- 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.
fourth 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).
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
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.
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.
Cross 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
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
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 extremely
helmet 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 comparatively rarer.
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 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)
II 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.
II - Later Long Cross Penny Imitations
Hiberno Norse Penny - Early Phase II
the 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.
second 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 intelligeable
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
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 Kings.
This phase of Hiberno
Norse coinage continued until about 1060 AD.
IV - Scratched Die Issues
not online yet
The so called 'scratched
die' coins of phase iv comprise a samll group that
could have been included with he 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 type.
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
- Crude Imitative Issues
not online yet
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
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.
VII - Semi Bracteates and Bracteates
not online yet
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 incusde
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 varety of designs many
of represented by a single surviving specimen.
of Hiberno-Norse Coins
B. "The Coins of the Danish Kings of Ireland"
- BNJ VI, 1909
W. "The Earliest Irish Coinage" -
JRSAI LXXIX, 1949
Dolley, M. "The Hiberno-Norse
Coins in the British Museum" - SCBI 8, 1966
Images of Hiberno-Norse Coins
Norse Penny - Early Phase II