Anglo-Saxon coin fetches four times expected auction price

The silver penny minted for Ethelbert II The penny may have led to the beheading of 8th Century King Ethelbert II

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An Anglo-Saxon silver penny that could be linked to the beheading of an East Anglian king has been sold at auction for £78,000.

The coin, which was expected to fetch between £15,000 and £20,000, was found by a man using a metal detector in a field in Sussex in March.

An anonymous internet bidder bought the penny at an auction in London.

Will Bennett, from auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb, described the sale as "a fierce contest to earn a unique coin."

Ethelbert's story

St Ethelbert with Christ - stained glass in St Ethelbert's Church, Alby, Norfolk

Ethelbert's reign is thought to have begun in 779.

In 794 Ethelbert agreed to marry Offa's daughter and set off to visit her at the Mercian king's villa in Herefordshire.

While there, he was beheaded. The murder of a king was rare even in those days

According to legend, Ethelbert's head fell off a cart and after being found in a ditch, restored a blind man's sight and he was declared a saint.

Many churches in Norfolk and Suffolk are dedicated to him.

'Fantastic result'

The 1,200-year-old coin, minted during the reign of Ethelbert II in the 8th Century, is only the fourth found from the time he was on the throne.

The penny is engraved with Ethelbert's name and the word Rex on the same side of the coin.

It is believed that may have led to Ethelbert's beheading by Offa, King of Mercia, as it was intended by the East Anglian king as a sign of independence.

The auction saw bids from internet users, those in the room and people who had left written bids.

The hammer came down when bids reached £65,000, but the addition of auctioneer's commission means the artefact's new owner will pay £78,000 in total.

Mr Bennett said "This is a fantastic result, and shows the market for coins such as this is very strong indeed."

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