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The First Coinage in Scotland - King David I (1124-1153)


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Scottish Coins - David I (1124-1153)


Researchers have long debated whom was the first Scottish King to have actually instituted a native Scottish coinage. Whilst the Kingdom of Northumbria encompassed parts of Scotland up to the Forth River, it is believed that all of the Northumbrian coinage was minted in the south, ie York. Occasionally these coins are found in southern Scotland. Ca. 1980 there was a report in the press about a researcher determining that a coin was minted during the reign of Ecfrith of Deira and Northumbria (664-670 AD) in Scotland, but subsequent research has determined that this theory is not with due merit.

Earlier volumes on Scottish Coinage, such as "The Coinage of Scotland" by J.D. Robertson have suggested that the first native Scottish coins were issued during the reign of Alexander I (1107-1124) however this is 19th century research, which has since been disproven. Without a doubt, David I issued coins in his name, and therefore is most likely the first Scottish monarch to have actually issued them as such.

The first Scottish coins are believed to be those issued by King David I(1124-1153), previous to this time very few coins ever found their way into Scotland, though some Roman era and Northumbrian sceats are very occasionally found. The first issue of coins was ca. 1136, and was likely connected to the Scottish capture of Carlisle and it's mines. Even after the introduction of a native coinage, barter continued to the basis for the economy for many years.

David I was the youngest son of Malcolm Canmore (1058-1093) and the third son to have acceded the throne after his father. His early years appear to have been spent in England, the birthplace of his mother, Margaret(whom was the sister of Edgar The Aetheling.) With his mother's sponsorship, and given his lower rank in the possibility of his inheriting the throne he spent much of his youth in the Church and was an accomplished student. In 1113 he was married to Matilda, whom was the daughter of the Earl of Northumberland. With this marriage he acquired lands south of the Hadrian's Wall in Northumberland, Huntington and Northampton. This acquisition would result in his being recognised as a Norman Baron. David's older brother, Alexander I, soon would recognise David as the sub-king of the Scottish lowlands as a result.

In 1124 Alexander I died and the throne again was inherited by a son of Malcolm Canmore and David I would soon have the opportunity to forge Scotland into a united kingdom once more, as divisions existed from the earlier disputed monarchs of Scotland. Some of the legacies which were instituted during this reign included the creation of the counties of Scotland, which in effect lasted until 1975.

Whilst there was a sound degree of harmony in Scotland, the opposite was true of her southern neighbour, England. The first English Civil War was in full swing, with Stephen (1135-1154) as King of England defending himself against Matilda, whom was the daughter of Henry with purportedly a better claim at the throne. Whilst the explanation of the English Civil War would take up volumes, it can be summarised in that David I of Scotland soon saw opportunity knocking and moved south in favour of his niece, Matilda in 1135. Despite having made this move, it is in retrospect, obvious that he was looking more for acquisition than assisting Matilda, as subsequently his support could be described as lukewarm at best.

The move south resulted in the Scots acquiring Carlisle, with it's nearby mines, and importantly for coin collectors, it's mint. Coins had been struck in the name of Stephen since the previous year. The capture of the mint resulted in some coins in Stephen's name still being struck after the capture, but soon they began changing the dies and issued pennies in David's name.

Many of the coins issued during this reign are quite similar to the English issues of Stephen, and this has led to some confusion given the fact that all of the coins from this era were quite crude by comparison with earlier issues. Workmanship on the coins had deteriorated, and legends on the coins were often blundered, the result of uneducated die cutters creating the coins. All of the coins of this era featured a portrait of the monarch, or more likely during this time a crude representation of him. The reverse was usually a short cross with pellets in the quarters of it. Later in the reign coins were minted in Berwick, Perth, Roxburgh and Edinburgh.

Denominations used during this reign



Pennies were the only denomination struck, they were struck at 22.5 grains weight at .925 fine ie sterling standard. They are divided into the following classes:

Period A or First Issue(ca. 1136-1144):
      As Henry I(of England) but with DAVIT REX minted at Carlisle, then a possession of the Scots. This coin is S-5001 and SD11D-005. This coin is extremely rare.

      As Stephen I(of England) but with STIEFNE REX minted at Carlisle, then a possession of the Scots. This coin is S-5002 and SD11D-010. This coin is very rare.

      Like Stephen coin above but with DAVIT REX minted at Edinburgh. This coin is S-5003 and SD11D-015. This coin is extremely rare.

Period B or Second Issue(ca. 1144-1149):
      Blundered and poorly executed copy of Stephen's coins minted at Edinburgh and Roxburgh, This coin is S-5004 and SD11D-020. This coin is very rare, but one of the most common types found of David I's coinage.

      Henry I(of England) but with DAVIT REX and annulet or crescent enclosing pellet; minted at Carlisle, Berwick, Edinburgh, Perth & Roxburgh. This coin is S-5005 and SD11D-025. This coin is extremely rare.

      Bishop of Carlisle minted at Carlisle, king holding a branch. This coin is S-5006 and SD11D-030. This coin is extremely rare.

Period C or Third Issue(ca. 1149-1153):
      Coins of better workmanship, with DAVIT REX and crowned bust with sceptre. Minted at Carlisle, Roxburgh, St. Andrews and Berwick. Usually with single pellet in angles. This coin is S-5007 and SD11D-035. This coin is rare, but one of the most common types found of David I's coinage.

      Similar but has other symbols instead of pellets in angles. This coin is S-5008 and SD11D-035. This coin is rare.

Period D or Fourth Issue(ca. 1153):
      DAVIT REX etc., sometimes retrograde legends and crude bust. This coin is S-5009 and SD11D-040. This coin is very rare.

      Blundered and retrograde legends still, but better style of King's bust. This coin is S-5010 and SD11D-045. This coin is very rare.

Collecting coins from this reign

Collecting the coins of David I are quite challenging, as all of them are very rare nowadays. When they are found, it is usually a unique find, and not as a hoard. In scanning through important auctions of Scottish coinage, for example the Dundee Sale of 1976 it is notable that this reign is only scarcely represented. In fact in that auction of hundreds of Scottish coins there were only two lots from this reign. Currently, lower graded and properly identified coins from this reign start out at approximately £600 each. Collectors should exercise caution as there are very many similar English pennies, most of which are quite more common.

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That's a very nice coin. Presumably, some of these are so rare because you can't tell them apart. Goodness knows how often you'd be able to identify a Stephen from Carlisle when the legends are so poor.

Here's half a Stephen. Even a whole one of these with a decent portrait would cost well over £1000.

Stephen Voided Cross and Stars Cut Halfpenny, 1145-1150
London. Silver, 20mm, 0.69g. Crowned facing bust holding sceptre; +(STIEFNE). Voided cross with a star in each angle; (ALISANDR?):ON:LVN (S 1280). Ex David Rogers. From the Wicklewood (Norfolk) Hoard 1989, EMC 1200.1105. The hoard was deposited around 1168 in a bank of sandy clay alongside a ditch. The bank collapsed and the ditch was filled, scattering the coins over 10 feet.

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A magnificent example, @UkrainiiVityaz, with commentary to match.  Your synthesis of numismatic detail and historical context is impressive.  There are several people on the forum who have this nailed, but you’re definitely one of them.   

@John Conduitt, that’s a terrific cut half.  And your point about the legends, especially for Carlisle, is very well taken.

…Particularly since I was moved to repost my ostensible Carlisle cut half of Henry of Huntingdon in Stephen’s name, initially in response to your / @UkrainiiVityaz's post in the “Medieval Monday” thread, going back to early July of this year.  I was hoping to provide more in the way of documentation for its attribution …and ran into an array of logistical hurdles which would be as wearisome to enumerate as to read about.  Just for one, folks are cordially invited to be on the lookout for the subsite of the Fitzwilliam Museum with the Conte Collection of Norman and Angevin coins, which is still down.  …But, well, here it is again …with apologies for the initial pics, along with the epic delay.



Henry of Scots, Earl of Huntingdon c. 1136- c. 1152, Earl of Northumberland 1139- c. 1152.
AR cut halfpenny of Carlisle, issued in the name of King Stephen.  Cross moline / ‘Watford’ type, originally issued c. 1136-1145.
Obv.  Collar, forearm and right hand of Stephen.
[From c. 8 o’clock:] +STI[EFNE REX]  (‘STIEFNE REX;’ King Stephen).
Rev.  Right half of a cross moline, fleurs de lis in each angle. 
[From 12 o’clock:]  +E[R]EB/ [-\LD ON CA] R.  (‘EREBALD ON CAR[LISLE].)
North 873, Spink (England) 1278.  Cf. Spink /Seaby (Scotland) 5002; citing Stewart, fig. 290.

Here’s the most relevant excerpt from “The Carlisle Mint Coinages of Henry I, Stephen, David I and Earl Henry [of Huntingdon,” by John Mattinson and Peter Cherry.  (British Numismatic Journal, 2013: vol. 83 no. 6: British Numismatic Society.)

Scottish group b. Coins of David I of Scotland copying Stephen BMC type 1

The Carlisle coins copying Stephen type 1, all struck from local dies, are thought to have been issued by the Scots at Carlisle in the name of Stephen. They cannot logically have been issued before English coins of the type were available to copy. A context in which David I or Earl Henry might choose to issue coins in the name of Stephen at Carlisle is provided by the first Treaty of Durham, under which Earl Henry paid homage to Stephen for Carlisle. (11.)  Coins of similar type issued at mints in Scotland proper were (with one exception) in the name of David. That exception is the well known sterling struck from a Stephen obverse die and an ‘EDEN’, reverse die, regarded as representing a minting error where Erembald mixed a Carlisle obverse die of Stephen with an Edinburgh reverse die. (12.)  It would appear that the obverse die of the ‘EDEN’ sterling was also used by the moneyer Hudard at Carlisle. (13.)  It is probable that the issue of coins in the name of Stephen in Carlisle by the Scots was an overtly political act following the first Treaty of Durham. These coins in the name of Stephen were issued by the moneyers Erembald, Hudard and Wilealme (Figs 7–9). The moneyer’s name WILEALME is in the same form as on the ‘hENRIC’ coins and not WILEL or WILELM, which appears on later Carlisle issues and also those of Bamburgh._BNJ_83_6.pdf


11 Oram 2008, 123. 

12 Mack 1966, 98, no. 281 (BM ex L.A. Lawrence); Blackburn 1994, 192. 13 See comments in the EMC records for EMC 2005.0142, 2008.0422, 2009.0155 and 2010.0347.

13 See comments in the EMC records for EMC 2005.0142, 2008.0422, 2009.0155 and 2010.0347.

For the operant Fig. 7, here’s the auction listing –right, with good pictures– from the Noonan Webb archives.  (Which also resist copying and pasting of the pictures, other than as thumbnails.)


…There’s more I could fling at you about this, especially regarding minor variations in the mint signature, running to auction pages.  But that would likely be more appropriate in a separate OP.  More fun, here’s my better cut half of William the Lion.  (For those tuning in late, a grandson and eventual successor of David I; r. 1165-1214.)  Cross and Stars coinage, 1195-1214; Phase A, 1195- c. 1205.  Spink, Scotland, Ireland et al., 5027 or 5028.



And here are my two cut anythings of Stephen.


Watford, the initial –and commonest– type, 1136 -c.1145; North 873. –Except, for the mint signature, all you get is Somebody ending in ‘-R,’ ON…someplace.  I have to like how much of the profile is there, though, along with the cross moline.  

Now the piece de resistance.  –Intentional irony there?  I, for one, ardently hope so.  Except that the dealer who sold it (American; incomparably erudite in medievals; long retired) said that she would kill for a whole example in the same condition.



Back to the one of Henry of Huntingdon, well, why not, here’s a pic of Carlisle Castle.



The invaluable English castellogical website, Gatehouse, speculates that the stone keep was likely built by Henry of Huntingdon, following Stephen’s grant of the earldom of Northumberland.  The Wiki article on the castle asserts that it was built by Henry I as early as 1122.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlisle_Castle.)  That strikes me as unlikely.  Henry was building masonry castles in southern England and Normandy as fast as he could.  But at least by comparison, to have made a similar outlay for a castle on such a relatively remote frontier as Cumbria (apologies to Cumbrians) would surely have struck him as less cost-effective.




Edited by JeandAcre
Formatting issues. Followed, inexorably, by more formatting issues. Damn.
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Nice write up!

Here is a wretched example of S.5001, thought to be the first coinage of David I at Carlisle, copying Henry I type XV.  By Erebald at Carlisle. 



Deplorable shape though it may be, this is about average for this extremely rare issue!  Which is possibly the first coin of Scotland.


What is this SD11D reference?

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As Stephen has some mentions, for interest , here is my example.


Here is a link to the excellent British Numismatic Journal article on this subject. See  https://www.britnumsoc.org/publications/Digital BNJ/pdfs/2012_BNJ_82_5.pdf

I have been seeking an affordable David penny for several years.




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Congratulations, @Dafydd, on a better example than I'm likely ever to find, and many thanks for the astoundingly comprehensive article.  (Not least for 2012.  Thank you, with the research ongoing --including metal detecting, by way of literal field research and attendant 'primary source material.')  Bookmarked and downloaded to the thumb drive with half of my life on it.

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