Featured Medieval - A Viking Imitation

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by FitzNigel, Jul 18, 2020.

  1. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist

    I’m rather excited by my recent acquisition, as I have been searching for a Scandinavian imitation of an English penny for some time now:

    Med-10-S-1000-English Imitation-D-XX.jpg Scandinavia (?)
    English Imitation, 11th c.
    AR Penny, 17.53 mm x 1.7 grams
    Obv.: Bust right, scepter right, imitating Æthelred II ‘Crux’ type
    Rev.: Short cross pattée, imitating Æthelred II Short Cross type

    This particular coin is somewhat enigmatic, which actually adds to the appeal to me. Unfortunately it’s find spot is now a mystery, but it is not unreasonable to assume this is a Scandinavian issue, as so many early Scandinavian coins imitated English types. Exactly which English type this imitates is also strange. The Obverse appears to be from the ‘CRVX’ type of Æthelred II:

    Æthelred II Crux type. CNG Auction 105, lot 1197. NOT MY COIN

    Obviously the clear difference here is that the bust is facing the wrong direction. Considering the crudeness of the portrait, I think it would be reasonable to assume this was a first time die engraver attempting to copy a penny, and he neglected to consider that the image would come out in reverse. Unfortunately the lettering is a complete blunder, and gives no help. Of what is not damaged, there seems to be ND:HDX (second ‘D’ retrograde), which is tempting to read a portion of as ‘REX’ with the clear ‘X,’ but that is wishful thinking. However, the reverse looks nothing like the crux penny, but like one of Æthelred’s short cross pennies

    Æthelred II Small Cross type. CNG Auction 99, lot 1221. NOT MY COIN

    Even then, it’s hard to say that this is an actual copy due to the blundered legends. As best I can make out (starting at 11): SIIE(retrograde)IOIIV. The rest is obscured by the damage to the coin. At least there is a nice peck mark as well, which would indicate use by the Vikings (which I discussed in this other thread).

    That the obverse is an imitation of a crux penny seems pretty obvious due to the trefoil scepter. Was our engraver/counterfeiter then using the reverse of a small cross penny as his guide to the reverse, or did he simply get lazy and put a cross on it? I have no clue, but it did get me wondering what other issues had similar copies of the obverse type. Looking around, there is a surprising candidate that might have been the original this coin copies.

    Swein Forkbeard, Danish Issue. CNG Triton XX, lot 1174. NOT MY COIN

    Swein Forkbeard, the Danish conquerer of England in 1016 (whose son Cnut would be crowned king) issue a short-lived mule of the Æthelred crux type with the small cross type using dies which had been plundered from England. So could my coin be an imitation of this Danish mule itself, rather than the two separate English coins? I have no idea, and I doubt we ever would. At the very least, it is a testament to the Scandinavian attempts to experiment with producing coins, or an individual’s attempts at counterfeiting (which itself shows the coin had value beyond the metal it contains).

    Feel free to pile on with any Anglo-Saxon or Scandinavian coins you like!
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2020
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  3. Roerbakmix

    Roerbakmix Well-Known Member

    I've sold this one, but kept the photo's:
    DENMARK. Knud II den Store (the Great). 1019-1035. AR Penny (20mm, 1.66 g, 8h). Last small cross type. Southern mint. Struck circa 1010-1020. + CNVT REX DÆNOR :, diademed bust left / Small cross pattée, garbled legend around. Malmer chain 158, dies 639/1832; cf. Hauberg 2 (Lund); Hede –. A few pecks, crimped. VF. Very rare.

    and this one:
    ANGLO-SAXON, Kings of All England. Æthelred II. 978-1016. AR Penny (21mm, 1.41 g, 3h). Last Small Cross type (BMC i, Hild. A). York mint; Sumerleth, moneyer. Struck circa 1009-1016. Diademed and draped bust left / + (retrograde Z)VMRLEÐ • Λ • M - O EOFR •, small cross pattée. Cf. SCBI 29 (Merseyside), 591 (for obv; same die); North 777; SCBC 1154. Toned, peck marks on reverse. Near VF.

    ... and finally, I kept this one:
    ANGLO-SAXON, Æthelred II.
    AR Penny, minted: England, Winchester, Moneyer: Ælfsige; 978-1017
    Obverse: +AEDELRAED REX ANGL. Head of Aethelred II, draped, to the left.
    Reverse: +AELFSIGE MO PINT. Voided Long cross without inner circle.
    Weight: 1.74g; Ø:19mm. Catalogue: Spink 1151. Provenance: Ex private collection; acq.: 05-2019

    It's an interesting period; looking back, I regret selling the second one (which sold at ~$200), but the $1900 of the first one was a huge impulse for my collection.

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    All I have are a couple of fractional neo-AEthelreds, already on another post here, somewhere, which are attributed, with reasonable confidence, to Sweden, c. 11th century.
    ...But you can get Into the Weeds with this stuff! The AEthelred imitations show up from one side of the Viking world to the other, starting from Dublin. And some of the earliest Dublin issues are deceptively close copies, yes, including the legends. I think the suspicion goes back to Michael Dolley that, in some cases, including 10th century coinages in the Danelaw and York, Ango-Saxon engravers were 'recruited' ...by whatever means. In effect, the levels of degeneration and blundering involved inhabit a spectrum as much as a more discrete sequence. Makes you miss the likes of Grierson and Blackburn.
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    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    ...Granted, all of what I just said was effectively implicit in your initial post.
    FitzNigel likes this.

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Great stuff, too! I love it that the moneyer of your York example is a namesake of the late /transitional Viking Age 'King /Lord of the Isles,' Somerled.
    When I was actively collecting AEthelred II, combinations of York or Danelaw mints and Scandinavian moneyers' names were always a major selling point. Here are two, with Swartgar on York and Dreng on Lincoln. ...It's a little odd that the one from Lincoln would have so many peck marks ...Maybe the first-generation Danes didn't have that high an opinion of some of their naturalized cousins.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jul 18, 2020

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    ...Incidentally, Fantastic coin! To wallow in the obvious (never stopped me before), your example is distinctly anomolous even for the 'canon,' such as it is at this point, of Viking imitations.
    ...Back to Hiberno-Norse imitations, here's one that an American numismatist speculated might be early Hiberno-Norse, based on slight legend variants, which might be interpreted as blundering. I think in that instance, he was proceeding primarily from Moesgaard, although it would take checking to confirm where (possibly an article I never actually saw ...it's been a while; should look it up).
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  8. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist

    @Roerbakmix - there’s still a part of me that’s saddened that you sold the Cnut, but I understand how nice that type of infusion of cash can be! I’m surprised the Æthelred went for so little.

    @+VGO.DVCKS - neat collecting focus! What took you away from it? Am I to assume it was Coins from Burgandy?
    +VGO.DVCKS likes this.

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    FitzNigel, Thanks for that!
    Regarding shifts in yours truly's collecting focus, really, it was always about the money. Up until just lately, I could only afford late Anglo-Saxon, on average, once a year. For that, and English hammered generally, I had to be content with relatively minimal representation, whether of any given reign, or within reigns that I was most interested in.
    ...Budgets (along with other logistics) have a way of effectively dictating not only what you collect, but how. To look at how I go about it, most saliently on ebay, you might think I'm a 'magpie,' to resort to Lord Morcovan's memorable self-characterization. But there's method in the madness. Within the medieval period, I'm kind of eclectic by design. ...The rest of the story belongs in a separate post.
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2020
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  10. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist

    Understood - I started with a desire to focus on England and Anglo-Gallic, but essentially have been priced out. Although I sometimes look at what I pay on some of this other stuff and then realize I could have gotten an English coin...

    oh well. All in due time.
    +VGO.DVCKS likes this.
  11. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    On every point you raised, it's like, 'Teacher, I Raise My Hand.'
    ...Meanwhile, with your indulgence, the apparent (in both senses) eclecticism with which I collect has to do with what would represent, in a saner world than we live in, an entirely arbitrary set of criteria.
    On my dad's, relentlessly New England side of the family, there's solidly documented, linear descent from Thomas of Brotherton, one of Edward I's conspicuously underachieving children, from his second, record-breakingly cradle-robbing marriage to Marguerite Capet, a daughter of Philippe III.
    What finding this out this eventuated in, following a few decades of lively interest in the period, was a radical shift in the collecting. Genealogy per se only amplifies what you already get from (thank you, reasonably responsible, academic) history. Especially since, among these people, marriages were that much about diplomacy.
    Except that the diplomacy involved was both international and, relative to any given polity, internal. So on one hand, over three or four generations, you can get an interval from Byzantine Comneni, to German Hohenstaufen, to 13th-c. dukes of Brabant, to Capetians, to late Angevins. But on the other, you get Mountains of distinctly aristocratic descent, conspicuously Anglo-Norman, French, Low Countries and German.
    What that does, in turn, is to blow the lid off of collecting earlier feudal issues, starting, as they did (but, only), with France.
    I, for one, always found the aristocracy of livelier interest than the royals. Part of it had to be about the challenge of finding any amount of documentation, primary or secondary, about any of them. But I Promise you, if you get a coin which is issued by a count or seigneur in his own name, and the polity concerned is on the kind of geographic scale that makes it look insignificant on a map, and whoever this was also gets a surprising number of references in primary sources (whether chronicles or, in one instance, the Bayeux Tapestry), you have got yourself the Perfect Triangulation.
    ...Duly Busted. I need to post some of this.
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2020
  12. TheRed

    TheRed Well-Known Member

    Congrats on the Scandinavian imitation @FitzNigel the coin is really attractive. And to think that it may be an imitation of an imitation of an Anglo-Saxon penny adds to theappeal in my opinion.
    FitzNigel likes this.
  13. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist

    there’s loads out there than at first glance. There have been some impressive work done with diplomatics finding new connections, and I think prosopography For the Middle Ages has really expanded in the last 20 years

    thanks as always @TheRed! An imitation of Swein Forkbeard is probably wishful thinking more than anything. The coin is an enigma. But, I think for those of us who enjoy the Middle Ages, we need to be comfortable with a certain amount of ambiguity...
    +VGO.DVCKS likes this.
  14. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander find me at NumisForums

    Another neat acquisition, @FitzNigel! The potential link to Forkbeard is very cool.

    Here's a Dublin issue Sihtric III Olafsson (Silkbeard) (995-1036), based on Aethelred's long cross design:
    Screen Shot 2020-07-18 at 8.16.21 PM.jpg
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  15. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    All emphatically true! But across the board, there's that much catching up for ...someone to do. ...In any language, let alone the only one I can read!
  16. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Just, stopping to breathe, Brilliant. Congratulations! Most of what I've ever seen for sale, especially online, is c. 1040s or later.
  17. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    ...YOW! For any of this, in print, all I have are an old (and iconic) BM monograph of Michael Dolley, and the 2003 Spink Scotland, Ireland and the Islands. But the website for Irish Coinage.com further notes the scarcity of examples with blundered legends. http://www.irishcoinage.com/J00092.HTM
  18. Roerbakmix

    Roerbakmix Well-Known Member

    I feel the same. At this point in my collection, I would not have sold it. However, I wouldn't have been at this point in my collection if I hadn't sold it ...

    In the meantime, since I sold it, I've bought 14 sceatta's (among many other coins):
    WhatsApp Image 2020-06-03 at 17.38.23.jpeg
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2020
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  19. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander find me at NumisForums

    Yes, mine is a phase II (moneyer: NDREMIN). The legends are quite well engraved, though at the level of the one you linked. Besides the four dots on the reverse, note the dot behind the head on the obverse... this was copied from a die flaw on a phase I coin. :D
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  20. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    To the worthily esteemed Mr. Calloway, Thanks Loads for the elucidation. What could you cite, in print or online? (...Granted, if it was in print, I'd run the risk of being scared off by the price tag.)
    ...Dispensing with diplomatic niceties that might otherwise be in effect only because I finally looked at the link you sign off with. From your old website, we corresponded (and I hope I bought something), going back however many years.
    Your new website was already bookmarked. ...But most memorably, you were discussing at least one major hoard of barbarous imitations of the Constantine "GLORIA EXERCITVS" type. You had them narrowed down to one Germanic tribe (Rugians???) who were just east of the Rhine from the Imperial border.
    ...How much of that am I misremembering? ...Right, and you were writing a study of them. ...This calls for a closer look at your current website.
  21. Egry

    Egry Well-Known Member

    I find early Anglo Saxon and ‘Viking’ coins so interesting. This is the latest addition to my collection, I’ve been waiting the last two weeks for it and it just happened to show up today.

    35A23761-E6FA-4EE5-9762-8BB7BE1955BE.jpeg 4382D9CD-95D0-4774-BDE4-FD9033CF4E2F.jpeg

    Vikings of Northumbria, Kingdom of York
    Cnut, Viking King of York circa 898-915 AD, Silver Penny, ‘CVNNETTI’ Type with patriarchal cross, struck at York Mint circa 900-905 AD. Obverse: Inverted patriarchal cross, “C N V T” at end of limbs, “R E X” in angles, “CNVT REX” (“King Cnut”). Reverse: Small cross pattée with two opposing pellets within small beaded border, legend around, “+ CVN + ETT ·:· TI :”. S.993; N.501. Exceptional example for a scarcer type, very minor weakness in parts.

    I’m finding coins for these early Kings are becoming harder to come by, however I might not be looking in the right places. It is so cool to see the integration of Danish, Saxon, and Roman cultures collide in this coinage.
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