Featured Medieval Cut Pennies

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by FitzNigel, Jul 31, 2015.

  1. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist

    I recognize cut Pennies (or technically half pence or farthings in England) are not the most desired coins since they are technically mutilated, but I have found them fascinating since this was a practical method of making change in the middle ages, particularly when there was only one circulating coin (such as the penny in England).

    In England, the practice of cutting pennies even led to changes in coin designs to help ease the creation of small change (and also to prevent the practice of clipping coins). Since the introduction of Christianity to England, Crosses were a common motif on the reverse of pennies, and they became the major element of design on the reverse after the Norman conquest (excepting the name of the mint and moneyer where the coin was produced, and a few other irregular issues). During the reign of Henry II (r. 1154-1189), a new coinage was established to replace the many irregular pennies produced during the "anarchy"/civil war that occurred during the previous reign of Stephen (who was battling Henry's mother Maud / the Empress). The cross provided a convenient guide for cutting pennies in half, or in fourths to create farthings. Henry would produce a new type of coinage later in his reign which would feature a voided cross on the back, providing an even clearer guide of where to cut the coin. These 'Short Cross' pennies continued unchanged (even the obverse) through the reigns of his sons Richard and John.

    Kingdom of England
    Richard I (r. 1189-99)
    AR Short Cross Penny 18mm x 1.3grams
    Seaby 1347
    Moneyer - Ricard; Mint - London

    Kingdom of England
    Richard I (r. 1189-119) or John (r. 1199-1216)
    Cut AR Short Cross Penny
    15mm. x 0.7 grams
    Seaby 1350 to 52, or 1355
    Moneyer - Samuel; Mint - Canterbury
    John Cut.jpg

    The short cross coins would continue for many years into Henry III's reign (r. 1216-72) until they would be replaced by the 'Long Cross' coinage (begun in 1247). Long cross coins continued the voided cross all the way to the edge of the coin, again providing that clear guide for cutting, but also as an attempt to prevent clipping and having the full correct weight of silver in the coins.

    Kingdom of England
    Henry III (r. 1216-72)
    AR Long Cross Penny (Class 3b, Phase II - 1248-50)
    16mm. x 1.5 grams
    Seaby 1363
    Moneyer - Nicole ; Mint - London

    Kingdom of England
    Henry III (r. 1216-72)
    Cut AR Long Cross Penny (Phase II - 1248-50)
    16mm x 0.7 grams
    (Seaby 1362?)
    Moneyer - Nicole ; Mint - London
    HIII Cut.jpg

    Coins with a cross on the reverse reaching the edge of the coin became a regular feature of English coinage for many years after this development, even after more denominations were being minted, and there was no longer a need to cut coins to make change (although the practice may still have happened considering this was a time when the value of the coin was in the metal content...). First, Henry's successor would continue the practice of Long Cross coinage, but change the design in what we call the 'New Coinage':

    Kingdom of England
    Edward I (r. 1272-1307)
    AR Penny, New Coinage
    18mm x 1.3 grams
    Seaby - 1397
    City of London

    And to show how the design continued on English coins even after new denominations were minted, here is a threepence of Elizabeth I (which is roughly the same size of these earlier pennies, and I know, not the prettiest of coins...):

    Kingdom of England
    Elizabeth I (r. 1558-1603)
    AR Threepence (Fifth Issue)
    16.5mm x 1.1 grams
    Seaby 2573

    If anyone has any cut coins, particularly farthings, I would love to see them! I'm hoping posting this int he Ancient section might attract more people who collect medieval coins than in the modern section (us medievalists always feel "in the middle"...)
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  3. stevex6

    stevex6 Random Mayhem

    cool coins, Fitz ... sadly, I don't have any cut coins (*sigh*)

    Ummm, I do know that a couple of folks have some sweet croc coins that have been sliced-n-diced

    Again, those are cool OP-coins (congrats)

    Last edited: Jul 31, 2015
    FitzNigel likes this.
  4. Jwt708

    Jwt708 Well-Known Member

    I don't have medieval coins period. I really enjoyed your post and your coins though.
    FitzNigel likes this.
  5. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    FitzNigel likes this.
  6. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist

    Thanks guys - the cut pennies were some of my earliest purchases, primarily because of cost. I still like them though!
  7. tobiask

    tobiask Well-Known Member

    Great coins..and thanks for the history.
    i just started my medieval coins a few days ago when I purchased this at a quiet low price... will look into cuts soon. Screenshot_2015-07-31-17-36-25-1.png Screenshot_2015-07-31-18-06-23-1.png
    Deacon Ray, Theodosius, Eng and 7 others like this.
  8. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    I have two medieval coins and one of which has not been identified:

    FRANCE, FEUDAL, Valence, Bishops of Valence.jpg
    FRANCE, FEUDAL, Valence, Bishops of Valence and Die,
    OBVERSE: Stylized angel facing, +VRBS VALENTIAI
    REVERSE: Cross annulet in fourth quadrant, +S APOLLI NARS
    Struck at Valence, FR, 1157-1276
    1.18g, 19mm
    Boudeau 1021


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  9. Ancientnoob

    Ancientnoob Money Changer

    I have quite a few medieval coins, but none are farthings, a few are European but none are clipped in this fashion. I do have a Persian coin that would fit the bill, although this king is technically ancient. Ah well...

    Shapur II (AD 309-379)
    Uncertain Mint- Kabul?
    AR Drachm 20 mm x 3.49 grams
    Obverse: Bust of Shapur II right.
    Reverse: Zoroastrian Fire Altar with the flaming head of Ahura Mazda in flames, flanked by to attendants.
    Note: Clipped. Only inside diameter remains.

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  10. chrsmat71

    chrsmat71 I LIKE TURTLES!

    excellent post FN! i knew that did this type of thing with some ancient coins to make change (some members have some halves...i don't), i didn't know they did that with these coins...very interesting.
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  11. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist

    Thanks chrsmat! They pretty much had to do this, as the penny was their only coin. When the Romans pulled out of Britain in the 400s, a monied economy essentially left with them. Coins were certainly still made, but not widely used, so the penny was all that was needed even though there would be some experimentation in making smaller denominations. The monied economy began to be revived during the reign of Henry II (as it did for most of Western Europe), and with the growth of the merchant classes in the 13th century, it became necessary to start minting larger denominations to ease long distance trade. Hence, during Edward's reign they started minting Groats, or 4pence coins. That is also the time they would begin minting half pennies and farthings as a part of the 'New Coinage.'

    During the reign of Edward III (r. 1327-77), gold coins were introduced as a means to create larger denominations to more easily facilitate trade (a silver groat was still 4 times the weight of a penny, so merchants wanting larger, but lighter denominations received a larger coin, but not a lighter coin - the more precious metal of gold would allow for carrying less weight but more money). Here is what I find strange abou these gold coins: while England only had the penny for centuries, they had accounting terms for larger denominations. The receipts of the exchequer (called the Pipe Rolls) universally use pence (denoting 'd' after Denari), shillings (originally 20d., but shifted to 12d. Sometime in the 8th or 9th century (I think...)), pounds (£, one pound of silver, or 240d. Or 20s.), and marcs (2/3 of a pound, or 13s. 4d.). The larger gold coins don't reflect any of the accounting terms! So here is what is floating around England in the 13th century:

    £1 - accounting term only; 20s.
    Marc - accounting term only; 2/3 of a pound
    Noble - gold coin; 6s. 8d., or half a marc
    Double Florin/Leopard - gold coin; 6s.
    Half-noble - gold 3s. 4d.
    Florin - Gold 3s.
    Quarter-noble - gold 1s. 8d.
    Half-florin - Gold 1s. 6d.
    Shilling - accounting term only; 12d.
    Groat - silver 4d.
    Halfgroat - silver 2d.
    Penny - 1d.
    Halfpenny - 1/2d.
    Farthing - 1/4d

    So during the course of three monarchs, the coinage explodes from 1 to 11, and they don't mint any coins that they have been using for accounting for centuries!

    Sorry for the long post with no pictures - unfortunately I don't have any of these coins to show what they look like!
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  12. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    Interesting history lesson.
  13. KIWITI

    KIWITI Well-Known Member

    Well, since I don´t have any medieval "half-coin" Here´s my roman:


    It was struck in Colonia Augusta Emerita (Mérida, Spain) -a colony of veterans- by the «Legatus Augusti» Publius Carisius in 25-23 BC.
    Full coin should be:
    Obv.: TRIB(unicia) POTEST(ate) CAESAR AVGVSTVS, bare head right /Rev.: P(ublius) CARISIVS LEG(atus) AVGVSTI in three lines.

    Same thing as in medieval times, many things to pay, little small change to trade.
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2015
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  14. chrsmat71

    chrsmat71 I LIKE TURTLES!

    well, shortly after this thread came out i had a bit o' cash in my paypal account and picked this up....


    Edward I (1272-1307), Penny
    o:+EDWR ANGL DNS HYB, r: CIVITAS LONDON, S 1383, London mint, 20 mm, 1.5g
  15. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    Very nice Chris.
  16. Aidan_()

    Aidan_() Numismatic Contributor

    Nice light toning on that one Chris.
  17. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist

    Very nice Chris!
  18. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Well-Known Member

    Nice and interesting.
    Since I collect british coins (I've been doing so for two years now), a medieval penny would pretty fit in my trays. Not found (bought) anz yet though.

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  19. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist

    They are fun, and I find them to be the most accessible medieval coins. The coins if Henry III and Edward I are probably the most prolific (I actually found an Edward I penny in my local dealer's bargain bin for $5 recently... Wasn't in pretty shape though, and certainly not as nice as Chris's)
  20. HammeredCoin

    HammeredCoin Active Member

    Hey everyone! I am new to the forum but this thread is just up my alley!

    The practice of cutting pennies was a long standing tradition in England dating all the way back to the mid twelfth century with what we refer to as the "voided short cross" coins minted under Henry II reign starting in 1180. The cross size was than expanded to a "voided long cross" under Henry III in 1247 to try to limit the clipping that was occurring.

    The "voids" in the cross on the reverse of the coin was meant as a guide for the mint to cut the penny in halves and even quarters. This was supposed to be done only at the mint to produce smaller denominations without having to strike a completely different set of coins. During this period in England, a penny was roughly a full day's pay for a typical farmer/work hand, thus the need for smaller denominations.

    The first complete coins struck as smaller denominations was done in 1279 by Edward I. Half pennies and "farthings" (1/4 penny) were struck at this time and in much smaller quantities than pennies because of the costs were much greater.

    Below I have included a few pictures of an Edward I farthing minted in 1279 in London under Edward I.

    Anyone else a collector??
    image.jpg image.jpg
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  21. HammeredCoin

    HammeredCoin Active Member

    And for perspective here is the farthing compared to a penny.
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