Featured Early Frisian Gold – the Dronrijp Triens

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Roerbakmix, May 9, 2022.

  1. Roerbakmix

    Roerbakmix Well-Known Member

    As some of you might know, my collection by now largely focuses on early medieval coins, ie. 650-c780 AD, that is, between the late-stage Merovingian and the start of the Carolingian dynasty. Key players in northwestern Europe were the Anglo-Saxons (conventionally consisting of seven kingdoms: Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Sussex and Wessex), the Frisians, living in the coastal regions of the North Sea, and Francia. Probably lesser important from a numismatic standpoint were the (pre-Viking) Scandinavian countries. While the French Merovingians had plenty of gold and silver to mint their tremissis and deniers, Frisians and the Anglo-Saxons had limited gold available for this end, and their monetary economy was largely based on small silver pennies, colloquially called sceatta’s.

    Yet, a small number of gold coins were minted by both the Anglo-Saxons and the Frisians. @Nap recently presented some background on the Anglo-Saxon thrymsa’s in this thread. In that thread, @TheRed wrote “… a thrymsa is one of those coins that separates a truly amazing collection from a good one.”. Being an avid collector of early medieval coins (I must admit sometimes dreaming of them), I obviously had to have one, and preferably a continental one, minted in Magna Frisia. There aren’t that many to choose from: there are a few very small emission from Maastricht, a city with pre-roman roots, but part of the Merovingian empire. Closer to the Frisians was Dorestad. This flourishing city with a large harbor is likely to have minted many sceatta’s (though there are no silver coins which can be attributed to Dorestad with certainty). A prolific moneyer, called Madelinus minted both in Maastricht, and later traveled to Dorestad, where he minted coins bearing the inscription DORESTATI FIT // MADELINVS. The success and recognizability of Madelinus’ coinage is illustrated by the large number of imitations, which were probably minted by local Frisian mints (though still bearing similar legends).

    The coin I acquired is much scarcer, and though anepigraphic, it can be attributed to the Frisians with some certainty. In 1876, a pot-hoard containing 28 coins, 3 blanks, a large gold ingot (45 gram) and fragments of a purse was found at Dronrijp, a small village 9 km west of Leeuwarden (the current capital of Friesland). Though probably mixed with a hoard found a little later (Dronrijp II), it can be dated to c. 620-630 AD. Most coins were local issues (later classed by mr. Boeles, a numismatist, as Dronrijp types A-D), but included also some of Maastricht, Mainz, Orleans and Ruan.

    Fig. 1 Boelen's classification of the Dronrijp tremissis into four classes (A-D). Boeles 1951, p 315 fig 58)

    Though Boelens classed the Dronrijp type in four categories based on a very limited number of coins, a new (and unfortunately yet unpublished) study by dr. Arent Pol with a much larger sample size (approx. 200 coins) refined this classification into five chronological series.
    Fig. 2 Arent Pol's classification of the Dronrijp tremissis (unpublished)

    Though determining chronology is difficult with the limited number of hoards, the ‘barbaric’ style and the absence of meaningful legends, Arent pol has made some interesting discoveries using XRF-analysis and die-studies. For example, no die-links have been found between the different series, suggesting different mint locations. Some of the series are divided into classes, based on style and progressive debasement (something that is also seen in early Anglo-Saxon thrymsa’s).
    Fig. 3 Arent Pol's suggested chronology of the Dronrijp Tremissis (unpublished)

    Now on to the coin! A few years ago, I met an archaeology student in Leiden (NL). We had a pleasant discussion on numismatics and drank some coffee. Recently, he started a coin shop on MA-shop, selling mostly Dutch medieval coins.

    In November 2021, some metal detectorist found a Dronrijp tremissis, and sold it to him. Knowing my interest in early medieval coinage, he called me. At that moment, I lacked the funds to acquire the coin, and I considered it a lost cause. In the following months, the coin remained unsold. Meanwhile, he visited dr. Arent Pol, who confirmed a reverse die-link (no die link for the obverse), and conducted an XRF-analysis. What's more, Arent Pol stated this to be one of the best examples he has encountered. After some negotiations with the seller (with me selling the larger part of my non-sceatta collection to him, and to Roma), I was able to acquire the coin last week: 1733_21-0450.jpg
    Early Medieval, Frisia Magna. Dronrijp type Tremissis or triens. Obverse: bust to left, with NR before and small cross above. Dotted circles above. Reverse: anchored cross with U and mirrored L, dot below. Ineligible legend around, including runic letter A. Ref: Boelens type B, Pol series 2, class 2-3. Weight: 1.212g, XRF: 77% gold. Provenance: found in Nov. 2021 near Castricum (NL). Bought from Hollandia Numismatics.
    (sellers picture).

    Funnily enough, he also shared the video made by the metal detectorist when he found this coin:
    (still from video).

    By now, my collection has been reduced to a small number Roman (n=5), Greek (n=10), medieval (n=5), and miscellaneous (n= c. 20) coins, apart from my early medieval coins (n=65 or so). Coming from a collection of about 400-500 coins, this is a significant reduction. Was it worth it? I believe so, and I'm thrilled with the addition of my first gold early medieval coin.
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  3. ancientone

    ancientone Well-Known Member

    I have a few projectile point finds in situ but not an ancient. Great coin with visual provenance!
    +VGO.DVCKS likes this.
  4. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    ..as long as you're happy..kool coin! :)...i must admit i think of doing something like that often..but so far,, i've sold 3 coins in 18 years :bucktooth::D
    +VGO.DVCKS likes this.
  5. Orielensis

    Orielensis Well-Known Member

    Congratulations on this acquisition. This coin would make any medieval collector drool. Simply an outstanding piece!
    +VGO.DVCKS likes this.
  6. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander find me at NumisForums


    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Hearty congratulations, @Roerbakmix! As we might say in the US, this 'kicks b-tt all over the block.' My lower jaw is close to the floor.
    And I'm liking it a lot that you didn't have to sell any of your other coins of the period to get it! Yes, this is as great a collecting coup as anything I can think of. Not to mention being a demonstration of how, sometimes, when something defies comment, it's for good reason!
  8. Limes

    Limes Well-Known Member

    A very interesting write up, @Roerbakmix. A great coin with an interesting historical background, and how often does it happen one has a video of the moment when your coin is dug up from the ground?
    DonnaML likes this.
  9. Nap

    Nap Well-Known Member

    That’s a wonderful coin, congratulations!

    The Frisian sceattas of the early 700s typically get lumped into the British series, but the gold is typically considered part of the Merovingian series. I am guessing this is partly due to the political history of Frisia during the 7th century, which, to me at least, seems very murky. The independent “Magna Frisia” seems to have only taken off in the late 600s and before (and after) that the region was part of the Frankish empire? But there is a distinctness about the coinage that certainly suggests a lack of full integration into the Merovingian kingdom.

    Still, the coins are well integrated into trade. The hoards found at Sutton Hoo and Crondall both have coins from the continent, including, if I recall, coins from Dorestad.

    The parallels of the Dronrijp hoard(s) in Frisia and the Crondall hoard in England are worth considering. Both hoards were probably deposited in the 630s, Crondall is a little later but 640s at the latest. At least one Dronrijp type coin is part of the Crondall hoard. However a number of the Crondall English types are only known from their presence in this hoard, suggesting that while continental coins moved across the Channel, English coins from the 620s-640s did not.

    The coinage of this era is fascinating, and I wish it were less expensive to collect!
  10. lordmarcovan

    lordmarcovan Eclectic & Eccentric Moderator

    Fascinating. And I must tell you, as a former detectorist, seeing that dig action pic really cinched it for me!

    i shot some video while detecting in England, but alas, my one piece of medieval silver I dug (an Edward I penny) was discovered off-camera, in pitch darkness after the sun went down.

    Never dug a gold coin, though one of my party found a Celtic stater the day after I left.
    Struck7 and +VGO.DVCKS like this.
  11. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    Great catch! I also have a Dronrijp triens, which I will post later. Mine shows a more complete reverse legend (apparently bigger flan), but I cannot see a runic A on mine or yours.
    +VGO.DVCKS likes this.
  12. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    Sorry if I'm nit-picking, but (1) there was no such thing as "French Merovingians". The Merovingians were Francs, i.e. an ethnically Germanic elite that ruled the Romanic population of Gaul. "French" in a linguistic/ethnic sense only emerged in the 10th century. (2) Merovingian gold is more common than Anglo-Saxon and Frisian gold, but overall Merovingian gold coins are very rare and gold was much scarcer in Merovingian Gaul compared to Roman Gaul. (3) the Merovingian monetary system was not based on gold while the Anglo-Saxon/Frisian systems were based on silver. Merovingian gold disappeared around the end of the 7th century, at the same time as Anglo-Saxon and Frisian gold disappeared when silver deniers and sceattas took over.
  13. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    Here is my Frisian triens of the Dronrijp type:

    Screenshot 2022-05-11 at 19.18.14.png

    The legends are completely blundered, with the reverse legend consisting mostly of Latin A, M and O.
    Hrefn, Johndakerftw, Struck7 and 5 others like this.
  14. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    This is another Frisian triens of the Dorestad type from my collection (moneyer MADELINVS)

    Screenshot 2022-05-11 at 19.21.31.png
    Hrefn, Johndakerftw, Struck7 and 5 others like this.
  15. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    This is another Frisian triens from Maastricht (Moneyer THRASAMVND")

    This coin is much much rarer (I think only 2 known) than the Dronrijp and Dorestad trientes above. The coin was found in UK and I bought it straight from the metal detectorist.

    Screenshot 2022-05-11 at 19.23.35.png
    Last edited: May 11, 2022
    Hrefn, Johndakerftw, Struck7 and 5 others like this.
  16. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    This is another Frisian Triens, which pre-dates the other Trientes above. It dates to around AD 600 and is believed to be one of the earliest Frisian coins, according to Arent Pol, who examined the coin in person.

    Screenshot 2022-05-11 at 19.25.18.png
    Hrefn, Johndakerftw, Struck7 and 5 others like this.
  17. differential

    differential Active Member

  18. differential

    differential Active Member

    Thanks for the well-written and engaging article. And what an added plus to have a photo of the shining gold coin as it is unearthed. I think I'm going to do some reading up on this era of history. Great to have a singular coin like this in one's collection, especially a coin with such an interesting history.
  19. Roerbakmix

    Roerbakmix Well-Known Member

    Thank you all for the positive replies!

    I must admit some hesitation. But, my collecting 'philosophy' is pragmatic: I started with 100€, and since then, all my coins were bought by selling with profit. In fact, my net balance is still positive :)

    Thank you @Orielensis.

    It certainly is (both the fascination and the high expenses), but though I obviously can't prove it, I believe these little coins will retain their value. It's sad indeed how little can be stated with certainty on the Friezes.

    You're obviously right. Upon closer inspection, mistook the A (at 5 'o clock) for a runic letter, which it isn't.

    Not at all (the nitpicking). I don't mind being corrected, and you obviously know more about the topic than I do. I planned to write a more sound article, but couldn't find the time to do so, and thus compiled all snippets of information I remembered into one post.

    Also, @Tejas, your tremisses are absolutely stunning. I thought @Nap and I were the only here with a special interest in early medieval coinage. I have a couple of questions though, especially on the THRASAMVND tremissis:
    1) I think I can read TR.IECTOFIT on the obverse, and NRAS(rotated)EMVNP? on the reverse; is that correct?
    2) I couldn't find any information on this type, and didn't know about it beforehand. Do you have any documentation or links for further reading?
    3) The coin is attributed to Maastricht (I guess because of the TR.IECTO FIT?). Doesn't this make it a Merovingian coin, instead of Frisian?
    4) Also, historically, there has been some doubt whether or not the TRIECTO (e.g. those of Madelinus or Rimoaldus) refers to Maastricht or Utrecht.

    Wonderful toning also on the Madelinvs! I believe it's a Pseudo-Madelinus, i.e. a (probably Frisian) imitation of the DORESTATVS.

    Finally, could you give some background on the last coin?

    I wish Arent Pol would publish his findings in some form ...
  20. Roerbakmix

    Roerbakmix Well-Known Member

    I thought I'd recognized your coin. A similar example was found recently and posted on a metal detecting forum where I'm moderator:
  21. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    Yes, your reading is correct. You can find more information about this very coin here:

    (99+) A Rare Coin of Thrasemundus of Maastricht | Dirk Faltin - Academia.edu

    True, but I thought I throw it in because of the close proximity.

    Again, true. Based on the Latin name, Utrecht is another possibility. However, a number of Merovingian monneyers worked at Maastricht and Thrasamundus was likely one of them.

    Yes, this is also Arent Pol's opinion.

    I bought the coin as an unidentified imitation. It was again, Arent Pol who suggested to me that it is a Frisian imitation. He also gave me an article which supported that attribution. I shall try to locate the article.

    I also wish Arent Pol would publish his findings. He visited me once to study and measure my coins.
    +VGO.DVCKS and Spaniard like this.
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