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Silver pennies sell for high prices

Over the past 30 years, British Collector Allan Williams amassed a collection of nearly 900 high-quality Anglo-Saxon, Viking and Norman silver pennies and halfpennies. That collection has now returned to the market.

As part of its late March sale, Spink selected 100 high-quality, historically important and rare numismatic treasures from the collection. These were offered in a single catalog on the afternoon of March 27.

The results speak for themselves. The majority sold for well above upper estimate, with 38 lots realizing over $10,000. Three made in excess of $50,000.

Star of the Show: unique East Anglian penny of Aethelstan I showing a ship obverse after the style of some contemporary Frankish deniers (S-0952A). In VF, it sold for $80,640 in Spink’s sale of the Williams’ collection in March. (Images courtesy and © Spink, London)

Top price of $80,640 [£57,600] went to a unique 1.40 g ship-type silver penny struck by Eadgar for Aethelstan I, King of East Anglia, c.825-845 C.E. (S-0952A). The coin came graded VF with an estimate of £15,000-£20,000.

This is only the second penny of Aethelstan known with a ship obverse. The first was found bent and broken in half in an attempt to flatten it. The ship design is believed to be derived from that found on deniers of Charlemagne and also those his son Louis the Pious, especially the latter. It is probable that production occurred early in Aethelstan’s reign.

“Portrait type” penny of Aethelstan I (S-0949) that took $53,760 in EF. (Images courtesy and © Spink, London)

A second rare Aethelstan penny took $53,760 [£38,400]. This was a 1.3 g portrait-type also struck by Eadgar (S-0949). Its provenance dates back to 1828. Among other previous owners, it had once been part of the Norweb collection. It was last sold by Stack’s in 1994. Graded EF, it had carried an £8,000-£10,000 estimate.

An issue of Ludica King of Mercia, 825-827 C.E., picked up $50,400 [£36,000] in VF. The 1.19 g coin had been struck at the East Anglian mint by Werbald (S-0931) and came described as “of the highest rarity.” It was found in Norfolk in June 1994 and sold by Spink the same year to Williams.

Extremely rare light coinage penny of Cynethrith, wife of Offa of Mercia (S-0909), made an easy $28,560 or double estimate in gVF. (Images courtesy and © Spink, London)

Other coins, notable not so much for their prices realized as for their place in history, included a rare and delightful issue struck for Cynethrith, wife of King Offa of Mercia (S-0909). The coin is from the light coinage of Mercia, weighing just 0.63 g. It was found in Essex in 1991 and, once again, ended up being sold by Spink into the Williams’ collection. In gVF, it took $28,560 [£20,400] on a £8,000-£10,000 estimate.

Cynethrith’s husband did rather well in his own right with a 1.26 g penny struck at London (S-0905). It made $26,880 [£19,200] in EF. This type is extremely rare, with this example turning up in a North Yorkshire hoard in 1992.

The issues of sundry Archbishops of Canterbury were also to the fore. Among them, a 1.34 g penny of Wulfred (805-832) found in Buckinghamshire in 1987 (S-0887) made $30,240 [£21,600] in EF.

Rare King Alfred penny struck in London c.886-888 showing a refined portrait combined with the London monogram on the reverse. In EF, it realized $35,280. (Images courtesy and © Spink, London)

And no sale of English silver pennies would be complete without at least one example from King Alfred of Wessex, a.k.a. Alfred The Great. There were several in this sale, with Lot 56 a delight: a 1.56 g portrait type bearing the London monogram on the reverse (S-1062). To quote Dolley and Blunt, 1961, “The obvious historical occasion for this noble coinage would have been Alfred’s military occupation of London in 886, a conscious turning point in English history, and certainly this date is far from being inconsistent with the numismatic evidence.”

Very rare and in EF, the coin romped away to score a most satisfactory $35,280 [£25,200] on an £8,000-10,000 estimate.

A premium of 20 percent has been included in all prices shown. These have been converted at a rate of 1GBP = 1.40USD.

Full catalog details and prices realized are available from www.spink.com.


This article was originally printed in World Coin News. >> Subscribe today.


More Collecting Resources

• The Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1601-1700 is your guide to images, prices and information on coins from so long ago.

• More than 600 issuing locations are represented in the Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1701-1800 .

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