Nap Posted December 2, 2022 · Member Share Posted December 2, 2022 (edited) It's that time of year again. December is usually a quiet coin month, diverting time to focus on the holidays, family, and the end of the year in retrospect, while looking forward to the New York International show in January. I have managed to add a few pieces to my collection and wanted to share. These are mostly medieval British coins- my main area of interest. The earliest, and most significant, of my additions. This is a gold Anglo-Saxon coin, a thrymsa, from ca. 630. The obverse depicts a face without eyes, with a crescent shaped object under the neck, possibly a pallidum, and possibly meant to represent Bishop Mellitus, prior to his eviction from London. The reverse shows a cross, with a distorted alpha-omega, and surrounding it in retrograde is the legend 'LONDVNIV', presumably the city of London. London in the early 7th century was a bit different than the medieval metropolis it would later become. It was the territory of the East Saxons, one of the petty kingdoms of England, and a people whose historical record is limited and who made no coins. These gold coins were thought to originate in Kent, who exercised dominion over Essex. London had a Christian presence in the early 7th century, and Mellitus was acclaimed bishop in 604. However, the East Saxons kicked off the Kentish yoke in 616, reverting to the old Germanic religion, and giving Mellitus and company the boot. Mellitus went into exile in France, but ultimately came back to England to become Archbishop of Canterbury in 619, where he remained for 5 years until his death. London would not have a bishop until the 650s. This coin is earlier, which is problematic. If London was a pagan town, why such a Christian coin? Three possible options- 1) The coin is dated wrong and is actually earlier, from 600-615, or later 650-660 (less likely) 2) The reference to London is wishful thinking, and the coin has nothing to do with the city other than naming it 3) The history is wrong and the Christian presence in the city continued, even without a named bishop, after Mellitus left the scene. The face without eyes does evoke the consideration of blindness. Blinding as a punishment was described in late Saxon times and probably goes back earlier. Blindness also is a common trope in hagiographies. This coin is unique as a type, but there are several others known from an old coin hoard with eyes and a more detailed face, and a non-retrograde legend, suggesting perhaps this is either a later derivative issue, or an earlier less detailed prototype. The facing bust Anglo-Saxon gold coin is probably at least partly based on Merovingian and Visigothic pieces. Another Anglo-Saxon gold coin, this one the so-called 'WUNEETTON' type. The coin is thought to be a derivative of another type with a similar obverse, the 'WITMEN MONITA' type. Both coins have a bust in profile with a trident-shaped object. The name WUNEETTON makes no sense, and more likely the reverse inscription should read 'BETTONE MVNE', or Bettone the moneyer, an English copy of a Frankish coin, or perhaps the individual Bettone jumped across the channel to bring his skills to England. Another Anglo-Saxon coin, this one a sceat, series K, with an interesting wolf on the reverse. The creature, called a wolf, but perhaps a lion or some other fearsome creature, has a long tongue and seems to be wearing some sort of drapery, a wolf in clothes? The Christian symbols feature prominently with a cross on both sides, but the wolf-man is certainly reminiscent of an older age. An Anglo-Saxon sceat of the little-known Ælfwald II, who gets a short mention in Roger of Wendover's "Flores Historiarum" and a few other semi-contemporary pieces. He succeeded Eardwulf in 806, and only reigned 2 years. Eardwulf was restored to his kingdom with assistance from Charlemagne and the pope. Ælfwald’s fate after that is unknown. There has been some debate as to whether this issue belongs to the first (779-788) or second king (806-808) named Ælfwald. There is some evidence with the style of the name of the moneyer Cutheard. Cutheard coined for Æthelred I, Eardwulf, and Eanred. On coins of Æthelred, his name is spelled "CVDHEARD", on Eardwulf it is spelled "CVDHEARD" or "CVDhEART", and on Eanred it is spelled "CVDHARD". On all coins of Ælfwald, the name is spelled "CVDhEART". This supports that the coins are more likely to be semi-contemporary to coins of Eardwulf, during whose reign the spelling seems to have changed. This fits better with an assignment to the second Ælfwald. For more detail, see Blackburn & Gillis, "A second coin of Eardwulf and the attribution of the moneyer coins of King Ælfwald" in BNJ 67. But it remains possible that the coins are of the first Ælfwald. In that case, Ælfwald I would then be the king who first started placing moneyer names on the Northumbrian coins. In his sylloge, Stewart Lyon diplomatically left open both possibilities. Coins of Ælfwald II are extremely rare. I would guess 25-30 known of Ælfwald/Cutheard, and another 3 or 4 known of Ælfwald/Cuthgils (another moneyer). I believe this example is almost certainly the finest one, at least in private hands. A Mercian penny of the last independent king of Mercia, Ceolwulf II. Ceolwulf, of uncertain parentage, but perhaps related to Ceolwulf I, brother of Coenwulf of Mercia, became king in 874 after Burgred was deposed by the Viking invaders. Ceolwulf was likely friendly to the Vikings, or at least willing to work with them. However, it is somewhat unlikely that he was a "foolish king's thane" as he is described in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, or a puppet of the Vikings. Even if he did submit, he likely was trying to save his kingdom in the only way possible. England was going up in flames from the large Scandinavian invasions, and even Wessex was teetering for a bit. The reason for the skepticism is partly based on coin finds- both Alfred of Wessex and Ceolwulf II of Mercia produced pennies of the same type- the cross and lozenge, and the "two emperors". The latter is an extremely rare type, only known from a few finds including several examples in the Watlington hoard. The two emperors, a copy of an old Roman motif that was also copied on a thrymsa from the 600s, might represent the two kings Alfred and Ceolwulf. As they both produced the same coin types, there was clearly monetary cooperation, and possibly political alliance. This would be unlikely to have occurred if Ceolwulf was nothing more than a figurehead and the Vikings were controlling the country. Thus it is likely that Ceolwulf was marginalized due to the West Saxon bias of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Ceolwulf's ultimate fate is not clear, presumably he died or was deposed within about 5 years. Mercia would never again have its own king. A 1651 shilling of the Commonwealth of England, made by the milled press of Pierre Blondeau. Milled coinage came slowly to the British Isles. The first milled coinage was during the time of Queen Elizabeth, but the technology was not adopted and the mintmasters were arrested and hanged, possibly on spurious charges. Change is hard. Milled coinage returned during the Commonwealth period, using technology by the Frenchman Pierre Blondeau, who had previously worked at the Paris mint. Blondeau produced shillings and halfcrowns in 1651, but only a few patterns, making this issue rather scarce. The traditional moneyers were very opposed to the new machinery, and the hammered coinage was continued for another decade before the milled technology finally won out. A somewhat quirky Hiberno-Norse penny, phase IV, with a facing bust in a pointy helmet, a whiskered face, and a garbled legend. These coins were made in Ireland during the later parts of the 11th century, and imitate the late Saxon and early Norman coinage in England. Phase 4 coins always have a "scratched die", essentially an 'X' that is crudely cut into the design. On this coin, it is on the reverse, in the left upper quarter. The bust is imitative of the facing bust coinage of Edward the Confessor, and the pointy helmet is also seen on English coins of Cnut and Edward. The hat may be imitative of the helmets worn by the Kievan Rus, a design probably familiar in Scandinavia and the larger North Sea world. Irish groat from time of Henry VI-Edward IV. The “anonymous” crown coinage was began in 1460, when Richard, Duke of York was gathering support for an invasion of England. Richard strong armed the Irish parliament to support the Yorkist claim, and this crown coinage was approved. But the Irish were being cautious. Rather than coining in the name of Richard, the claimant, or even of Henry, the king, the coinage names nobody and just has a large crown on the obverse. The result is a very distinct and unusual coinage. A groat and penny were coined. The groat has survived in greater numbers than the penny, but is still quite rare. Later, another crown coinage would be produced naming Edward IV, once the Yorkist claim was established I will say that this coin is my daughter's very favorite coin in our collection! A Merovingian denier naming Ebroin, Mayor of the Palace of Neustria The Merovingian dynasty of early medieval France is frequently remembered for the Roi fainéant, literally the "do nothing kings". The dynasty's legacy of weak monarchs, a fractured kingdom due to the tradition of dividing inheritance, duplicity, and fratricide, make the Merovingians an unfortunate footnote in history as the hapless predecessors of the great early medieval French kings- Pepin the Short and his son Charlemagne. Of course, the Merovingians were probably not that bad, and the dynasty ruled over a significant empire in western Europe for about 300 years, from about 450-750, during some very turbulent times. Sadly, sources are limited and generally hostile. But the Merovingians went out with a whimper. They did not fall to the Huns, or the great conquests of Islam, or even a rival European state. Rather the fall was internal, these monarchs were gradually replaced by a new dynasty of unrelated leaders, who initially worked behind the scenes as advisors, and ultimately became the kings themselves. The office of "Mayor of the Palace" was the head of the king's household, and thus a very prestigious and influential position. But as time went on, it became even more powerful, and by the mid 7th century was essentially the power behind the throne. The Frankish kingdoms, of which Austrasia and Neustria were the most important, each had their own mayors. The position, once an appointment by the king or election by the nobles, became an inherited title. Some of these mayors dreamed of more. In the 650s, Grimoald was the mayor of the palace of Austrasia. He strong-armed the Merovingian king Sigebert to adopt his (Grimoald's) son and make him his heir, disinheriting Sigebert's own son in an attempt to wrest power. However, though the Merovingian dynasty was dying, it wasn't dead quite yet. Grimoald was ultimately unsuccessful, but the blueprint was there. One of these mayors was called Ebroin. Ebroin, mayor of the palace of Neustria, would avoid the mistakes of Grimoald. He would not try to depose the monarch. He would not attempt to make himself or family king. But in all practical sense, Ebroin was the ruler. The kings of Neustria during his time as mayor were young and purposely sidelined. Ebroin controlled all trade and movement through the country, as glumly noted by travelers. Ebroin expanded Neustria's and his own dominance over Burgundy. The Merovingian kings continued to rule, but by now were really the Roi fainéant. Ebroin is also thought to be the first mayor to issue coins in his name. Merovingian coinage is a complex field, with a robust and varied coinage issued under many different authorities, in many locations, and of gold, silver, and base metal. There are a few rare coins in the names of kings, but most Merovingian era coins depict only the names of the moneyer and the mint. Some are uninscribed, some hopelessly blundered, others uninterpretable. (As an aside, collecting Merovingian coins is a great labor of love. Many sources are in French of course, but more challenging is that the sources are very old, and the categorization is generally by location rather than by monarch or time period. And there are literally thousands of different varieties, types, and mints. If you have an unidentified coin, and cannot easily read the inscription, it can be a nightmare to try to figure anything out about it. And of course the coins are not cheap) The coinage traditionally assigned to Ebroin is an inscribed silver coinage with a right facing bust on one side, with or without the moneyer's name, and a large E on the reverse, with the letters inside BRO/INO. The inscription being thus EBROINO for Ebroin. It can't be proven that Ebroin is the same Ebroin who was mayor of the palace 658-673, and 675-680/681. However, it is strongly suggested based on the find of one of these coins in the Bais treasure hoard, that it fits into this time period. Additionally, the other Ebroin coin has a second name on the obverse, presumably the moneyer. If the moneyer's name is already on the coin, then the other inscription would necessarily be the mint or the ruler. As Ebroin is not the name of a mint town, it is generally presumed to be the ruler. Grierson and Blackburn, in Medieval European Coinage vol I, noted that two coins of Ebroin were known, one in the national collection of France and plated in Belfort (B 3460), with the name of the moneyer Rodemarus, and the second in the national collection of Germany from the Bais treasure hoard (Bais 99). This latter coin is nearly identical to mine. It is possible that this coin is only the third known coin of Ebroin, though there could be others. There are also similar coins which have the same large "E" or "ER" on the reverse, but without spelling out the name Ebroin. These may be attributed to the mayor as well, but it's not certain. Interestingly, none of the other mayors of the palace issued coins, which has always injected some doubt as to the attribution of this coin. There have been dubious attributions of other coins to Charles Martel, or Pepin the Short (before he became king), but these have always been speculative, lacking appropriate inscriptions. Eventually, the most powerful mayor, Pepin the Short, would get rid of the last Merovingian king and become king of France himself, starting the Carolingian dynasty. An American coin, oh my! I am an American, but I haven't added a US coin to my collection in over a decade. However, this type was always on my wishlist. It is an Oak Tree shilling, from the 1660s. The coin is inscribed "MASATHUSETS" and dated 1652. It was not produced in 1652 though. Rather, the coin was made in the early 1660s and backdated. This was because Massachusetts was an English colony and did not have any sort of royal charter or assent to produce its own coinage. So the coinage was illegal. However, it was backdated to 1652 as during the 1650s, England had been a Commonwealth, and there was no king. After the restoration in 1660, more formal control over the colonies was exerted. A story exists, perhaps apocryphal, that the issue of the illegal Massachusetts coinage was brought to king Charles II himself. Charles was apparently shown one of these coins, and asked about it. He was told by a flattering courtier that the tree on the obverse represented the "Royal Oak". The Royal Oak was the tree that Charles had hid in while escaping from his defeat at the battle of Worcester in 1651. Charles apparently was tickled by this, called the Massachusetts colonists a "parcel of honest dogs", and decided not to prosecute the illegal coinage for a time. Sorry if a little long winded. Thanks for reading! Edited December 2, 2022 by Nap 31 1 1 1 1 1 4 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
Join the conversation
You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.