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Die matches in your collection - and a brief introduction to Series D BMC 2c sceattas


Roerbakmix

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I recently bought a small lot of sceattas from a UK coin dealer. He bought them from a metaldetectorist. Sadly, there was no provenance. The group lot contained 11 sceattas (4x series D BMC 2c, 4x series E, 1x series K, and 3x series C) - all from the late primary phase / early secondary phase. Two coins were an obverse and reverse die match, which suggest these coins might have been found together or at least in the same area.

Instead of writing up a detailed post as I planned, I decided recently to post short threads instead of posting nothing at all. This week, I posted:

Today's post will be on die-matches in my collection, and a brief introduction on the diverse series D BMC 2c sceattas, based on the publication by Metcalf and Op den Velde in 2003. 

The coins:

The strike of coin 1 is slightly to the left, showing detail that is not visible on coin 2 (the large A). There is a large scratch over the bust, which is in the patina and (thus) must be old. Test cuts on sceattas are relatively uncommon, though three hoards (Cothen, Metz and Föhr) contained a high percentage of test cuts. Notably, one other coin in this group lot showed two small cuts (a series C, also on the bust), but to me these cuts looked more like scratches than deliberate cuts. SeriesDBMC2c4b(II).jpg.79c9423417722db8de21d092cdf7c9b1.jpg

Coin 2 is slightly more to the right, showing atypical runes for the issue (I's, with zig-zag lines between). This places these coins at the end of series D BMC 2c - see later. The reverse of both coins show a very atypical pelleted-annulet. SeriesDBMC2c4b(I).jpg.44567f1f31376b54ebc9f3f9ebfc2fe0.jpg  

Series D - a brief introduction

The series D sceatta is usually attributed to the continent. Metcalf & Op den Velde (JMP 2003) note the stylistic similarities between the primary phase series A, and the later series C and R. The series is divided in three groups:

BMC 2c: the largest group, with the obverse closely imitating series C the design of the bust, and the Runic legend AEPA (ᚫᛈᚪ). Yet, no die links between series C and BMC 2c have been identified. The reverse shows a central cross pommee, with four large pellets in each corner, surrounded by large pseudo-legends. This reverse design is not shared by any other series, however, it is not uncommon to encounter on Merovingian tremisses or deniers.

BMC 8: the ‘reverse reverse mule’, a much smaller group of the series combining the reverse of BMC 2c with the reverse of series E. The presence of both BMC 2c and BMC 8 in the Aston Rowant and Remerden hoard indicate these coins were contemporary. No die-links between BMC 8 and BMC 2c have been identified. 

 

BMC 10: a rare, very small group (around 30 were known by Metcalf and Op den Velde in 2003). The bust is very similar to the Anglo-Saxon series A or (early) C, whereas the reverse shows a moon-faced ‘porcupine’ figure, though atypicial of series E. Three large, Latin letters spell “TILV” on the reverse, the meaning of which is unknown (an attribution to the Dutch trade port Tiel, or TILVS has been suggested).

 

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I am out of my depth here, @Roerbakmix. Good to hear of a structured corpus in Metcalf and Op den Velde (2003). Still, this specialist coinage seems like a different language: "phases" and "series" and "subgroups". So many types, with vague and sometimes uncertain origins! I'm used to seeing sceattas listed at auction as primary or secondary, but the series and types carried no meaning to me. I see now that the British Museum Catalogue had its type numbers, and I am now reading about Rigold's 1997 letter series.  The two methodologies seem to coexist.

Do you rely on any other corpus of sceattas? That I know of, there are MEC 8 (Fitzwilliam Museum, 2017), SCBI 63 (British Museum, 2013, an update to the original catalog of 1887), and the three volume RNS SP 27 (Ashmolean Museum, 1993). 

MEC.8.jpg.b1da01e78c9e4b36c69885bfdc867283.jpg  SCBI-63.Gannon.jpg.b82267b6aeae12209f7a3df36caf3c82.jpg  RNS-27A.Metcalf.ThrymsasAndSceattas.jpg.196fdba85010b73eb16cb9e52d2cdbcc.jpg  RNS-27B.Metcalf.ThrymsasAndSceattas.jpg.f5de0ea0dde5a75a4f28e2a625bdf292.jpg  RNS-27C.Metcalf.ThrymsasAndSceattas.jpg.6b2d0f4956088c7f12470432d41137b2.jpg

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1 hour ago, Anaximander said:

I am out of my depth here, @Roerbakmix. Good to hear of a structured corpus in Metcalf and Op den Velde (2003). Still, this specialist coinage seems like a different language: "phases" and "series" and "subgroups". So many types, with vague and sometimes uncertain origins! I'm used to seeing sceattas listed at auction as primary or secondary, but the series and types carried no meaning to me. I see now that the British Museum Catalogue had its type numbers, and I am now reading about Rigold's 1997 letter series.  The two methodologies seem to coexist.

Do you rely on any other corpus of sceattas? That I know of, there are MEC 8 (Fitzwilliam Museum, 2017), SCBI 63 (British Museum, 2013, an update to the original catalog of 1887), and the three volume RNS SP 27 (Ashmolean Museum, 1993). 


Yes because they never have rulers' names on them or even the tribes' names, they have to be grouped somehow. Primary and Secondary are 'phases' (there is also Tertiary) based on when they might have been struck, which is determined by their presence in the few datable hoards. The next level down is the series, using the alphabet, which uses the style and findspots to try to place them in particular geographical locations. The lower level is the Subgroup, which is where coins that are even more closely related stylistically are grouped, often in a sequence of degradation that gives you a timeline. So you have:

Phase: when
Series: where
Subgroup: when and where within the above.

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@Anaximander Besides the books you mention, the book by Tony Abramson (sceatta list, 3th edition) is an excellent introduction to the coin types. He groups the coins based on design, though he follows the series by Rigold. Most auction houses today refer to his book in auction descriptions ( e.g. SL 3-70). For a good understanding of the background, the books by Metcalf are still the standard work. 

The books on series D and E by Metcalf and Op den Velde are more recent and much more detailed than Metcalf. They can be found in this post: 

 

If you're interested, you can search @Nap's post history, or mine. 

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Thanks @Roerbakmix - I hadn't seen the detail of the subcategories from JMP 2003 previously, only references to them in catalogue descriptions so your post is very helpful.  The only example I have from this series is the coin below from Tony Abramson's collection - the Spink catalogue lists this as Series D type 2c subgroup 4c, presumably on the basis of the decorative motif beneath the bust. The striking feature though is the elongated chin which reminds me of an iconic beard from ancient Egypt (c.f. the postiche from the mummy of Tutankhamun). Undoubtedly this resemblance is incidental but I would be interested if anyone has die match for this obverse.  

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