The half sovereign was first introduced in 1544 under Henry VIII. It was a gold coin valued at ten shillings or 120 pre-decimal pennies. After 1604, the issue of half sovereigns, along with sovereigns, was discontinued until 1817, following a major revision of British coinage. Production continued until 1926 and, apart from special issues for coronation years, was not restarted until 1980. It was also used extensively in Australia, until 1933.
Modern half sovereigns, from 1817 onwards, have a diameter of 19.30 mm, a weight of 3.99 g, are made of 22 carat (91.666%) gold alloy, and contain 0.1177 troy ounces (3.7 g) of gold. The reverse side, featuring St. George slaying a dragon was designed by Benedetto Pistrucci, whose initials appear to the right of the date.