Featured An Anglo-Saxon gold coinage

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Nap, Apr 1, 2021.

  1. Nap

    Nap Well-Known Member

    Gold coinage was an important part of late Medieval and early modern English coinage. Denominations such as nobles, angels, crowns, pounds, and sovereigns were produced from the 14th century until the modern era when precious metals were phased out of circulating coinage. However in the early medieval period, gold coinage was rarely produced. A few gold coins were tried, such as gold pennies of Alfred the Great, Aethelred the Unready and Edward the Confessor, and a gold penny of Henry III. But these were not widely used or successful coinages and these coins are known from only a minuscule number of rare survivors.

    However, in the misty past, there was a robust and diverse series of gold coins made in the early Anglo-Saxon period. From about 600 until 675, gold coins were produced in the fledgling Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, depicting a variety of imagery. At least a dozen types are known, with diademed busts, copies of Roman clasped hands and seated despots, and a variety of Cristian symbols.

    Gold was, and remains, highly desirable. The 6th century Sutton Hoo burial contains a number of gold coins, but all are post-Roman migration people and Frankish in origin. None are considered of English manufacture.

    However, in the next few decades, following the Christianization of England, a home coinage began to emerge. Initially a few gold medals, possibly meant to be ornamental, but then a series of coins known as the Crondall, ultra-Crondall, and post-Crondall gold coins emerged. These are called “thrymsas” but are really a continuation of the late Roman tremisses that were copied and imitated by the migration people and permanent settlers of continental Western Europe.

    In 1828 a large group of early gold coins was found in the south of England at a place called Crondall. This hoard of about 100 coins remains the largest find of early Anglo-Saxon gold coins ever found, and still comprises most of the known coins of this era. The entire hoard was ultimately acquired by the Ashmolean museum and remains intact in Oxford. It is mostly made of Anglo-Saxon coins, but there are a few Merovingian coins as well.

    Lord Stewartby classified the early gold coins as pre-Crondall (before 620), Crondall (620-645), ultra-Crondall (620-645 but not present in the Crondall hoard), and post-Crondall (645-680). This categorization has been challenged in recent years and I believe Gareth Williams is working on a new arrangement hopefully to be published soon. Still, the Crondall hoard is an important part of our understanding of these coins.

    This coin, not from the hoard of course, but found more recently, is an example of one of the Crondall types, the so called ‘EAN’ thrymsa. So named for the legible retrograde letters on the obverse, which stand out from an otherwise garbled legend. This is one of the “substantive” types, due to multiple examples in the hoard, though only one die for both obverse and reverse is known.

    Anna Gannon, in her book on iconography, notes that the bust on this coin features a Persian style bejeweled helmet, copied from the Constantinian era Roman coins, and likely represents a status symbol of old Roman glory rather than battle protection. Similar head adornments would also feature on later Anglo-Saxon sceattas.

    Four of these coins were in the Crondall hoard and are all from the same dies, as is this one. This may be the only example not in the museum.

    Other varieties in the Crondall hoard include coins with cross varieties, a type with a Moneyer “Witmen”, and a type with the name of Eadbald, king of Kent. These coins are believed to originate from Canterbury or London.

    The later “post-Crondall” gold coins are made of debased pale gold, and eventually transition to the silver sceattas. These coins are more plentiful than the earlier higher gold Crondall era thrymsas.


    Thrymsa, Crondall phase 620-645
    Monarch: unknown, possibly Eadbald
    Mint: unknown, probably Kent
    'EAN' type
    Crondall 91-94
    EMC 2020.0360
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2021
    Ru Smith, David@PCC, Gilbert and 33 others like this.
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  3. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    Really neat coin. I like how the obverse features, what looks like, a rather Constantinian VLPP-style helmet.
    Since those VLPP imitations were almost exclusively made up North, I wonder if that has any influence on this specific design choice.
    DonnaML and +VGO.DVCKS like this.
  4. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    Wow!! Is this from the Abramson sale?

    I doubt many of us have anything like it to post (though I do hope to eventually acquire one of the late, pale thrymsas). I will stretch the theme and post this Merovingian denier c. 700 that also features a Roman-style helmet:
    merovingian helmet.jpg
    Mint: Catullacum/St. Denis
  5. Nap

    Nap Well-Known Member

    This coin is not from the Abramson sale. There were a number of thrymsas in that sale but they fetched crazy amounts.

    The Merovingian coin is neat, I like it! I think Merovingian silver, and to a lesser extent gold, is a field ripe for research and discovery. I hope to see a detailed study one day similar to what has been done with sceattas. (Preferably in English, but I wouldn't be choosy).

    The pale thrymsas are more common than the earlier ones, which makes them more collectible. The type I shared suffers from being too rare for its own good, nobody even knows what it is.

    Here are a few pale thrymsas of the "PADA type". One looks so debased that it's debatable whether it is more than 5% gold.


  6. Roerbakmix

    Roerbakmix Well-Known Member

    A wonderful coin. A Thrymsa is high on my wish list, but as I keep buying all sceatta's I encounter, I don't have the budget to dive deeper...

    The Abramson sale was a slaughter. Good for Tony Abramson though: part one (334 coins) sold for a sum of £546,980; part two (242 coins) for £168,915.
    +VGO.DVCKS and Nap like this.
  7. Mr.Q

    Mr.Q Well-Known Member

    Enjoyed the read, thank you.
  8. TheRed

    TheRed Supporter! Supporter

    Congratulations on adding an amazing coin to your collection @Nap A U.S. dealer of medieval coins once told me that a thrymsa is one of those coins that separates a truly amazing collection from a good one. Judging by the photo of your coin I whole heartidly agree.
  9. EWC3

    EWC3 (mood: stubborn)

  10. Nap

    Nap Well-Known Member

    I'm sure it did. The helmet is definitely a copy of the late Roman eastern style, and probably influenced by the available coinage. Frankish coins were well known in England, as were late Roman bronze coins and even siliquae, which were clipped down and used as a local currency hundreds of years after they were issued. Puts things in perspective given that the modern mind considers a 20 year old flip phone "ancient technology" that belongs in the junk bin.

    Abramson sale was not a place to find good deals, but many of the offerings were very rare pieces, so in that sense it was a buying opportunity (if you could afford it). I had plans to add a number of coins but due to prices I only was able to win a couple.

    Thanks, that's very kind of you. I do like these coins, and were they not prohibitively expensive I would collect more.
    DonnaML likes this.
  11. IMP Shogun

    IMP Shogun Well-Known Member

    I'm approximately one more Anglo-saxon thread away from starting a new pursuit.
    Evan Saltis likes this.
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