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The second known


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Following my post yesterday on a Viking trade weight with gilded silver inlay (>>link<<), today I'll post a little write up on a very recent addition which illustrates a fun aspect of a specialist collection: identifying rare varieties. The deeper down the rabbit hole, the easier it becomes to spot them. 

First, the coin. 


Series A - imitative. Obv: Bust with curved diadem to the left. Large letter A before. Reverse: Beaded square around radiating Ts and Is around central pellet. Weight and diameter: still have to measure it 🙂

Tony Abramson places this coin under series A in Sceatta List, under #3-70 (photo SPINK, AUCTION 21060, LOT 600), edited by me to give the correct orientation of the reverse. This specimen from the Abramson collection is the only other example I could find, which makes my coin the second known. It's clearly a die-match, both obv. and rev. 


Series A is the earliest series of sceattas following the gold Thrymsa's. They are dated ~ 680 AD and are usually attributed to East Anglia. The series typically show a bust to the right with Latin "TIC" before. After 680, the series evolved to series C and, later, series R. 

So what makes this coin stand out? First: it's left facing. As in other fields, left facing sceattas are very rare. In series E, the most diverse, unstandardized and imitated series, only a very small fraction (my estimation is 1:100 coins) are left facing - in the other series, this is even less common. Second, the orientation of the TT II on the reverse is very uncommon. Even in the later and less standardized series R, the letters on the reverse almost invariably show "TT o II" with the TT's vertical. Though admittedly this is a very minor deviation, it's uncommon.

Finally, the large A before the bust (clearly visible on my coin) is odd and must have some meaning. My coin adds this design, as it's off flan of the coin from the Abramson collection (which is an obv/rev die match). The same A is closely copied by Series A, C, and R. Series A was quickly imitated on the continent, leading to series D, with (in contrast to series A) has Runic legends (usually reading EPA). On many coins from series D, also behind the bust, there is the same large A. See for example this coin from my collection:image.jpeg.b590c62b81d4bc3e3506ce33a18a6033.jpeg

(which, by the way, is also a recent addition). 

So the A must have had some meaning, as it was so closely copied in series A, C, D, and R - even on the more imitative / unstandardized specimens. Perhaps the answer lies in the more off-center examples: on my coin, there's also part of a letter visible below the A, perhaps a V?


Unfortunately, the dies of sceattas were usually much larger than the coins, so we'll have to wait for an example that is off-center to the lower-left. 

Finally, should we place this sceatta in series A? Or in the more unstandardized series R? I'm unsure. This coin from my collection was attributed by @Tony Abramsonand Chris Timms (expert on series R) to series R for example:


 I'm interested to hear some opinions. Perhaps @Nap, @Tejas or @John Conduitt or others? 

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Interesting coins, as usual.

I think as an imitative coin, the variations on the top coin are not so surprising. Counterfeiters (if you can call them that) often mirrored devices and letters. I have a Series D with a left-facing bust that might be an imitation.

As far as I can tell, the main distinguishing feature of Series A obverses is the TIC legend (as opposed to the Runic EPA on your last coin of Series R). But you can't see that on your first coin. On Series A, the A behind the bust is meant to be broken with annulets either side (as below), which yours doesn't have. The Series A reverse also has an annulet in the centre, not a pellet. On the other hand, if it's imitative, variation is expected. It might come down to the purity of the silver, which is higher for Series A.

Series A Sceatta, 673-685
East Kent/southern East Anglia. Silver, 12mm, 0.88g. Radiate bust with curved exergual drapery; TIC in front, A and annulets behind. Degenerate votive standard with seriffed letters TOTII, tufa above containing trefoil of pellets, rounded horns, seriffed letters in margin, cross below (S 775; BMC Type 2a).

I assumed the large A behind the bust was another throwback to the Romans. You can imagine they took that idea from the 4th century, where it was very common (although those Roman coins would not have been radiate). But it could be more runes.

Magnentius Centenionalis, 351-353
Arles. Bronze, 17mm, 4.40g. Bust of Magnentius, bareheaded, draped, cuirassed, right; A behind bust; D N MAGNEN-TIVS P F AVG. Two Victories, winged, draped, facing each other, holding between them a wreath inscribed VOT/V/MVL/X surmounted by ; VICTORIAE DD AVG ET CAE; I in field. Mintmark SAR in exergue (RIC VIII, 184). From the Compton Dundon (Somerset) Hoard 2017. Portable Antiquities Scheme: GLO-574C93.

Edited by John Conduitt
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The large A is on some of the earlier gold and transitional pale gold coins too, as well as later Saxon and Viking coins.

It must have held some meaning.  I suspect it is related to Christian symbolism, the Alpha and Omega (beginning and end) appear on many Saxon coins.  I think a large A may have had a similar devotional function to the large cross.  My theory is that the ornate letter A (with the V shaped bar and the horizontal line above) was meant in this fashion, while a normal letter A to spell a name would look much more simple like a modern A or an upside down V.

Two emperors thrymsa


PADA PIIA transitional thrymsa/sceatta


Northumbrian styca, Aethelred II moneyer Leofthegn


Eadmund of East Anglia penny

St Edmund memorial penny

Edited by Nap
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