On this day: Legendary coin engraver born 200 years ago

May 28, 2019

Today is the birthday of Benedetto Pistrucci, creator of one of the world’s most highly revered gold coin designs.

Born in Italy on 29 May 1784, Pistrucci moved to England in 1815 where he became Chief Medallist at the Royal Mint.

Under the laws of the day, foreigners were technically ineligible for the top job. However, in the words of the Mint Master, his skills “place him above all competition”.

Pistrucci’s reputation in London soared with the creation of a wax model of England’s patron saint, St George, for aristocrats Lord and Lady Spencer.

He created designs for Britain’s Great Recoinage of 1816, suggesting St George and the Dragon for a new version of the sovereign – a gold coin valued at one pound.

Pistrucci’s design showed St George as a Greek horseman mounted on a Parthenon-style horse slaying a dragon. The famous coin made its appearance in 1817 after Britain’s victory at Waterloo.

Benedetto Pistrucci's St George and the Dragon 1899 SovereignSeen here on the very first sovereign produced at The Perth Mint, Benedetto Pistrucci’s ‘St George and the Dragon’ design is considered a timeless masterpiece.

The result is a masterpiece of numismatic art, a design combining such grace and dramatic impact that more than 200 years later it still ranks as one of the best loved of all British coin designs.

Australia boasts an emphatic connection with Pistrucci’s iconic reverse. It was struck millions of times on sovereigns made at the Sydney, Melbourne and Perth branches of The Royal Mint prior to 1931.