Featured A British penny only a specialist will appreciate.

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by johnmilton, Aug 31, 2020.

  1. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    William Conquorer.jpg

    William the Conqueor penny, Spink 1257

    William the Conqueror issued nice coins for the medieval period after he seized England in 1066. His coins were well made and came up to the legal standard with respect to the purity of their alloy. After William died in 1087, his son William II (a.k.a. Rufus) replaced him.

    William II no face.jpg

    A somewhat better than average William II or "Rufus" penny struck with a broken obverse die. Spink 1261

    Rufus’ coins were generally low quality pieces. The dies were often badly worn and there were questions as to whether or not the silver was up the legal standard. William’s bother, Robert pawned his kingdom, Normandy, to William for 10,000 marks. Since a mark at the time was worth 160 pence, that came to 1.6 million pence. Could this be reason why the quality of the British coinage reached a low state during this period?

    William II.jpg

    A much better than average William II penny, Spink 1260

    Rufus died under questionable circumstances in a hunting accident in August 1100. His brother, Henry I seized the royal treasury and the crown. If anything, Henry’s coins were worse than those of William II, which leads a recent acquisition and the subject of this post. This coin might not look like much to most collectors, but for a Henry I penny, it is a “WOW!”

    Henry I Penny.jpg

    Henry I penny, Spink 1275, B.M.C. xiv. There is a small "snick" at 5k.

    The people lost confidence in Henry’s coinage because so many pieces were under weight and were made of sub-standard silver. The prompted people to clip small piece off the coins they received to test them. Once a coin had been clipped, it was difficult to keep in circulation.

    Henry came up with a solution. Every coin at the mint was given a “snick” or tiny clip. Therefore the people had no choice but to use coins with tiny clips because all of the pieces that were in circulation bore that mark.

    Henry I lower Penny.jpg

    A more typical example of a Henry I penny. The is immediately identifiable as a Spink 1276

    Henry I died in 1135 after eating a big helping a lampreys, a blood sucking eel that was considered to be a great delicacy in the Middle Ages. His doctor had warned him not the eat them, but he could not resist.

    Henry I fathered 21 children, but only two of them were legitimate. His 17 year old son, William, died when The Great White Ship sank off the coast of France. Everyone on the ship was roaring drunk, including the captain. The ship hit a rock in the harbor and foundered. All but one person on the ship died.

    The death of William left Henry with one child who had a legitimate claim to the crown, his daughter Matilda. Women were not considered to be qualified to lead a country in those days. Henry tried to get his lords to accept her, but after he died, they went back on their word. Henry’s nephew, Stephen, became the king instead although Matilda almost succeeded to deposing him a couple of times.

    Stephen Penny.jpg

    A much better than average example of a Stephen Penny, Spink 1278

    Stephen’s coins were only a little better than the previous issues. Matilda also had coins made in her behalf. Her pieces were even worse. Today most collectors must accept that fact that the Matilda pennies are non-collectable.

    When Stephen died in 1154, Matilda got her revenge. Her son, who because Henry II, became king. He was the first of the Plantagenet kings who would rule for the next 245 years.

    At first Henry II’s coins were low quality, but, after taking some advice from the moneyers on the continent, Henry’s coins improved dramatically.

    Henry II Penny.jpg

    Henry II penny, Spink 1344

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  3. Kentucky

    Kentucky Supporter! Supporter

    I would LOVE to have one of these!
    johnmilton likes this.
  4. Spaniard

    Spaniard Well-Known Member

    Nice coins! And an interesting write up thanks!
  5. robp

    robp Well-Known Member

    Nice type 3 and type 14. :)

    Is the type 3 reading LIFPIN ON CESTE for Chester or EXESTE for Exeter? It's a bit messy at the start of the mint and turning my head upside down to read it isn't helping.
    +VGO.DVCKS likes this.
  6. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    This is a case where what seems to be a fault is better than a coin that does not tell the story. I suppose it would be nice to have one with the smallest possible piece missing but the story here most certainly makes the coin.

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Please, Just, Congratulations on the example of Henry I. The other ones are no less stunning. Dang. That's a Lot of top-drawer Norman -Angevin in one place. In light of your fluency in the numismatic and (Ahem, Other) historical contexts, they obviously found the right home!
    ...Meanwhile, for William I and Henry I, all I have are cut fractions; zero for William II. But in the case of Henry I, it's that much more of a shame that minting practices were so retrograde. (As you, of all people, are likely to know, the quality of William I's issues suggests his summary appropriation of the late Anglo-Saxon minting infrastructure; one obvious hint being the wynn used as the first letter of his name.) After the nadir under William II, the designs of Henry I, even from the beginning of the reign, are remarkably innovative and ambitious. I like to think they demonstrate the influence of Salian coins from northern Germany and Frisia, especially since Henry engineered the marriage of Matilda to the Heinrich V, during Matilda's childhood. ...But, sadly, as far as striking is concerned (minus the other, er, issues), the German examples are no better. (I wrote a post about one instance of this, not long ago. ...No, I keep no better track of my own posts than anyone else's.)
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2020
    Orfew, johnmilton and DonnaML like this.
  8. robp

    robp Well-Known Member

    There shouldn't be anything missing from the coin. The snick is the small cut as per the type 14 seen at the base of the bust and at 2 o'clock on the reverse.
  9. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    That is a truly stunning Henry I. :wideyed: Congratulations! Nice Stephen too. Here is my much humbler (and more usual) example:

    Screen Shot 2020-08-31 at 11.07.17 PM.jpg
  10. thejewk

    thejewk Well-Known Member

    Fantastic coins and write up, an admirable collection. Are there any books you recommend covering this history of this period?
    +VGO.DVCKS likes this.
  11. Orielensis

    Orielensis Well-Known Member

    A stellar collection of British pennies – thanks for showing them!

    Contrary to your title, your coins and your informative write-up are not only interesting to specialists. I very much enjoyed reading this thread and learned from it.
  12. alurid

    alurid Well-Known Member

    Very excluding thread tittle.
  13. robp

    robp Well-Known Member

    A feature of coins from William I onwards is the relative lack of design varieties within a type, most being either a bust facing in the opposite direction or a lack of sceptre. The regional variations in style of bust on Saxon coins are no longer seen.

    One notable variety is seen on William I sword type pennies of Wareham and Dorchester which are known with a cross to the right of the bust. There are sub-varieties with either 2 small crosses or a large cross, all extremely rare (North 846/1). An example of a Dorchester with the large cross was sold through Baldwins of St. James's in September 2018, lot 1034. https://bsjauctions.com/cat-pdf/22.pdf

    This is a sword type penny of Dorchester with a pair of small crosses by the bust. BNJ vol. ii, plate III, fig.47 (this coin)

    The reason for the cross is uncertain, but one could speculate that it is related to Orc's widow Tola. Orc and Tola founded and endowed the abbey at Abbotsbury in the 1040s? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abbotsbury_Abbey Orc died during the reign of Edward the Confessor in about 1058, but the coins with crosses may have commemorated her bequests to the monastry following her death if she survived until the sword issue, dated to 1077-1080. They had large holdings of land to the south of Dorchester and along and north of the line between there and Wareham, which is the next mint geographically east of Dorchester.

    The crosses aren't something specific to the moneyer. Oter was the moneyer at Dorchester for a considerable period and the Wareham coins were by Godwine.
  14. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    Let’s face it. When I was strictly a U.S. coin collector a decade ago, I would have looked at that Henry I penny and dismissed it out of hand as nothing special. I might of thought, “late die state, uneven strike, there must be sharper examples.”

    I am sure there are better examples in the British Museum. There are pictures in the reference books, like the North work, which appear to be of better coins, but they are so small that it’s hard to tell. That’s one of the problems with the guide books on British coins. The photos could be larger and sharper. One solution is to search the Internet.
    +VGO.DVCKS and Roman Collector like this.
  15. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    One of the frustrating aspects of these coins is that even when the piece is well made for the type, the lettering is still mushy and hard to read. That is especially true for the Rufus and Henry I pieces I posted about. The sharpness of the photos is consistent with the appearance of the coins.
  16. robp

    robp Well-Known Member

    Yep, can't disagree with that. William II profile coins come up in reasonable condition, but quality goes south after that - just look at the Romney type 5 I posted in a thread last June. And as for Henry I, if you see a nice one, then buy it assuming the price hasn't gone stratospheric.

    As per my previous post - is it Chester or Exeter?
    +VGO.DVCKS likes this.
  17. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    Neither, according the cataloger. The claim, without any equivocations, is that it’s Bristol with Ricard as the moneyer. Since that is a combination that is listed in North, I’ll take his word for it.
    +VGO.DVCKS likes this.
  18. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    Most of my reference books come from the Friends of the Liberty bookstore that my wife works with in her volunteer work. As such they are mostly out of print.

    In addition to the Spink Coins of England annual price guide, I use the two books on English Hammered Coinage by Jeffrey North. So far as the history goes, British Kings & Queens by Mike Ashley as a lot of information. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Kings & Queens of Britain by Charles Phillips is one of those big coffee table books with lots of pictures. There is one other one that I have used a lot in the past, but I can’t lay my hands on it at the moment.
    thejewk likes this.
  19. robp

    robp Well-Known Member

    Not the Henry I which is correct. I was asking about the William II type 3.
    +VGO.DVCKS likes this.
  20. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    The cataloger thought that it might be Chester. Dealer Andy Singer looked at it and was not sure. The North number is 853.

    I have barely gotten to point where I can make out "Willelm Rex" on it. You have to remember that "Ws" resemble "Ps."
    +VGO.DVCKS and Edessa like this.
  21. robp

    robp Well-Known Member

    The reverse reading is ok for the moneyer which is LIFPIN (Lifwine) with the E missing. That's followed by ON. It's the next bit that is not clear. I'm inclined to think it is Exeter and not Chester. In P W P Carlyon-Britton's BNJ article of A Numismatic History of William I & II (BNJ vol.5, p.103) he lists 3 readings for Exeter moneyers, LIFPINE being IEX----- with the rest not present as the coin was chipped, though that coin reads LIFPINE with the E, so different dies. EDPINE ON IEXSE[C] is another, in fact almost all the coins listed for the two reigns read IEX..... with only a few reading EX etc

    That would make sense if the right hand upright of the N was also used as the I because the next letter looks to have a middle bar which would be E. However, it could just read EX with no I intended. That would leave the brighter high point in the image as an X, which in the context of lettering for this period would be a valid rendition. Whatever, I'm struggling to make a C after ON.
    Edessa, talerman and +VGO.DVCKS like this.
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