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18 September 2014
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Anglo Saxon Coins

Silver penny minted in Kent around 720

Silver penny minted in Kent around 720. Obverse (left) reverse (right)
Welcome to the penny

The early 8th century was a golden age for coinage and coin designs. Silver imported from the Continent stimulated a dramatic growth in coin circulation and minting in England.

The silver penny (Old English 'pening') had replaced the gold shilling during the 670s. It was a small dumpy coin about the size of your small fingernail.

Inspirational designs

There was a great variety of coin designs. Religious themes were common following the conversion of England to Christianity.

On this coin a man is shown drinking from a chalice. It appears to be one of a group of images depicting the five senses: sight, taste, hearing, touch and smell - taste in this case. Note the elaborate loose knot in which the tie is done up behind the hair - an imaginative detail typical of Anglo-Saxon art.

On the other side a man is shown holding a bird on his arm and standing on a curved surface. The bird may be a falcon implying a noble person, or it may be a raven perching on St Oswald.

An everyday currency

The coins of this period rarely carry inscriptions. It is not clear the extent to which these were royal coinages. They have been found extensively in England, particularly in recent years with the wide use of metal detectors.

They seem to have been used by people very widely and for everyday transactions, unlike the previous gold coins.

Coins timeline
First Viking attack on Holy Isle of Lindisfarne
Renewed Viking attacks
Harold II defeated by William the Conqueror - beginning of Norman Conquest

Click on each of these coins to find the tales they tell...

coin 1 -  A gold shilling from the reign of Eadbald, King of Kent 616-40. Minted in London around 630Silver penny minted in Kent (c 720)A silver penny from the reign of Offa, King of Mercia 757-796. Minted in London around 785A silver penny from the reign of Alfred, King of Wessex 871-899. Minted in London around 880A silver penny from the reign of Cnut, Viking King of York c.900-905. Minted at YorkA silver penny from the reign of Athelstan, King of England 924-939. Minted at Winchester around 930A silver penny from the reign of Cnut, King of Denmark and England 1016-1035. Minted at Exeter around 1023-29

Then play the Coins game
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Conquest of Wessex Kings
Viking Conquest
After Viking Conquest
Norman Conquest
After Norman Conquest
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