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Help needed for intriguing medieval gold coin (unicum)!


Coinmaster

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Coins.png.c013938040db16e2b498622454e8935f.pngHi all,

For a publication, I'm doing research on this incredible medieval gold coin. An unicum! It was found in 2017 by a metal detectorist in The Netherlands and since than many specialists have seen this coin, but none could identify it. It measures only 13 mm, weights 1.1 g and a XRF-measurement pointed out the coin consist of 87% gold and 10% silver.

Some think it might be a Merovingian tremissis from the 7th century, although there is no comparison of any kind (from a database of 15.000 coins). I think the coin is younger and dates from the 11th or 12th century. For a while I thought it might be an unknown gold issue from Denmark because of the great similarity of the cross on coins attributed to Harald Blåtand (Harald Bluetooth) - see attached coin. But now I believe it's a so called tarì (from the Arabic meaning 'pure', based on the earlier Fatimid quarter dinars). Both weight and diameter corresponds with this coin type. But, there's much more to tell..!

Norman–Arab–Byzantine culture blend style coin?!
The coin is highly transformed into a blend of different styles. I think it's from the time of the so called Norman–Arab–Byzantine culture, that started when the first Normans arrived in Southern Italy between the years 999 and 1030. In 1030 they established a capital at Aversa, near Napels. Perhaps the coin can be attributed to Roger I (Bosso and The Great), who was a Norman nobleman who became the first Count of Sicily from 1071 to 1101. Or to Roger II (1105-1154), who became king of Sicily and from who is known to have issued tari coins with the blending of Arab and Norman styles. See also: https://www.bmimages.com/preview.asp?image=00031891001. If so, the coin could have been minted in the capital Palermo.

Harald-related coin
I think the relation with the cross type from Harald Bluetooth Gormson (959-985) is convincing. This interesting coin from the British Museum points out the production of this silver coin would be at the end of Harald's reign around c.975-980. 'This coin was not among the earliest of the series, which on average were even lighter than previous ones, and it belongs to the phase of high output towards the end of Harald's reign. Finds suggest that the mint was further north than Hedeby, and, of the possible candidates, Jelling, with its strong associations with Harald, seems the most likely. Malmer has suggested that the final group of this series characterised by cross-voided reverses may have been struck at Sigtuna and been the immediate precursors of the regal issues in the name of Olaf Skötkonung (See Universitetets Myntkabinettet, Oslo FC no. 200).'

A source for the Harald coins is this publication of Hauberg from 1900. I attached below the image with several 'halvbrakteater', but the dating (c. 940-960) seems to be too early. Another reference source is 'Malmer', but I can't find this one online. A third is this overview with coins from Denmark from David Ruckser. This book from Jens Christian Moesgaard seems also very interesting, but is not in my possession (perhaps some of you?).

What bothers me a bit, is the time period between production of this silver coin (around c. 975-980) and the production of the gold tari in the 11th or even 12th century. But perhaps they just used an old coin type from the North what was inspiring (perhaps because the cross looks a bit like a Byzantine cross-crosslet as well). When looking at other coins, only this coin type from Béla II of Hungary (1131 - 1141) seems to correspond with the pseudo text (stripes). There really seems no other related coin anywhere. Interestingly, a date around 1130-1140 does correspond with the blended style type coins from Roger II (see above).

What are your thoughts about this fascinating coin? Do you agree with the identification of a (unique, blended style) tari? What about the attribution and dating? Any other suggestions? Thanks for your thoughts and time!

@Edessa @Roerbakmix @JeandAcre @Pellinore @ewomack @DonnaML @Hrefn

 

Gold tari a.png

Gold tari b.png

Harald a.png

Harald b.png

Halvbrakteater (c. 940-960) - Hedeby.png

Gold tari of Roger II.png

Bela II.png

Edited by Coinmaster
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Interesting ideas.

I don't know about coinage across the whole of Europe, but I don't think it would be from after Charlemagne to 1250. Gold really wasn't used for commerce, although you get a little imported from further east. But with the simplistic design, lack of lettering and cross crosslet, it isn't Islamic. So if it's a coin, it should be earlier.

It might not even be a coin at all. The obverse is very crude and doesn't seem to signify anything. The Saxons could do crude, but would have had something more meaningful there. I would think the Merovingians would too. It could be a terribly blundered counterfeit of a Carolingian tremissis.

Edited by John Conduitt
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image.jpeg.2178af7e3e32da6a483f7efa73bdd6b0.jpeg

Auction: 16019 - The Academic Collection of Lord Stewartby: English Coins part 1, Anglo-Saxon and Norman Coins  
Lot: 11

Anglo-Saxon, Sceatta, 1.04g., ?secondary phase, c.710-c.760, series W, type 54, cross crosslet pommÉe on plain cross, rev. standing figure, head left, holding annulet tipped long-cross at sides (Abr. W230A; N.148; S.787), some slight weakness, well-centred on reverse, very fine, extremely rare

PROVENANCE
Vecchi auction 15, 15 June 1999, 1724
Ex Subjack collection, 93 

Image borrowed from Spink for academic purposes only.  

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Amazing, @Coinmaster, with some really deep and engaging interpretive (/speculative) work.

I'm leaning toward @John Conduitt and @Hrefn about the prototype being likelier northern European than Norman and/or Islamic.  @Hrefn's sceatta from Lord Stewartby looks especially cogent as a candidate.

But just to toss it out there, here's a c. 11th-c. Iberian imitation of a tari (small fractional dinar) of one of the Andalusian taifas.  As I understand it, Iberia and southern Italy were the two main exceptions in Europe for gold persisting through the 12th century, to one extent or another.  Granted, the main affinity with your unicum involves the extent of the blundering, rather than the designs.

image.jpeg.b9a8ce765b9169292fa8d94a15665874.jpeg

 

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2 hours ago, Hrefn said:

Ok, I will go out a limb here.  A very very long limb.

It is runic.

tiwaz

elwaz gebo ingwaz

elgiz

They resemble runes, but I don't know it's enough for them to be runes.


ᛇ ᚷ ᛝ


Series W was produced around 710-760. I don't believe there was any gold in circulation in England at that time. Would they produce one gold coin?

I don't know if the cross-crosslet was a Saxon invension. It was popular with the Byzantines from the early 600s and Germanic tribes copied their coins in gold. But they didn't look like this.

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Not at all sure, but I would think one of two possibilities.

1) Modern fantasy, maybe 19th century by someone who vaguely knew what was expected.

2) Something by Harold along the lines of the OFFA dinar. Gold dinar of King Offa | The British Library (bl.uk). Maybe a presentation piece of Harold? If the archeological context securely identifies it as Medieval, then it's very special.

 

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1 hour ago, John Conduitt said:

They resemble runes, but I don't know it's enough for them to be runes.


ᛇ ᚷ ᛝ


Series W was produced around 710-760. I don't believe there was any gold in circulation in England at that time. Would they produce one gold coin?

I don't know if the cross-crosslet was a Saxon invension. It was popular with the Byzantines from the early 600s and Germanic tribes copied their coins in gold. But they didn't look like this.

I think that all we can say for certain is the coin, if coin it is, was found in the Netherlands.   No information about the date whatsoever.  Could a runic coin come from that area?  I think so.  Or it could have been traded or carried to that area.   Doesn’t mean it’s runes, but at least it is in the realm of possibility.  If the coin was found in Sumatra, not so much.  

The series W coin pushes the boundary of the cross crosslet on coins in Northern Europe back at least to early 700’s, which is close to the time Saxon coins had runes.    No reason to suppose the series W coin was the first use of the motif in the area, either.   And the coin may not be Saxon.  Have many Saxon thrymsas been found on the Continent?   

I agree with you that it doesn’t look post-Carolingian.  It is in the neighborhood, so far as weight is concerned, of a later imitative tremissis, Merovingian triens, or a thrymsa.   Relatively good gold fineness, so perhaps earlier rather than later in age.  But I think the purity of coins in this era was not tightly controlled.  

What do experts on runic epigraphy think?  

 

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The more I look at it, the less I like it. The edges of the 'runes' are sharp and everything's at right angles, and yet nothing lines up. It has no finesse to it. The runes don't really even look like the letters they might be.

Compare the style of the rectangles that go around the outside to those on the Béla II coin. Both simple designs, but only one looks like it was made by an artisan. Surely, the engraver working with gold would be the best there was. I'm not at all convinced it can be 'official', whatever that meant in those times. Certainly no more likely than it being modern or from jewellery.

Edited by John Conduitt
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Hi all,

Very nice to see this coin got your attention!
The find is legit. I know the finder, the find is reported (PAN registration nr. 00020835) and the XRF is done by the government agency (so called 'rijksdienst voor cultureel erfgoed'). The coin is found in the municipality of Oss in de province Noord-Brabant.

Let me say upfront there is no definite proof here. There are no written sources, and not even a similar coin. So that leaves us with ruling things out (if possible) and point in possible directions for dating and attribution of this coin.

So let's sum up some points of view, and please correct me or add if needed.

Is it a coin?
That's a valid question. In the early medieval, gold bracteates were produced which were used as pendents. But these are always one-sited and this example bares two sides, just like a normal coin. Also there is clearly a cross, as seen on other coin types. I would say, even though it's a very strange one, it's most probably a coin. It doesn't strike me as some creative product of post medieval times, as suggested before. But of course, you'll never know.

Iron age / Roman (c. 800 BC - 500 AD)
I think we all agree a coin from the Iron age and Roman era can be ruled out. The coin is too thin and the front- and backside does not look like anything from this time.

Merovingian / Franks (ca. 500-750)
As stated before, the coin has been researched by many scholars, including Arent Pol from Leiden University. He examined the coin and compared it to his giant database of merovingian coins (15.000 solidi and tremisses) and stated there exists no paralel, not even a hint for a comparison. Basically, he ruled out a merovingian provenance in the North-West of Europe.

Anglo-Saxon-Saxon-Frisian (c. 650-734)
During the sceatta period I believe there were no gold coins issued, at least not in The Netherlands. Also, the coin has a rim, which is missing on sceattas? So, can't it be a single, experimenting gold issue during this period. It might..?

Carolingian era (768-888)
The style doesn't match. I would say it's unlikely.

Viking era
The coin does relate to coins from Harold Bluetooth (see before), but no gold coins where struck by the Vikings (wright?). Or this one would be the first? I think this is unlikely.

Other solutions
I would say we have to look for other solutions. the tari does correspond with diameter and weight, but the style seems 'out of tone'..?
I just saw this great blog from Caitlin Green: https://www.caitlingreen.org/2015/03/some-imitation-islamic-coins.html. I wrote her an email, let's hope she has a suggestion?

Attached a new photo!

 




 

Gold coin from The Netherlands.png

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It's not that the find is doubted, but there is no archaeological context to place it anywhere. So it could have been made in 2016. There's a danger of making mistakes like those with the Sponsian coins.

Yes I think you can rule out pre-600 because of the cross crosslet.

The Saxons are unlikely. Even when they did strike gold coins (pre-675) they were 40-70% gold i.e. too debased, although there are odd exceptions. But those are in much finer style. The Vikings were in the same time period and copied their coins from the Saxons (in silver).

Gold was struck by the Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Franks and Burgundians, who all copied the Byzantines. So they are a possibility, but their coins feature a bust even when very crude. The Lombards did strike coins with similar crosses, but like the Carolingians, the style is different. Even then, at 80% gold it would have to be from early on.

Asia can be ruled out because of the cross, except perhaps some imitations from the near east. The Offa coin you've linked to was based on Islamic coins - which were more sophisticated - and doesn't include a cross.

After 1250, coins without legends aren't common, especially of any value, and the gold coins were bigger. Perhaps the exceptions are the European colonies in India.

One other possibility is that it is not the complete coin. The 'rim' looks like an edge that someone has cut around. Maybe they clipped it, or maybe they wanted it for jewellery. But you still have the problem that the style is poor.

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The arrangement of the runelike symbols (RLSs) does remind me of the earliest Carolingian coins in which the letter arrangement and sizes are not uniform. An exampl pulled from the internet:

image.jpeg.4e9ab269def5522fc31486ce6472adbe.jpegimage.png.bae4ad46e17ec825b2caf55c1e56fb6c.png
I deliberately positioned the coin of Charlemagne upside down.  Maybe if you were a Scandinavian who only knew runes, and not the Latin alphabet……..

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Thanks for tagging me. I recognize this coin, the finder corresponded with me a few years ago (I',m, moderator at the early medieval section on a dutch metal detecting forum). We discussed some options, listed above. My thought was a Frisian imitation of a Carolingian tremissis, but no others have been found since. I know the finder had some correspondence with experts on Danish, Swedish etc. coinage, perhaps he could share that communication as well? 

I'm not sure @Tejasis still very active here, but he might have some thoughts as well

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1 hour ago, Coinmaster said:

Do you perhaps have an example of this? I think it's a good suggestion, thanks!

This is what we were discussing earlier - blundered imitations of Carolingian tremisses. @Roerbakmix has a few, as here and here. But the style is not similar and I think a lack of portrait (or attempt at one) would be unusual.

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Hello everyone, I am new to this forum as well as to numismatics in general. I inherited some old coins so I want to learn about it. To begin with, I show a couple of pictures of an object that I don't know what it is. Is that a Neapolitan coin? Any information is welcome. Thank you

20230613_095918.jpg

20230613_095941.jpg

20230613_100029.jpg

20230613_100112.jpg

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Hi @George11, I for one can't do any better than your guess, unless the lettering style being vaguely modern (16th century or later), isn't suitably obvious.  But welcome to the forum!  As a collector for most of my life, I'm continually broadening my horizons here, and the people are the coolest you'll run across. 

(Edit:)  Of course!  @Hrefn nailed it.

Edited by JeandAcre
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Thank you for your answers. This means it could only be a weight to compare with real coins. Do you often see something like that? Does the inscription "...di Napoli" mean that Naples has its own measuring standards? Because otherwise it makes no sense to me to mention Naples (if we have already concluded that it is not money).

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@George11, that's exactly what they were used for.  Coin weights show up all the time in the market; some people (yours truly conspicuous by his absence) collect them.  They go back at least to the medieval period, and frequently imitate the coins they weighed.  ...I have no idea whether Naples had its own weight standards or not; the name might have been included more on general principles.  It would be cool if someone who does collect these, and actually knows what he's talking about, expanded on this.

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