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A very rare early-medieval addition: the Series E, var G5 sceatta


Roerbakmix
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This year, in June, Noonans auctioned a very rare, but broken sceatta (auction 5, lot 55). Though I planned bidding on it, I totally forgot the auction. It hammered for the estimate of 40 GBP. 

image.png.429c32b45047c82ed2e780b4c4e3b5b4.png

To my suprise, it popped up on eBay for only 90 GBP( + ~30GBP shipping/VAT). I immediately bought it, and it arrived today. 

So, what makes this coin so special? 

First, it is extremely rare. Three others are known, all in private hands

1) ex-Tony Abramson, found near Sheriff Hutton (North Yorks) (hammered for 1000GBP)

image.png.73024642de24b509223bd26f3bde09dc.png 

And the remaining two without pictures: 

(2) C. S. S. Lyon, found by J. Short, Barham (Kent), 1982,

(3) Found by Kevin Easton, near Ware (Herts)

My coin was found near Rochester, Kent (according to the seller, who knew the finder). This find location is close to the second and third coins (Barham and Ware), suggestive for a mint location near Kent - though the coin from the Abramson collection (found near sherrif Hutton in York) is a bit of an outlier. 

Second, it combines the 'porcupine' design with Latin legends. The porcupine design is usually attributed to a continental mint, ie. series E. Combinations with legend, or other designs exists, such as the AETHELRED sceatta's

image.png.3d22da441048371a948c5d1381454415.png

(not my coin)

... the MONITA SCORVM type:

image.png.68eed46739e01f21a069fa53b5259473.png

(not my coin)

... the Series T 'LEL' type

image.png.d9e3957085cc6b1796e8b00dc6bdf397.png

..., a rare mule with the SEDE type:image.png.e982b1a6680dfcf1177b4d5b2b1b3aa6.png

(not my coin)

... and the scarce series D BMC var 10 type

image.jpeg.8c4012196f8ea3947762599f884c213d.jpeg

(part of my collection; this coin combines the series Anglo Saxon A/C/R obverse with EPA runes, and a porcupine reverse with Latin legend reading "TILV" - possibly revering to the Dutch city Tiel)

Though it's unclear what the legend on the present coin read (ideas are welcome), the presence of legends on a sceatta give some insights in period of numismatics which consisted mostly of coins with either no or inelligible legends. Part of the legends on this coin are off-flan (which isn't unusally for sceatta's. Nearly all sceatta's are too small), however, combining die-identical coins together (especially including off-center coins) might help to reconstruct the entire design. I've tried this with my coin and the one of Tony Abramson, but unfortunately, both coins are equally well-centered (I have not yet found the images of the other two coins, which might help). 

Third, Tony Abramson attributes this coin to a continental mint (I'm not quite sure I agree), but for the time being, based on the design of the porcupine, it's grouped in Series E, primary phase variety G, subtype 5. These types are categorized based on the following criteria (from Metcalf&Op den Velde, JMP 2014): 

image.png.70fcdbbd0887b2214201d9015e58b8d1.png

Series E, variety G1

Usually of finer style than G2-3.

o   Obverse: Three pellets near the acute angle above the “nose”Beneath the spine a distinctive rectangular box enclosing an X, usually largely off-flan

o   Reverse: Central circle with pellet. Four parallel lines ending in a pellet. Outside dotted border, sometimes a large N, or cross-pommee

Series E, variety G2

Coarser style than G1

o   Obverse: Rectangular box is either off-flan, or has disappeared. Angle of the ‘nose’ is less acute. Three pellets are bolder. Bristles are more widely spaced

o   Reverse: Virtually indistinguishable from G1.

Series E, variety G3.

Coarser style than G1

o   Obverse: No pellets near beak (= main difference). Often plumb zig-zag line beneath the central curve, at the edge of the flan (sometimes also visible on G2)

o   Reverse: similar to G1

Series E, variety G4

o   Obverse: Spikes are more densely spaced. Under the spine is a distinctive legend XAZO, with the O being more prominent, diamond shaped and inserted into the bend of the Z.

o   Reverse: Largely similar to G1

I already own subvarieties G2 and G4:

image.jpeg.75a3fabb9928f5562d1831a563a538c4.jpeg

 

And G4,image.jpeg.976dcb59f03e01d1a7e675478b5ee091.jpeg

...  which interestingly also contains a Lating legend on the obverse: "XAZO" (though I'm convinced it reads AZO and not XAZO - the X is of a different font, and probably resembles a diadem - see below). image.png.9ab70525f2eccc7a062d9a5e31e81caa.png

Subvariety G1 and G3 are not difficult to acquire (G4, ie, the XAZO variety is scarce though). 

For now, I will folllow the classification by Tony Abramson, and group the new addition a G5. This classification was based on the design of the porcupine, though I believe it's closer to Series E tertiary phase var E. I'm however leaning towards an anglo-saxon mint, both based on style (the porcpine is distinctly different than the continental ones), the use of (Latin) legends (though this is also encountered on continental sceattas, as illustrated above), and the find locations (though with n=4, some caution should be taken). 

 

-- abrupt end of post, as my childrens are awake 😉

Edited by Roerbakmix
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Thanks @John Conduitt. It sold for 25 GBP ... anyway, you never know how high the other bidder might have wanted to go 🙂 In the end, I bought it for 90 GBP, which is still cheap for such a rare coin (even though it's broken). 

I've edited the post, and added the images that were broken - could you confirm they are visible? 

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Congrats on that amazing acquisition, @Roerbakmix!  An intriguing coin, for certain... I'd be curious to hear your reasons for being skeptical of a continental mint.  It would be especially neat if the coin had been made in Britain.

I happen to have a broken E-series too (yes, you've seen it before). It is somewhat less impressive than yours. 😄 But one cool thing about it is that it was found on the Isle of Wight (finds database link), which has its own interesting historical role to play in the continent–Britain interactions of the time. I have yet to take my own photo of this coin:

image.jpeg.7e2da9883a96d8eb5d0ea6ac04792dba.jpeg

Edited by Severus Alexander
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8 hours ago, Severus Alexander said:

Congrats on that amazing acquisition, @Roerbakmix!  An intriguing coin, for certain... I'd be curious to hear your reasons for being skeptical of a continental mint.  It would be especially neat if the coin had been made in Britain.

Thanks 🙂 My initial post was somewhat unfinished. I'll give it a try (kids are sleeping again). The point I tried to make is:

1) Find spots: all four known specimens were found in England, and three in the Kent region

2) Similarity of style with other Anglo-Saxon (non-continental) porcupine sceatta types (the Aethelred, the Series T LEL type, the Monita Scorvm). 

 > the combination of a porcupine obverse an non-series E/D type reverses

 > the presence of a (Latin) legend which is more common on Anglo-Saxon sceatta's than on continental - though there are epigraphic continental sceatta's (as illustrated above)

 > the dissimilarity of the porcupine with the Series E types. I'm working on a stylistic breakdown of all the subtypes of Series E, based on the work by Metcalf&Op den Velde (which is available online). They divide the Series E in three phases (primary, secondary and tertiary) based on stylistic characteristics and hoard evidence. The style of the present "G5 sceatta" is very different to those of Series E; it is somewhat comparable to varieties of the Tertiary phase. This is also, in my opinion, the case of the illustrated Anglo-Saxon porcupine-types above. 

In other words, the presence of a porcupine on a sceatta doesnt'make it continental per se. This line of reasoning is similar to Series F, which were attributed to the Anglo Saxons (a bust, in combination with a stepped cross and garbled Latin legend: it must be Anglo Saxon), which has recently been attributed to a Quentovic mint (ie continental):

image.jpeg.573e2b2c71868a24fbeb8ab48ee3c57c.jpeg

(my example). 

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4 hours ago, Roerbakmix said:

Thanks 🙂 My initial post was somewhat unfinished. I'll give it a try (kids are sleeping again). The point I tried to make is:

1) Find spots: all four known specimens were found in England, and three in the Kent region

2) Similarity of style with other Anglo-Saxon (non-continental) porcupine sceatta types (the Aethelred, the Series T LEL type, the Monita Scorvm). 

 > the combination of a porcupine obverse an non-series E/D type reverses

 > the presence of a (Latin) legend which is more common on Anglo-Saxon sceatta's than on continental - though there are epigraphic continental sceatta's (as illustrated above)

 > the dissimilarity of the porcupine with the Series E types. I'm working on a stylistic breakdown of all the subtypes of Series E, based on the work by Metcalf&Op den Velde (which is available online). They divide the Series E in three phases (primary, secondary and tertiary) based on stylistic characteristics and hoard evidence. The style of the present "G5 sceatta" is very different to those of Series E; it is somewhat comparable to varieties of the Tertiary phase. This is also, in my opinion, the case of the illustrated Anglo-Saxon porcupine-types above. 

In other words, the presence of a porcupine on a sceatta doesnt'make it continental per se. This line of reasoning is similar to Series F, which were attributed to the Anglo Saxons (a bust, in combination with a stepped cross and garbled Latin legend: it must be Anglo Saxon), which has recently been attributed to a Quentovic mint (ie continental):

image.jpeg.573e2b2c71868a24fbeb8ab48ee3c57c.jpeg

(my example). 

This appears to be an important question for several series of sceattas. 'British' Saxon coins are very similar to, or copies of, Continental issues, and most of them are found both in Britain and on the Continent. I don't even know whether the British Saxons saw themselves as different people, particularly at this early stage when their monetary economy was concentrated in Kent. Quentovic had direct trade links to Kent (it even sounds similar!). With strong Continental trade and a need for coins, why wouldn't Kent strike its own?

Most of the series evolved. Series F seems to be based on a denier from Auxerre, which is some distance from Britain or even Quentovic. So there surely must be Continental versions, even if others were later struck in Britain.

Here's my Series F. It was found in Cliffe, Kent, on the way to the Thames, which suggests it was imported. Having said that, the same problem (Continental vs British) is seen in Celtic coins, and the earliest known British-made Celtic coins were found in a hoard in Thurrock, just on the other side of the estuary to Cliffe. (Those potins copy Marseille issues, and were struck both in Britain and on the Continent). So, Continental Saxon coins could've arrived in the same places as the first British Saxon coins were struck, and would've been copies of the same issues.

Series F Type 24b Primary Phase Anglo Saxon Sceat, 695-705
image.png.9c3e35b4047481586b4b065ca0001309.png
Middle Thames Region. Silver, 12mm, 1.11g. Heavy-jowled bust right, wearing helmet with neck guard, exaggerated features, cross pattée behind, blundered legend in square lettering. Cross pattée on steps, cross pattée above, Ts in upper quarters, pellet between, annulets on limbs and below, blundered legend in square lettering (S 781; SCBI 69, 109 this coin). Ex Tony Abramson. Found in 2004 near Cliffe, Kent. Portable Antiquities Scheme KENT-356BE5.

That would suggest British Saxon coins should be more evolved, degraded and blundered, or with unusual combinations of obverse and reverse, like your Series E. So is there any reason to say 'Series C is from Kent' and 'Series E is Continental'? Only generally.

This coin is Series D, which is usually categorised as Continental. It was found in a hoard along the Icknield Way, which contained 75% Merovingian coins and only 25% British. The road was a key trading route, so the hoard is presumed to have belonged to a Frisian merchant. The coin was therefore likely struck on the Continent. However, the auction (of Tony Abramson's collection) described it as of 'Anglo-Saxon' style - the large nose and left-facing bust are not typical (only 5% of this type face left). Perhaps it's a later version, and struck in Britain? 25% of the hoard was British, after all.

Series D Type 2c Variety 3e Continental Phase Sceat, 695-715
image.png.6bc67c540c85ed75fe2ba608d32c9fe0.png
Frisia or Britain. Silver, 1.18g. Crude radiate bust left, with large triangular nose, no eye, chevrons before and behind, linear pyramid neck. Plain cross (SCBI 69, 172 this coin; Beowulf 28 this coin; Metcalf 176 same dies). Ex Tony Abramson. From the Aston Rowant (Oxfordshire) Hoard 1971-1974.

I have a coin from a series originally named 'Maastricht', because it resembles a Carolingian denier from that area, but is now thought to come from further north. The earlier designs of these had naturalistic busts, inspired by Series G sceattas from Quentovic and Merovingian coins from Rouen. But the bust eventually morphed into what is described as a 'grotesquely degraded left facing head'. Some, or many, may have been cast imitations. Were all these from the same unknown town? Or perhaps several places, including Britain? It's been suggested this is a possibility. Mine, of the grotesque style, was found in Essex.

I also have a Series X 'Wodan Head', usually from the Continent, that's described as a 'later British issue' in baser metal. Even in the Secondary Phase, the British were taking Continental issues and copying them, often in degraded style and metal. Indeed, Offa's penny, the first of the familiar English medieval pennies, was a direct copy of Charlemagne's denier. (In 500 years, the French would be copying the English).

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Great coins.  The series E silver coins are a large and varied series that presumably were made for quite some time, presumably in Frisia, but almost certainly with English imitative types.  The degenerated bust "porcupine" probably had good recognition in many areas, and was happily accepted for trade in England and the continent.

I don't have a G5 type, after all it's excessively rare.

Here is a G4 "XAZA"

series-e-2a.jpg.97cf819a136299cf88c4e4ef973a87b5.jpg

 

Here is a series E with the reverse "sunburst" (supposed to be a stepped cross but degenerated into a sunburst)

series-e-1a_0.jpg.eb3d219b13e331d11b916b08eb2ec343.jpg

 

Here is the Aethiliraed type

aethiliraed-1b.jpg.ffd175407ff819d081a080b233f4dc6f.jpg

 

Here is a series E with a funky reverse I haven't seen previously

series-e-3-i.jpg.c5c94905bff04553801915dd8dab431a.jpg

 

Here is a series T with the porcupine reverse and a bust that reads "DE LVNDONIA" or "from London".  The reverse reads "SCORVM" and it is related to the "MONITA SCORUM" type (which is probably meant to say "MONITA SANCTORVM" or "money of the Saints"

de-londonium-1d-i.jpg.e18f68afe81762bb6cdac04ebe7f5ef3.jpg

 

Here is a SEDE type with the quilled serpent, related to the "porcupine"

sede-1c-i.jpg.37e2df40ade4d80645970fc742492100.jpg

 

And another related type, with a Celtic cross with roundels on the reverse

celtic-cross-1b-i.jpg.d2c207db8979c96746d9e7390e893a0d.jpg

 

Those last two are almost certainly English, as is the one that names London, suggesting the "porcupine" design got around.

 

 

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Thanks @Nap. Yours are impressive - esp the last two. 

I own a rough, broken stepped cross type:

image.jpeg.366db5e86dc5e50b4484a48bd594a624.jpeg

It's an interesting type, though I really don't see the 'stepped cross'. 

I moderate a Dutch metaldetecting forum, with about 300 sceatta finds. I've categorized them all: most were Series D and E; there were no stepped cross types. 

 

Also, regarding the G5 sceatta in the first post: I've discussed this coin with Tony Abramson, and we came to the conclusion that this coin is in fact the third known specimen, i.e. this one:

(3) Found by Kevin Easton, near Ware (Herts)

I also received scans of #2. So, these are the three specimens known (and not four, as in the post above):

image.png.fef5c106157ec52d5d887e526187ea13.png

On #2, there is a hint of letters off-flan (on the right); it's minted a bit more off center than #1 and #3. We'll have to wait until an off-center exemplar surfaces to reconstruct the dies, unfortunately. 

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