gold Coins were issued by The Royal Mint in 1987. Britannia was depicted on a windy shore, protecting Great Britain against the crashing waves with her shield and trident. The coin has a face value of £100 pounds and contains one troy ounce of gold. Gold Britannias have also been issued in factional sizes of one-half (£50), one-quarter (£25) and one-tenth (£10) Troy ounce sizes. The Royal Mint strikes both Proof Gold Britannias and Brilliant Uncirculated Gold Britannias.
Over the years the Royal Mint has struck a number of Gold Commemorative coins honoring significant events in British history, modern events and milestones for the Royal Family.
All British Gold Coins are struck at Britain's Royal Mint. For over 1,000 years is was located in the historic Tower of London before moving to Wales where the first coins were officially struck at Llantrisant by Her Majesty The Queen on December 17, 1968.