Medieval coinage from the fall of Rome through the beginning of the modern period in 1600, excepting Byzantine coinage, has always been understudied and undercollected. This span of over 1,000 years includes diverse hammered and cast issues from Europe, the Near East, China, and India. Despite this, British hammered coinage from medieval times has always attracted attention and scholarship.
After the fall of Roman Britain in A.D. 410, factional forces jockeyed for control of the British Isles. A series of kingdoms waxed and waned in power for nearly five centuries until the unification of all English kingdoms. It was during this period that a distinctive British currency called the Pound Sterling evolved. The native coinage of England from this time was often known as Denarii, after the Roman denomination that had long circulated there, and from which the British Pence received its short designation of d-. These coins, along with broader thinner ones bearing the name of the king, came to be known as Pennies and for nearly a half-millennium were the only circulating coinage in Britain. The standard major unit of accounting in Britain at the time was the Tower pound, weighing approximately 350 grams. These Pennies bore a weight of 1.3-1.5 grams of silver, making each worth approximately 1/240th of a Pound. In 1158, Henry II set the fineness standard for silver coinage at .925 fine, or sterling silver. From this arose the name of the currency that is still in use today in Britain, the Pound Sterling. British currency therefore was literally One Tower Pound of sterling silver. The value of a penny at 1/240th of a Pound remained fixed until 1966, well after silver of any fineness was removed in British coinage. The ancient nature of the British Pound Sterling gives it a strong claim as the longest continually used currency, and these hammered Pennies are always in great demand.
In the January 2022 NYINC Auction, Stack’s Bowers Galleries is delighted to offer several extremely rare early hammered Pennies in phenomenal condition, all originating from the Runze Collection. Lot 1185 offers a choice very fine Penny from the reign of Offa, king of Mercia. Offa was one of the first rulers to attach their names to coinage, and therefore his issues are some of the most appealing pre-Norman issues. Lot 1189 presents a Penny from the reign of Aethelwulf, King of Wessex, graded AU-55 by PCGS. Father to Alfred the Great, Aethelwulf resisted Viking encroachment as ruler of Wessex, and as one of the most consequential kings, his coinage is always in demand. Very few hammered Pennies survive in condition such as this, with both a strong strike and nearly unhandled surfaces. Aethelwulf’s son, Alfred the Great defeated the Viking’s Great Heathen Army in 878 and is remembered as both a capable ruler and tactician. Lot 1192 is near the pinnacle of all British hammered Pennies, an issue of Alfred the Great, in stunning preservation. Evenly struck and sharp in the legends, this example still displays attractive shine and shimmer. A grade of AU-58 from PCGS defines this piece as a rarity, as nearly all examples of the type exhibit some sort of damage or problem.
These Pennies, along with the entire January 2022 NYINC auction is available for viewing and bidding at StacksBowers.com, where you can also see our upcoming auction schedule and future offerings. We are always seeking world and ancient coins, medals, and paper money for our auctions, and are currently accepting consignments for our Spring 2022 Hong Kong auction and our Collectors Choice Online (CCO) auctions. If you would like to learn more about consigning, whether a singular items or an entire collection, please contact a consignment director or email [email protected] today and we will assist you in achieving the best possible return on your material.