Here are my personal reflections on some of the coins in the forthcoming Part I auction. All entries are linked to Spink's online auction.
The cover is the introductory page of Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People.
Many of the coins featured in this offering have been published so widely, that I doubt I have a comprehensive record of publication.
Lot 2: The solidus of Duke Arichis II of Beneventum (764-774.), unearthed around 1960 at Alnwick, Northumbria, is an unusual find. Arichis, of Lombardic descent, was a notable patron of culture so such a handsome coin is no surprise. The Franks, under Charlemagne, had invaded northern Italy and brought Beneventum under considerable pressure. It is conceivable that the location of this find evidences Arichis’ emissaries reaching out to forge an alliance to resist Charlemagne’s expansionism.
One can surmise that the recipient, being unfamiliar with the type, needed to test the metal. Fortunately, this does not disfigure the motifs.
Lot 5: Pseudo-Imperial Lombardic tremissis, Victory type found: 'somewhere between Garton-on-the-Wolds and Eastburn', East Yorkshire. Another high-denomination specimen evincing long-distance trading and diplomatic relations between Northumbria and the Continent, specifically Italy. One can picture this decorative piece sewn to the garment of a visiting envoy.
I bought this and a number of Northumbrian sceats and stycas from James Booth, who had been instrumental in cataloguing the northern coinage. He had acquired it from the finder. When I submitted it to the Fitzwilliam Museum to add to my collection, Martin Allen pointed out that it was no longer a coin – the loop converted it to an artefact. It should have been disclosed when found. James recalled that a day or two day after it was found, Christmas 2007, the finder’s mother had died, and the artefact was put aside. In the event, Gareth Williams disclaimed it.
Lot 14: Merovingian tremissis of Theodolinus.
I am grateful to Arent Pol for recovering the wonderful pedigree of this curious piece.
By coincidence, the finder of the Paulinus Shilling lives about quarter of a mile from me.
That it was a gold shilling of York was sufficient lure, but it was nearly a decade before I recognised the full significance of this specimen. While preparing my thesis, I gave a talk on Northumbrian coinage and, subsequently, fell into conversation with a medievalist at the University of York. This coincided with Jonathan Mann suggesting that one of the two York shilling inscriptions started with the word SANCTE. A few numismatists still fail to accept this, though once seen it is undeniable. My Eureka moment came in April 2016 (at 11:45am on the 4th to be precise!) so that in a matter of a few days, both York inscriptions, which had perplexed eminent numismatists for centuries, were resolved.
Again, some deny my reading of PAULINUS EP. The legend exhibits typical blundering for the period (e.g. the Liudhard medalet), but once read – if you permit yourself a momentary suspension of disbelief - it would take a very convincing argument to overturn my reading. Besides, there is supporting evidence from other sources, as I explained in BNJ 2019.
More challenging, is my speculation that Lot 18, the gold shilling of Eadbald, is inscribed for Mellitus. The inter-relation of Mellitus and Paulinus given their common background, when superimposed onto their relationships with the brothers-in-law Eadbald of Kent and Edwin of Northumbria, makes a compelling argument for these issuers to have initiated the English coinage. Indeed, as Gerard Baldwin-Brown suggested (The Arts in Early England, 1915), Mellitus could have grasped the initiative as Bishop of London as early as 604-c.617.
A comprehensive, illustrated study of early Anglo-Saxon gold is well overdue. Since Humphrey Sutherland’s Early Anglo-Saxon Coinage in the Light of the Crondall Hoard (OUP, 1948), we have little more than Abdy and Williams’ unillustrated listing in Cook & Williams (eds., Brill 2006). The field is begging for attention!
Lot 25, transitional coinage of PADA, PaIA, SL 1-10.
This specimen is of the rarest variety of this issuer, with elongated runes on the reverse – similar to the Finglesham Cemetery find.
The association of PADA with Peada of Mercia, son of the pagan Penda, was discounted in the last century but recent archaeological studies by Hines, Bayles et al and Loveluck et al, in reordering the chronology of the supersession of gold by silver, resurrect the tenuous prospect of a link. There remain difficulties – is the chronological window opened by these recent studies wide enough to encompass Peada’s reign, 653-6; does his short reign allow time for the type variations associated with PADA?
Lot 29, Transitional coinage of Vanimundus Va, variety VaA, silver, SL 2-05.
Decent specimens of this moneyer’s coinage are elusive, but this coin has a pleasing aspect, not just in the full portrait on the obverse with its bold hairstyle and drapery, but the well-centred reverse enabling a complete reading of the inscription.
Lot 31, Transitional coinage – named moneyers, Valdoberhtus, SL 3-50.
I have placed this rarity alongside the far more prolific issues of PADA and the sparser emissions of VANIMUND. This is rather speculative as the metal has not been tested. It could be contemporary with Series A - the portraiture is certainly not inferior to A and the literacy is superior.
Early silver pennies and deniers
Lot 32, Series A, A1, type 2a, , SL 3-10.
Series A is the successor to the transitional coinage of Pada, the common elements of both obverse and reverse being quite apparent in the styling of the bust and the votive standard respectively. Metcalf preferred attribution to King Hlothhere (673-85) rather than Wihtred of Kent (686-725). However, recent archaeological evidence (Hines and Bayliss, also Loveluck et al) implies Ecgberht (664-673) was more likely to have initiated the coinage. Metcalf rated Series A1, type 2a as of the highest rarity.
Lots 36-43 and 320, Series C, CZ, D.
Bede (EH, IV, 13) noted that Wulfhere approved Bishop Wilfrid‘s appointment of four priests, including a Padda and an Eappa, to baptize the West Saxons. Solely on the grounds of propinquity, Padda could be associated with the thrymsa moneyer PADA (rendered in runes) i.e. he is in the right place, time and relationship. I give an alternative explanation above at lot 25.
Bede described how a young boy’s death by disease on the anniversary of Oswald‘s demise was regarded as preventing an epidemic from spreading throughout Eappa’s monastery at Selsey (EH, IV, 14). This event was celebrated widely each year. Were this Eappa’s unusual name on the coinage, it would not only be excellent propaganda for the Church, but also act as an amuletic ‘touch-piece’, perceived as preventing plague, and so enhancing the currency of that coinage. Were this so then Eappa could be equated with the moneyer EPA as inscribed on the widespread, long-lived and prolific ‘runic bust’ sceattas of Series C, D and R, despite these being somewhat later. Admittedly, Bede may have drawn our attention to this; perhaps he was discouraged by the use of runes.
Lot 47, Saroaldo, type 11, SL 7-10.
The FIT/VR group is elusive and iconic. This specimen is outstanding for the type in both execution and condition. Metcalf felt the inscription was difficult to explain as a name or location, though Blackburn & Bonser suggested ‘is made’. Lot 50 carries a particularly potent image.
Lots 65 and 66, “Series E”, type 89 (formerly type 4 var. according to T&S), SL 93-10.
The reading SEDE is uncertain but other combinations seem to carry no meaning. Gannon states: ‘The snake has ‘rays’ around its body, which is curved over a cross, a design with strong Christological meaning.’ Also, referring to the Rolltier as shown in lot 117 below, ‘The motif, ideal to fit a roundel, had already been used on Celtic coinage and also appears on Roman insignia.’
Lot 72, Series Z, type 66, SL 102-42.
I recall driving to a deserted, windswept, carpark somewhere in North Yorkshire to buy this coin from two towering, craggy-faced, unsmiling detectorists.
The finely wrought portrait appears to have closed eyes as though a death mask.
Conventionally, the reverse creature is described as a hound, but in Sceatta List, I prefer to envisage this as a wild boar, a venerated symbol of power and fertility for both the Romans and Celts.
Lot 81, Denier, Merovingian, possibly Marseille.
The obverse shows a monogram, taken to be Marseille, but in the form of a church topped by a cross.
The iconic reverse design has compelling significance in the Christian repertoire.
Lot 85, Series W, type 54, SL 108-30.
Two features of this specimen of a rare type are noteworthy: the pellets behind the head are suggestive of stars or a celestial phenomenon – Halley’s Comet was recorded over Europe in 684, around the time that this primary type would have been in issue. Secondly, the reverse margin hints tantalisingly at an inscription.
Lot 97, Series Q/R mule, SL 12-30.
The modelled bust is a more sophisticated rendering than permitted by the mass-produced trading currency of the mainstream Series R types, with its degenerate portrait.
Lot 99, Series R/Q? mule, SL 12-45.
It is a distinctive feature of the early penny coinage that when a conspicuously new design occurs, which happens far more frequently than in other coinages, there is some resistance to acknowledging it as a new variety. The occurrence of a second specimen of this RIca variety lent greater credibility to recognising this as part of the currency. Counter-intuitively, the occurrence of a second specimen typically doubles the price of a new variety.
The bird is comparable to the obverse bird on lot 212, but the two are unlikely to be linked as lot 99 probably emanates from East Anglia (Ipswich?) and lot 212 is certainly from Hamwic.
Lot 105, Saltire standard, variety P1ai, type 51, SL 13-80.
Biblical quotes referring to nakedness typically associate it with lewdness, shame, idolatry, harlotry and chastisement unless it is nakedness in poverty. However, the meaning here is more likely to imply that nothing can be hidden from divine sight.
Lot 106, Saltire standard, variety P1h (croix ancrée), SL 13-150.
The ancrée motif is found on jewellery of the period, often with garnets filling the voids.
Metcalf’s T&S noted two specimens, and very few have been added to the corpus since. The type remains tantalisingly beyond reach…
Lot 108, Saltire standard, type 70, Hill variety a/b, SL 13-160.
There are many variants of type 70, mistakenly denigrated for the lack of artistry, though the fabric is often quite base, putting it late in the coinage. This is to misunderstand the complexity of the varied geometric patterns and how they evolve. For example, the ‘reverse’ of this specimen displays a radiate crown and trefoil above, creating a miniature church or shrine.
Lot 112, Saltire standard, type 70, Hill variety, SL 13-165.
This unique ‘reverse’ has a distinctly contemporary artistic appeal in its unadorned deployment of a pellet cross over a simple geometric device, a square with extended sides, only one of which stretches to the edge. The significance is elusive but the design thought-provoking.
Lot 114, Annulet cross, variety P3c, Series R obverse, SL 14-10.
The pellet filled reverse field recalls the carpet pages of illuminated manuscripts where no blank space is permitted to permeate the surface. Perhaps this echoes a superstition that malign spirits will intrude should they be granted the merest opportunity.
Lot 116, The Rolltier is tightly curled to fit the circular flan. Its barbed tongue and hooked tail provide it with a fearsome armoury. In combination with the enclosed annulet cross reverse, the whole is reminiscent of the protective serpent guarding treasure – whether temporal or spiritual. Its descent from the Rolltier of Lot 117 is evident.
Tolkien used the device of the serpent protecting the treasure in the portrayal of Smaug. The Gold Regenbogenschusselchen – rainbow shell money, of the Germanic Boii (Lot 117), shows exactly this, with the Rolltier on the convex side sheltering the pyramid of gold, under a rainbow, on the reverse.
While condemning ‘facile explanations’ and ‘uncritical interpretations in the context of the reliance on the apparent affiliation of types’, Metcalf supports the view, first advanced in his joint note with Lyn Sellwood in BNJ 56 (1986, 181-2), that the facing heads of Series J, types 37 and 72, derive from this Celtic prototype. Gannon discusses this together with other prototypes in her 2020 article ‘Insular numismatics, the relationship between ancient British and early Anglo-Saxon coins’, in Barbaric Splendour, The use of image before and after Rome (eds. Toby F. Martin with Wendy Morrison, p 121-1390.
The grouping of five main types under the umbrella of Series J is something of an historical accident. There has been some dispute as to whether the origins are in the north or the midlands. That the Northumbrian minting lacuna between Aldfrith and Eadberht is plugged mainly by Series G and J may not imply much about their source – more that this was a very fluid currency.
The occurrence of the denier at Bridlington, could make it a prototype for the northern production of types 37 and 72, but this is pure conjecture. Finds evidence from a probable hoard, offered at auction, see https://www.cgbfr.com, in June 2013, suggests that the rare type 72 (and its rarer variant) was possibly minted in Quentovic. There is a strong argument that Series G is the product of this emporium also.
A collector interested in such connections, would do well to secure all three lots.
Lots 124-5, Sceats,
It was Anna Gannon who first postulated a ‘domino effect’ discernible by the pairing of sceats with a strong affinity. Such pairings, if correctly sequenced, illustrate the triumph of good (a bird) over evil (a serpent) by visual metaphor. This is such an iconic pairing albeit it extremely rare.
The bird has positive religious connotations. At first, it is confronted by the menacing serpent representing the devil, before turning its back to face the cross. Though lacking any inscription, the medium is the message, crystal-clear to the illiterate early medieval observer: ‘Get the behind me, Satan.’ The sequence of events is compelling, reinforced by the dropped jaw of the serpent, giving it a crestfallen appearance.
Lots 127-9, Sceats,
Series J, type 36 provides a further sequence, a visual story familiar to the largely illiterate, early medieval audience in this trio of related sceats. Arranged appropriately, the observer is presented with the age-old struggle of good and evil. In Lot 128, a coiled viper confronts the dismayed figure portrayed on the obverse while, on the reverse, a vicious demon challenges the foreground bird. Lot 129 shows the challenge on the obverse to have been resolved by the appearance of the cross, while Lot 127 shows the confrontation on the reverse to have also been successfully overcome - the demon vanquished and the cross triumphant.
A discerning collector would cherish this trio.
Lots 130-1, Deniers, Merovingian. Unclassified.
The Merovingian series of deniers provides a sequence comparable to that described for Lots 127-9. In Lot 130, the reversed s before the bust with a forward gaze, is a coiled serpent and the arched volute on the reverse encloses a decapitated cross with flaccid limbs. Lot 131 shows a bust with heavenward gaze with a cross before. The reverse cross stands proud. Again, the pairing recalls the struggle of good and evil.
Lot 132, Series G, SL 21-10.
The skilfully engraved portrait with inscription before, place this variety at the head of Series G. The legend is tantalisingly beyond our current understanding. However, there is a close affinity with the portraiture displayed in the above two lots. The type generally, together with elements of Series J, with the heavenward gaze of its almond-shaped eye and cross before, is reminiscent of the dream-vision of Constantine before the battle of Milvian Bridge.
A source of Quentovic, as Michael Metcalf speculated, is credible.
Undoubtedly, with obverses engraved by the same hand, lots 134 and 135 are closely related, strengthening the association of Series G with Merovingia. Lot 135 is clearly attributable, whereas Series G, of which Lot 134 is an outlier, is largely anonymous. This association supports Metcalf’s assertion that G is Continental; he specifically identifies Quentovic, the gateway emporium on the Channel coast, as the likely source.
Lots 139-155. Even when the Southumbrian coinage is inscribed, the meanings are sometimes elusive. Lots 139, 140, 143 and 155 are marked as London issues. Lot 143 carries the Scorvm element shared with the Monita Scorvm issues (Naismith, 2014).
Lots 144-7 are Series T, the latter uniquely bearing a cross ancrée.
Lots 148-154 are diverse components of the C/ARIP group. One may surmise that those with inscriptions similar to this are associated with Canterbury or Archbishop Cuthbert. The legends +VIL (150) and OIVI (153) are intriguing. The seated figure of lot 154 is iconic.
Lot 160, Celtic Cross, SL 31-10.
A beautiful, deeply-incised specimen.
Lot 163-4, Sceats,
Two stunning examples of the iconic and elusive rosette type. In the former, the ñ before the bust is likely to be an initial. The latter is notable for the floral crosses held by the standard bearer.
Lots 165-194. The portraiture of Series K provides some of the high points of early Anglo-Saxon art. A much-neglected field is the array of drapery presented on this coinage. I have attempted to categorise this in Sceatta List, but it deserves the attention of a specialist.
Outstanding among this group are the obverses of lots 191, 192 and 184. Lot 178 has the arabesque shown on lot 147. Lots 182 and 184 show a serpent tongue on the reverse and 185 has a crossed tail. Lot 187 has an encircling outer serpent (less clearly seen on 189 also).
Lot 188 has a magnificent obverse bust, enriched by the depth of the bejewelled drapery as the arrangement of beads gives dimensionality to the classic figure. The reverse is exceptional, the inner serpent being protected by the outer, smooth-bodied snake.
Lot 191, The smooth folds of the drapery are tactile, resulting in a masterpiece of early Anglo-Saxon art. The fully-formed reverse animal has a hint of the priapic.
The presumed-unique lot 195 has a roulette wheel reverse divided into 11 section, reminiscent of a Simnel cake with its eleven balls said to represent the twelve apostles, minus Judas.
Lot 196, Serpent, type 86a, SL 42-10.
The serpent is of exceptionally fine and distinctive style. A snake surrounds the beast clockwise within the beaded border.
Lot 200, ‘Fledgling’, style a, modelled, SL 44-10.
A few years later, I gave some lectures on the early Anglo-Saxon coinage to Richard Morris’ medieval studies graduate class at Leeds University. He suggested that the reverse image related to an episode in Bede’s biographical Life of Cuthbert, when Cuthbert set out with his boy servant but no provisions. When they tired and stopped to rest, an osprey brought a fish which they all shared.
It is a convincing explanation of the design, but I resisted the temptation to name the type after Cuthbert, given that Cuthgils ‘shrine’ issue late in Aethelred I of Northumbria’s second reign was erroneously attributed to Cuthbert (Lord Grantley, 1911, ‘Saint Cuthbert’s Pennies’, BNJ 8, 49-53)
Lot 204, Series U, type 23c, SL 45-60.
An outstanding specimen of this iconic variety. The standard bearer in the crescent boat implies peregrination or a missionary on an evangelical quest. The tiny creatures either side of the head suggest this is the work of a skilled engraver.
The featureless face reminds me of Zebedee in The Magic Roundabout, but it is probably a female figure with a long curling hairstyle, rather than a handlebar moustache.
When I bought this from the finder, the late Ian Postlethwaite, it was thought to be unique. However, in Peter Stott’s Saxon and Norman Coins from London, Aspects of Saxo-Norman London 2: finds and environmental evidence ed. Alan Vince (LAMAS, 1991), Michael Metcalf published a find at no. 20 that, uncharacteristically, he had misunderstood – showing that even the greatest expert can fail to rotate a sceat to the correct orientation. The coin was found during the Bermondsey Abbey excavation in 1987 and is clearly a ‘fledgling’ type.
Lot 207 is included to show continuity of the use of the tribrach device into the era of the broad penny. The letters enclosed by the device give the moneyer’s name, Duda.
The inscription is uncertain for lot 208. The obverse has a singular bird with long flowing crest, the curve of the body and crest reflecting the crescents on the reverse.
Lot 212, Series H, SL 48-10.
This iconic Series H variety with the bird obverse is known from 2 recorded specimens.
The bird is not unlike that shown on Lot 99 but that is probably from the Ipswich area and Lot 212 from Hamwic.
Lot 219, Series H, type 49, SL 48-1110.
The obverse bosses and reverse embellishments are privy marks witnessing the extent of monetary control at Hamwic, one of the most powerful of English emporia. Sceatta List edition II included a matrix demonstrating the evolution of the coinage. Those with eleven obverse bosses are extremely rare.
Lot 220, Archer, type 94, SL 50-20.
The Archer type is one of the most sought after designs in the entire coinage. Generally, specimens are barely discernible, possibly due to the alloy. The reverse swan also appears on the even rarer Hen type, typically better preserved, presumably in better silver.
Lot 221, Archer, SL 50-30.
A unique and recent addition to the Archer corpus, the reverse is a wolf-whorl linking the issue directly to Series K, type 32a.
Lot 222, Hen, SL 51-20.
The iconic Hen/Swan type was first illustrated by the notorious John White in the Nummi Argenti final plate (no. 17) of Withy & Ryall’s 1756 English Silver Coins. White noted that they were found ‘near & in the Isle of Thanet’. This outstanding specimen differs from White’s illustration in that the hen is here shown looking right.
Lot 223, Series N, type 41a, SL 52-10.
A classic example of Series N displaying facing figures in unusually well-executed, Byzantine style.
Lot 226, Series N, type 41b, SL 52-70.
One of two known specimens with a bird on the rump of the reverse beast. The bird (a corvid?) appears to be feeding the animal.
Lot 232, Series O, type 40, SL 55-30.
This unique specimen has an obverse female standard bearer boasting seven separate cruciform elements – a triquetra and cross pommée at either side, a pelleted pectoral cross and two pellet crosses inverted at the hem of the robe.
Lot 234, Series O/Series QIX, type 56, SL 57-10.
The beast with foreleg raised behind the head is also seen on contemporary stone sculptures. The complex geometric design on the reverse is reminiscent of contemporary garnet inlaid jewellery.
Lot 238, Series O, type 38, SL 58-65.
The obverse carries the distinctive bust of Series O, with swept-back hair, and a cross before, all in an attractive cable border. The flan is irregular.
The crested bird on the reverse, protected by an encircling apotropaic serpent, is more elaborate than comparable specimens. The crest ends in a trefoil and before the bird is a quincunx. Anna Gannon discusses the meaning of these design elements in her seminal The Iconography of Anglo-Saxon England (2003).
Lot 245, Series M, type 45, SL 61-70.
An example of the excessively rare ‘flying animal’ version of Series M, displaying an almost balletic stance counterbalanced by the curling tongue and tail. See Anna Gannon, 2020, fig 8.2n.
This would make a desirable pairing with lot 310.
Lot 246, Series M, SL 61-80.
Known from a mere handful of specimens, this variety of Series M, exhibits a more conventional animal than the sinuous beast typical of the type. Anna Gannon suggests this is a pascal lamb.
Lot 247, Series V, type 7, SL 62-10.
The classical reference to the founding myth of Rome has made this type iconic. Nourishing drops of the she-wolf’s milk drip down to sustain the infant twins. Might there be a veiled allusion to the founding Anglo-Saxon mythology of Hengist and Horsa – or perhaps St Peter and Paul?
However, it is the reverse design that shows originality. The budding stalks flex sufficiently to bear the weight of the bird. The bird brings its song and the means of seed dispersal. The allusion here is to collaboration and cooperation. The same could be true of the obverse – the wolf brings nutrition; the twins hope.
Generally, Roman coins are an expression of power and dominance while sceats propagate a more peaceable message.
Lot 248, Series V, type 7, SL 62-10.
In this beautifully engraved example of Series V, the drips of nourishing milk are replaced by a cross pattée, an evangelising message.
East Anglia’s Series Q is the most eloquent of the uninscribed Southumbrian sceats. The contrast with the region’s other coinage, Ipswich’s regal Series R is stark. The essence of the latter is to gain currency through immobilisation, though the runic bust/votive standard combination transforms over time. Series Q presents a wide array of exquisitely engraved, modelled images, heavy in evangelistic symbolism.
Lot 259, Series Q1G, type 59, SL 63-100.
With the merest touch of the graving tools, the artist conveys what Rory Naismith (2012, 67-8) refers to when discussing facing busts, ‘It was perceived as carrying an air of serene disconnection that was thought especially proper for Christ and the saints, and by extension the emperor.’ Anna Gannon also discusses facing heads (2003, 25-30).
Lot 263, Series QII, SL 64-30.
This extremely rare, possibly unique, variation of Series QII has a beast on the obverse which appears to be struggling into a strong headwind. The feathers on the bird on the reverse are also ruffled. Both have unusually bifurcated tails.
Lot 264, Series QII, SL 64-35.
Series Q continues to divulge its secrets. In this probably unique specimen, the fields are filled with unrestrained coiling and intertwined tails and crests.
In common with some pairings in Series J, the pairing of lots 266 and 267 presents a further example of the battle of good and evil. The reverse of lot 267 shows a serpent rising to challenge a bird adorned by a crossed crest. In lot 277, the assailant lies defeat, crushed below the feet of the bird, which now faces the cross.
Lot 268, Series QII, SL 64-80.
The iconic stag reverse of this bold variety parallels the contemporary ‘fantastic beast’ coinage of Northumbria. Both make use of similar embellishments, such as the triquetra. In Northumbria’s prolific coinage of Eadberht, this device is a privy mark in a well-controlled production system. Series Q is more exuberant – and a stark contrast to the conservative and slowly degenerating trading coinage of East Anglia, Series R.
In the context of the number of Northumbrian sites where a specimen of East Anglian Series Q has been found, it is worth quoting from Brian Hope-Taylor’s Yeavering: An Anglo-British Centre of Early Northumbria (London: HMSO.): ‘The idea of an East Anglian-Northumbrian political and cultural axis under Rædwald and Edwin is entirely in harmony with the historical facts: it could account for several remarkable points of correspondence between the decorative arts of Rendlesham and Lindisfarne.’ (1977, 321).
Lot 273, Series QIII variety, SL 65-30.
The third block of designs in Series Q features the triquetra. This presumed unique variety has a reverse with a gryphon-like creature facing the observer.
Lot 277, Series QIII variety, SL 65-60.
Among the rarest of Series Q varieties, this specimen exhibits a spreadeagle reverse.
Lots 278-80, Series QIV, type 44, SL 66, present an opportunity to acquire fine specimens of Series QIV, which is typically poor in alloy and execution.
Lot 288, Series S, type 47, SL 68-80.
The main distinguishing feature in Series S is the composition of the tail on the obverse – beaded or linear - and the type of finial. However, the rare variety 68-80 has a rosette as central device on the reverse and the rotating beaded cross composed of the wolves’ tongues is absent, making for a pleasingly uncluttered design.
The triangular figure on the obverse seems to be derived from primary Series F, the back of the helmet misconceived.
Whilst the fleeing biped obverse is borrowed from the backward-looking animal groups, the reverse is an artistic and original departure with pleasing symmetry. The streamers on the central cross fourchée, give the impression of rotation. Swans right, looking back, alternate with groups pellets within a linear border.
Lot 294, Triquetras variety 3, type 101, SL 110-40.
The winged figure of Mary praying in the orans posture, as identified by Anna Gannon, makes this an iconic and highly individual piece with special significance in the Christian repertoire. This is backed by the intricate triquetra cross with rosettes in the angles.
Lot 295, Triquetras variety 4 variant SL 110-57.
One of the bolder specimens in the diverse Triquetras group, with a reverse superior to the weathered example recorded by Metcalf (T&S, p. 425). The bird on the reverse is deceptive. Is it walking right with its head turned back or standing left pecking the ground? I favour the former but such ambiguity is typical of this early coinage – the Anglo-Saxons loved riddles!
Lot 297, Triquetras variety 10, SL 110-80.
An extremely rare example of the DE LVNDONIA type, with a sparkling triquetra reverse.
The so-called animal mask type features either a feline face or a fox. The more prominent snout favours the latter. This type continues to be iconic and is rarely offered in such condition.
Lots 303-7, East Anglia, Beonna (749-760?), SL 113.
This group provides the full gamut of Beonna’s moneyers, Efe, Wilræd and Werferth, the last two with pedigree. These are offered together with a para-numismatic lead artefact bearing Beonna’s imprimatur backed by the interlace design from his coins. For a description of related artefacts see, https,//www.anglo-saxon-coinage.co.uk/numismatic-material-of-beonna-s-interlace-type/
Lot 308, Northumbrian Series Y, Eadberht class Bi, SL 70-10.
The exceptional portrayal of the ‘fantastic beast’ makes this a personal favourite.
Lot 309, Northumbrian Series Y, Eadberht class Bi, SL 70-60.
The titular initials, on the reverse of this excessively rare variety, suggest Archbishop Ecgberht’s ongoing involvement in minting jointly with his younger brother, King Eadberht.
Lot 310, Northumbrian Series Y, Eadberht var., SL 70-90.
One of the iconic rarities of Eadberht’s Northumbrian ‘fantastic beast’ coinage is the flying stag reverse. Perhaps the purpose of the pellet-filled field is to show the beast, half biblical lion and half deified Celtic stag, as a celestial being.
This would make a desirable pairing with lot 245.
Lot 311, Northumbrian Series Y, Eadberht class Fxi, SL 70-280.
Another great rarity among Eadberht’s Northumbrian sceats is this amuletic ‘small face’ as a central obverse motif. A highly desirable acquisition for aficionados of the northern coinage.
Lot 312, Northumbrian Series Y, Eadberht class F, variety, SL 70-308.
This exceptionally rare ‘swastika’ reverse has a pellet cross enclosed by the tail. This ancient symbol was a sacred icon in Eurasian cultures representing divinity and spirituality in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. In the west, it symbolized auspiciousness and good fortune - before its corruption.
Lot 314, Northumbrian Series Y, Æthelwald Moll with Archbishop Ecgberht, SL 76-10.
In light of a recent find described here on the BNS blog (and offered as Part II, lot 406) this joint issue of the patrician king Æthelwald Moll with the long-lived sage Archbishop Ecgberht, is perhaps the sole issue during this reign.
Lot 315, Series Y, Æthelwald Moll with his son Æthelred, SL 77-10.
The find described above (and offered as lot 406 on Part II) clearly links this joint issue of Æthelwald Moll and his son Æthelred, with the reign of the latter, such that this coin, of the highest rarity, may be regarded not as one where the father is promoting the credentials of his son, but rather as the son commemorating the reign of his deceased father to enhance his own regal origins and authority.
Lot 317, Northumbrian Series Y, Æthelred I, 2nd reign, SL 85-10.
In SCBI68, Stewart Lyon speculates that the ‘shrine’ issue may be attributed to the tail end of Æthelred’s second reign between the 793 Viking attack on Lindisfarne and Eardwulf’s revenge assassination of Æthelred in 796. Given the fabric and execution of this issue, that seems an insightful proposal.
Lord Grantley erroneously attributed this type to Cuthbert rather than Cuthgils (‘Saint Cuthbert’s Pennies’, BNJ 8, 1911, 49-53).
Lot 318, Northumbrian Series Y, Eardwulf, first reign, 796-806, SL 86-10.
Æthelred I (restored 790–96) served a troubled second reign marking a descent towards anarchy. Æthelred made an early, unsuccessful, attempt to dispose of his rival Eardwulf, who was left for dead outside the monastery at Ripon (Inhrypum).
Despite support from Charlemagne, Æthelred was murdered in 796 possibly in a revenge attack by conspirators, including the earldormen Ealdred and Wada. They then elevated the aging, dissolute and murderous, Osbald, who ignored Alcuin‘s warnings to reform. In an increasing unstable kingdom, he ruled a mere 27 days before being exiled to Lindisfarne, thence to a refuge in Pictland. He died in 799 with an unmarked burial in York Minster.
Following a period of anarchy, Eardwulf emerged as king. His second wife was an illegitimate daughter of Charlemagne, an even more ambitious diplomatic manoeuvre than Æthelred’s marriage to Offa‘s daughter. In 798, he killed Wada (who conspired against Æthelred) at the Battle of Billington Moor. In 799, a Moll (possibly descended from Æthelwold Moll) was killed at the ‘urgent command’ of Eardwulf. In 801, he fought Coenwulf of Mercia who had given asylum to his rivals. He was deposed by Ælfwald II in 806 (but possibly returned in 808, with the support of Charlemagne and Pope Leo III). The date of his death is unknown, but he is thought to be the Saint Hardulph to whom Breedon-on-the Hill is jointly dedicated.
The first specimen of the exceedingly rare sceat of this monarch was unearthed in 1994. A corpus is given on Gillis’s website.
This is probably the outstanding specimen of the tiny corpus of Eardwulf sceats.
Lot 320, Continental Series D, 2c, variety 4c, SL 8-20.
A beautiful specimen, virtually as-struck and undermining the assumption that retrograde portraiture is degenerate.
Lot 327, Series E variety G5, SL 89-50.
This enigmatic variety is one of two known whole specimens, both in this collection (I have seen a further fragmentary example). The renowned collector of sceats, Professor Wim de Wit suggested (pers comms) that this type may be associated with the Northumbrian missionary, Willibrord, first Bishop of Utrecht (695-739). His tenure parallels the coinage. He was invited to Frisia by Pepin of Herstal, fled from the pagan Radbod, but returned under the protection of Charles Martel.
The type is essentially an extension of variety G of Continental Series E, showing a ‘porcupine’ styled bust with an uncertain inscription and, on the reverse, a degenerate votive standard, surrounded by a tantalising legend commencing VVILL... A specimen with the remainder of the legend is yet to surface, but in the meantime, we rely on the central motif, a crosier, Willibrord’s attribute.
Moreover, propinquity strongly points to Willibrodr as the sole likely issuer – he is in the right place at the right time to mint such an issue and he has the right relationship to power.
Lot 329, Continental, Series E, variety C, SL 96-20.
The emissions of the Low Countries, Series D and E, dominate this coinage numerically. Michael Metcalf and Wybrand Op Den Velde estimated that these two series account for around 75 million coins. Even were the die usage half their assumed figure, the output is prodigious. Had I applied the same level of discrimination to Series E as to the English sceats, the number of varieties in Sceatta List would double.
The skilfully executed tiny bird in the margin, bestows special significance on this as-struck, unique sceat.
Lot 334, Denier, Merovingian, Melle.
This denier has special distinction. It bears the monogram of Melle, famed for its argentiferous deposits, and is illustrated in the recent archaeological study of Alpine ice-cores by Loveluck et al (2018). This confirmed the conclusion of the slightly earlier research into Anglo-Saxon graves and grave goods edited by John Hines and Alex Bayliss – that transformation of the European monetary system from gold to silver took place in the 660s not in the 680s as previously thought.