Jump to content

Some English Viking coins


Nap
 Share

Recommended Posts

With the recent thread on Hiberno-Norse Viking era coinage, I wanted to share three of my favorite Viking coins, from medieval England.

guthrum-judeelberd-1b-i.jpg.3311d02ae7d7746a44d4f8e57aa6b9cf.jpg

Viking penny in the name of Æthelstan II, 878-890

Moneyer: Judelberd (or Iudelberd)

Mint: unknown

S.956

N.479

O: +EL EL IA NV

R: IVDEL . BERD

 

Penny of Guthrum, Viking king of East Anglia, in his baptismal name of Aethelstan (slightly blundered), by moneyer Judelberd.

Guthrum was one of the war chiefs of the Viking army that went a-plundering in the 870s, and conquering most of Saxon England, with the exception of Wessex. The Vikings stayed for years, but around 878 lost a critical battle at Eddington to Alfred of Wessex. Afterwards, a treaty was signed between Alfred and Guthrum, setting the boundaries of the Danelaw, and leading to a much needed, if slightly uneasy, peace. Guthrum converted to Christianity and took the baptismal name of Aethelstan. He is often styled 'Aethelstan II' to distinguish him from the previous Saxon ruler of East Anglia by that name.

It is unknown whether Guthrum took his new religion particularly seriously, but he did stop attacking Wessex. He also issued coins in imitation of Alfred's two-line coins. These coins typically depict a blundered spelling of the name Aethelstan, typically "ED EL TA RE" or "ED EL IA NV". Mine is "EL EL IA NV". The reverse has the moneyers name in two lines. Some of the moneyers have Continental names and some have English names, typical for Danelaw coinage, and a feature also seen in the later St. Edmund Memorial coinage. Judelberd was presumably Continental.

Blackburn in 2005 BNJ wrote on these coins, and noted 17 different moneyers on the reverse inscription (some of which may be imitative). Most are only known from a couple of coins at best. Using Warren Etsy's estimation formulae, he figured about 200 die pairs would have been produced. We tend to expect dies to be useful for at least 10000 coins each. Which implies a substantial coinage.

42(?) of these coins are known, not that rare for a Saxon type, but tiny compared to the total mintage (considering the number of known moneyers). More significantly, 75% of these are from the massive Cuerdale hoard, and the rest also mostly from hoards, with only 3 or 4 single finds known. Of the known coins, nearly all are in museums. In the early 20th century, there were a number in famous collections of the day, such as Montagu, Bruun, Grantley, and Ryan. All of these ultimately went into museum collections. So the only ones currently in private hands are the recent finds, of which there are three in the EMC- this one, one sold at CNG about 8 years ago, and a third which I've never seen (no picture on EMC).

These coins are crude, and some may be imitative. They usually weigh about 20% less than the contemporary Wessex coins. There also is another type of Guthrum's coinage, imitating a Carolingian 'temple' type of Louis the Pious, but in the name of Aethelstan. There are also blundered copies of Alfred's coinage which are underweight and are thought to also originate in the Danelaw, suggesting either multiple coinage centers, or just very brief coinage type output with these different types in sequence.

Crude, rare, and forgotten, but perhaps not forever- recently popular media has made Guthrum a more household name, as a character in Bernard Cornwell's books and in the TV shows 'The Last Kingdom' and 'Vikings'.

 

 

londonia-1d-ii.jpg.0e5d046a3a6acf7c0071ae40f2c20ae1.jpg

Viking penny imitating Alfred, king of Wessex 871-899

Londonia type

Moneyer: unknown

Mint: unknown (probably East Anglia)

S. 964

 

Viking imitation of the well-known 'Londonia' type struck for King Alfred. Alfred was the only king of England to carry the moniker 'the great', due to his success in saving his kingdom and people from destruction at the hands of the Vikings.

This type copies the official penny of Alfred featuring the monogram of the city of London, which copies earlier monograms seen on Roman, Gothic, and Frankish coins. The original is believed to have been struck to commemorate the retaking of London from the Danes, ca. 886. This imitation presumably dates from a few years later.

Alfred struck a peace treaty with Guthrum, warlord of the Danes, probably after retaking London. This established a boundary for Danish territory and brought some peace to England for a period. Presumably trade between the two peoples began, and the Danes started minting coins imitating the contemporary issues from Wessex.

This particular coin is almost certainly a Viking imitation due to the crude style and low weight (1.2g). It was double struck about 10 degrees off, and as such the imagery is a little muddled, but still quite readable.
 

 

st-peter-1c-ii.jpg.2480e8e12f2092ef23ad186e54faa302.jpg

Viking penny in the name of St. Peter of York ca. 910-920

Moneyer: unknown

Mint: probably York

S.1006 (var.)

N.551 (var.)

O: ZCIIIT R, tree and key symbols

R: +B.RACEC

 

This a rare variant of the "swordless" St. Peter coinage, with a blundered version of "Sancti Petri" in one line, instead of the usual two lines.

Viking coinage in York began at around the start of the 10th century with a coinage in the names of Cnut and Siefred, a probably short-lived coinage but one which survives in great numbers due to the Cuerdale hoard. Subsequently, an anonymous coinage in the name of St. Peter follows, of which this coin is probably a late type. After the St. Peter coinage there was an inscribed coinage in the names of Ragnald and Sihtric Caech, Hiberno-Norse kings from Ireland who conquered Northumbria. A subsequent anonymous second coinage in 920s in the name of St. Peter features a sword (probably the Sword of Carlus, a 9th century Irish Viking hero), and Thor's hammer. The Vikings wrangled with the kings of Wessex throughout the 10th century until king Eadred of England brought Northumbria into the English fold. Viking coinage continued, mostly in the name of the kings of York, until the mid 10th century, culminating with Eric Bloodaxe.

All Viking coinage from York is rare, but the Cnut, Siefred, and St. Peter coinages are the most common, due to their survival in several large hoards.

The one-line St. Peter coins make up a rare subset of the earlier swordless type. There are only a handful known, and they all feature symbols, including the tree, the key (St. Peter's key to heaven), a candelabra, a star or propeller, and a large cross.

The symbol on this coin is a little puzzling.  It looks like a tree, really it looks very much like Charlie Brown's Christmas tree.  But the symbol of a tree really makes no sense in the context, plus the base does not look like roots.  It also resembles an upside-down hammer.  Upside down hammers are seen on other St. Peter coins, the sword types.  But what are those crescents surrounding it?  They look like branches but could they be waves, or something to suggest impact?  The meaning will likely continue to elude me.

This particular coin is a die match to a coin in the British Museum, BMC 1141, which was found in Geashill, Ireland.

 

  • Like 9
  • Popcorn 1
  • Heart Eyes 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

...@Nap, that would have been my thread.  And, Yep, these are exceptional.

Your last example is remarkable for being such a pronounced variant of the commoner types in North and Spink.  If you were able to provide a link to the BMC example, that would be terrific.  The BNS example citing the Spink number is still nearer to the better known varieties.  https://www.britnumsoc.org/index.php/gallery/pre-1066/category/93-viking-york

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Really interesting. Those are beautiful coins. You have a truly unique collection that could be in a museum itself.

The only Viking coin I have is Cnut the Great, which is the opposite of unique. I also have this, which is actually a Merovingian coin, but presumed cut up by a Viking on the grounds that they dealt more in hack metal than the Saxons.

Merovingian Cut Quarter Tremissis, 476-751

image.png.a1105dd7a5422cc941f4f855b835237d.png

Gaul. Gold. 8mm, 0.26g. Imitating a late Roman type. Profile bust (shoulder with pteruges visible) with partial AVG legend. Possibly Victory on reverse. Found on the Isle of Wight, 2021. Portable Antiquities Scheme: IOW-FA583E https://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/1028517

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...