Phase I -
Contemporary Copies of English Anglo Saxon Pennies
The earliest coinage of
Ireland comprises an issue of silver pennies under
the authority of Sithric III (aka Sithric Silkbeard)
king of Dublin. These pennies follow the style of
the contemporary pennies of Aethelred II of England.
The Irish coins are made of good silver and are
usually signed in Sithric's name and by a Dublin
Moneyer so this is not an attempt at forgery but
instead it is a pragmatic approach to produce coins
with designs that would be widely acceptable.
coinage consisted almost exclusively of silver
pennies struck in as many as 97 borough mints in
Anglo Saxon England. As a means of controlling the
activities of the mints the policy was to change the
design of the coinage every six years.
The Irish mint began its
operation sometime during the CRUX issue of
The CRUX issue
Hiberno Norse - Phase I - Crux penny
issue was produce in England between about 996 and
1001 AD. The Irish mint began operation during this
period - probably about 997 AD. The coins were
issued in Sithric's name and signed by several
Dublin Moneyers. Coins also occur with Aethelred
signatures on the obverse but with Dublin moneyers
on the reverse and similarly with English moneyers
coupled with Sithric obverses.
possibility which is an Irish coin but with both
sides containing directly copied 'English'
signatures is possible, but such coins would be
difficult to distinguish from 'real' English
pennies. (They could be identified by several means,
but the problem is that unless they are found in a
context which suggests that they are Irish they
would be identified as English and would not get the
scrutiny they need to be identified as Irish).
CRUX pennies are well struck on large flans and
usually occur in Very Fine or better condition. They
coins are quite scarce and as they are generally
considered to be the first coins struck in Ireland
the are quite sough after.
pennies were also copied widely in Scandinavia and
many examples which previously considered to be
Irish are now ascribed to Scandinavian production.
There was a considerable trade between Ireland and
Scandinavia at the time and many Irish coins have
occurred in Scandinavian hoards as indeed have
Scandinavian examples occurred in Irish finds.
The Long Cross Issue
Hiberno Norse Phase I Penny - Long Cross
issue of Aethelred following the CRUX issue was the
'Long Cross' issue. The Irish mint probably adopted
the new design within a few months of its appearing
in England. The English issue was issued between
1002 AD and 1008 AD - the Irish mint was probably
active for most of this period and produced more
coins of this type than any other Phase I issue.
The are more
Irish moneyers involved in the issue and there is a
similar series of coins with either 'English'
signatures or 'English' moneyers to the CRUX issue.
Phase I Hiberno Norse coins are scarce but Generally
more available than any other Phase I coins. They
also occur in generally better condition than later
Cross coinage was even more widely copied in
Scandinavia and elsewhere so many blundered versions
exist. The design was used in many areas even after
Aethelred's death in 1016 AD - the next two phases
of Irish Hiberno Norse coinage revert to this design
instead of continuing the practice of copying the
contemporary English designs. (see Phase II and III)
Hiberno Norse - Phase I - Long Cross - Thymn
It is during
the Long Cross issue that two unusual Phase I
Hiberno Norse Coins occur. These coins are struck
from well executed dies and have characteristics
similar to those of the Long Cross issue of Sithric
except that they are issued in the names of Thymn
and Ogsen. The issuers are unknown to history other
than from their coins. There has been some
speculation about their origin and in the cased of
the Thymn coins speculation that they were struck
outside Dublin. Thymn's coins are rare, Ogsen's are
issue of Aethelred followed his Long Cross issue -
In Dublin these coins were also copied in Sithric's
name, but the issue was probably much smaller as the
coins are extremely rare.
Small Cross Issue
Hiberno Norse - Phase I - Small Cross
final issue of pennies was of the small cross type -
in England this type was a reversion to an earlier
type which can give rise to some confusion in the
English series, but the Hiberno Norse issue clearly
did not begin until the Crux issue so the Hiberno
Norse small cross coins can be ascribed to the
period of Aethelred's last small cross issue. These
coins are also scarcer than the Long Cross Type
indicating that the minting operations in Dublin
were in decline.
Quatrefoil Issue (Cnut)
died in 1016 AD and was succeeded by Cnut (son of
Sven Forkbeard King of Denmark). Cnut's first issue
of coins featured a quatrefoil on both sides. The
Dublin mint was operating early in this issue and
still copying the contemporary English style, but
the coins in imitation of this type are even scarcer
than those of Aethelred's Helmet type. The
succeeding issue of Cnut (Helmet type) is not
represented by any surviving Hiberno Norse Coins and
it is likely that the quatrefoil issue saw the end
of this first phase of Hiberno Norse coins in about
1018 AD. (JSL - The recently discovered Anlaf
coin makes this statement untrue - see below).
Helmet Issue (Cnut)
died in 1029 and was succeeded by his son Anlaf
There is a
recently discovered coin of very good quality that
is in the style of Cnut's Pointed Helmet issue that
carries the name Anlaf and does appear to be a late
phase I coin. There are a couple of problems
with this coin, specifically that it is very late
given no surviving pieces of Cnut's other types in
Sithric's name and that it appears to clash with the
generally accepted dates for the second phase of
this coinage. So this coin seems to suggest that
there was a fairly significant gap between the Phase
I issue and the Phase II issue. Presumably
there is a possibility of other Cnut styles being
discovered with Sithric's name (or even further
pieces with Anlaf's name). There has been a
suggestion (from the late Mark Blackburn) that some
of the Hiberno Norse coins of the later types were
made in Anglo Saxon mints for the Dublin authorities
and that would be potentially a way of explaining
how the later Phase I pieces are from such well
executed dies. It may even be that the Anlaf
piece is from some very small 'prestige' issue which
was executed (perhaps in Chester) while the normal
output of the Dublin mint was in Phase II and in the
now deceased Sithric's name.
Phase II -
Later Long Cross Penny Imitations
Norse Penny - Early Phase II
end of minting of coins in direct imitation of the
contemporary English issue - the mint in Dublin
appears to have reverted to minting coins in
imitation of the Long Cross issue of Aethelred II in
Cross type was originally issue between about 1002
and 1008 AD. However this type appears to have been
particularly popular and perhaps because of a change
in the prevailing patterns of trade following the
battle of Clontarf (1014 AD) or for other reasons
the mint in Dublin found it more useful to produce
coins of this older style than to continue following
the frequent changes in the English coinage.
phase of Hiberno Norse coins and the following one
comprise coins which are basically of the Long Cross
type. The early phase two coins have a pellet in
each quarter of the reverse and are well executed
coins with good legible legends. The issue gradually
degrades and the legends become less intelligible
and the quality of the silver is clearly reduced.
The final coins of the second phase have legends
which are made up of symbols which have only the
appearance of lettering and often contain additional
symbols. The symbol of the human hand appears on
some later coins.
Phase III -
Long Cross and Hands issues
Hiberno Norse Phase III - hands and pellets
By about 1035 AD the
coinage minted in Dublin had degraded to a point
where it is likely that it was only being produced
for internal use within Ireland as it had fallen
below the standards used in any neighbouring
regions. The coins are smaller and of poorer
silver, they have legends made up of strokes and
symbols rather than lettering, the symbol of the
human hand appears on many coins in one or more
commonly two quarters of the reverse cross.
The native Irish had no
culture of coinage and their experience with the
brief earlier issues was clearly insufficient to
enable them to continue minting to a high standard
following the transfer of power from the Dublin
Vikings to the native Irish chieftains and High
This phase of Hiberno
Norse coinage continued until about 1060 AD.
More recent discoveries
have suggested that what Micheal Dolley describes as
Phase III is probably two distinct phases.
There is a clear division between the, probably
early, coins with just the two hands on the reverse
and the small neat bust style and the, probably
later, coins with the taller bust style (as
illustrated above) which usually carry additional
reverse symbols the most common being the S shaped
'buckle' in one quarter.
Phase IV -
Scratched Die Issues
not online yet
The so called 'scratched
die' coins of PhaseIV comprise a samll group that
could have been included with the following phase.
The coins exhibit one common characteristic in that
they have a cross apparently scratched into one
quarter of the reverse die. The two basic
designs are derived from the long cross type of
Aethelred and from an as yet untraced facing bust
The long cross type is
generally of less interest as its design coincides
with late phase III and many Phase V coins - but it
is a distinct type. The facing bust type is unique
to this phase and attracts more interest as a
distinct obverse type.
Phase V -
Crude Imitative Issues
not online yet
The fifth phase of
Hiberno-Norse coins is really a bit of a kludge. It
is a dumping ground for an extensive series of
pennies which vary widely in design and which by
their general style, production quality and weight
appear to have been produced in a period of
aproximately 40 years between 1060 and 1100 AD.
The designs in general are
derived from contemporary or earlier English penny
designs, with a significant influence from the
recurring long cross / radiate bust of Aethelred II
(which originally dates from about 1000 AD).
The range of designs is so
wide that many of these coins are unique - though
there are some common dies and designs which tend to
help group the coins together.
Phase VI -
Degraded Long Cross Imitations
Hiberno Norse - Phase VI -
By about 1100 the
Hiberno-Norse coinage settled down into a period of
relative stability and a large number of coins of a
relatively similar design were produced. These coins
had an obverse design which was a degraded form of
the Aethelred radiate bust from his 'long cross'
issue with the addition of a crozier design in front
of the face. The reverse feature a pair of scepters
in opposite quarters and the other pair of quarters
usually featured a cross or a pellet, or less often
an annulet (see above).
The Phase VI coins were
made from a lower grade silver than the previous
issues and tend to be darker than the earlier
issues. There have been several hoards of these
coins found and many individual finds so the tend to
be less expensive than all but the phase III coins.
The coins are generally unattractive with very poor
striking quality and generally dark surfaces which
also tends to depress the prices in the marketplace.
Phase VII -
Semi Bracteates and Bracteates
not online yet
The Hiberno-Norse series
died out sometime between 1130 and 1150 with a
series of increasingly thin and simplistic coins.
The first group are double
sided with designs derived from the ubiquitous long
cross design, but they are generally so thin that
the designs from each side are heavily 'ghosted' on
the other side.
The second group are pure
bracteates (coins struck on one side only - often
with the reverse exhibiting the same design in
incuse relief). They are on larger flans than the
earlier coins and sufficiently thin that the incuse
design is quite clear on the reverse as well.
These final coins in the
series are all quite scarce and somewhat like the
phase V coins there is a wide variety of designs
many of represented by a single surviving specimen.
Some recent work has
suggested that this final phase of coins may have
continued until the Norman invasion in 1169/70.
of Hiberno-Norse Coins
"The Coins of the Danish Kings of Ireland"
- BNJ VI, 1909
W. "The Earliest Irish Coinage" - JRSAI
M. "The Hiberno-Norse Coins in the British
Museum" - SCBI 8, 1966
Images of Hiberno-Norse Coins
A Hiberno Norse
Penny - Early Phase II