Great Britain, Gold Sovereign, 1838

Description
This coin is one of those used to convey James Smithson's bequest to the United States for the creation of the Smithsonian Institution. James Smithson was born in 1765 as the illegitimate son of Sir Hugh Smithson, later known as Sir Hugh Percy, Baronet, 1st Duke of Northumberland, K.G., and Elizabeth Hungerford Keate.
Elizabeth Keate had been married to James Macie, and so Smithson first bore the name of James Lewis Macie. His mother later married Mark Dickinson, by whom she had another son. When she died in 1800, he and his half-brother inherited a sizable estate. He changed his name at this time from "Macie" to "Smithson."
James Smithson died June 27, 1829, in Genoa, Italy. His will left his fortune to his nephew, son of his half-brother, but stipulated that if that nephew died without children (legitimate or illegitimate), the money should go "to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men."
The nephew, Henry Hungerford Dickinson, died without heirs in 1835, and Smithson's bequest was accepted in 1836 by the United States Congress. Smithson never visited the United States, and the reason for his generous bequest is unknown. The gift was the foundation grant for the Smithsonian Institution.
The Smithson bequest consisted of 104,960 gold sovereigns. Presumably they all bore the head of the new Queen Victoria, who had acceded to the throne in 1837.
The United States insisted on new sovereigns rather than circulated ones for a very practical reason: the United States would get more gold that way. All but two coins were melted down, reminted as American coins, and spent. The last two originals are in the Smithsonian collection.
Location
Currently on loan
Object Name
coin
date made
1838
ruler
Victoria Queen of Great Britain and Ireland and Empress of India
maker
American Type Founders Company
Great Britain
Physical Description
gold (overall metal)
0 (overall die axis)
0 (overall die axis measurement)
struck (overall production method)
Measurements
overall: dia. 22 mm; wt. 7.981 g
place of issue
United Kingdom: Great Britain
place made
United Kingdom
ID Number
1985.0441.1579
catalog number
1985.0441.1579
accession number
1985.0441
subject
Coins, Currency and Medals
Legendary Coins
Coins
Numismatics
See more items in
Armed Forces History: National Numismatic Collection
Legendary Coins
Coins
Numismatics
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Transferred from United States Mint
Publication title
Glossary of Coins and Currency Terms
Publication URL
http://americanhistory.si.edu/coins/glossary.cfm
Additional Media

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