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The Silver Coins of England

Edward Hawkins, 1841
Sole Monarchs of England - Aethelstan

Table of Contents

AEthelstan, 925 to 941.

AEthelstan the son of Eadweard succeeded in 925 and reigned till 941. He established , or confirmed, mints in various towns, and conferred upon some bishops, abbots, &c. the privilege of striking money, but enacted that one kind of money only should circulate throughout the realm. From this time therefore no names or portraits of bishops appear upon any coins, but only those of the king; and the ecclesiastical and royal mints have not any marks by which they can be distinguished, till we come down to about the times of the first Edwards, when the privileged prelates adopted the use of letters or mint marks to distinguish their respective coinages. The moneyers' names were continued upon the reverses, and the addition of the place of mintage became almost universal, in consequence, it is supposed, of the law of AEthelstan, which prohibited money to be struck, except within a town.

AEthelstan is styled, upon his coins, Rex; sometimes, though rarely, Rex Saxorum; frequently Rex totius Britanniae; a rather arrogant title, as he never actually possessed the whole kingdom; but it was probably his favourite title and one of his own selection, as we perceive from his charters that he was very fond of high sounding terms. Sometimes the moneyer's name on the reverse is without accompaniments, sometimes with MO or MON, and frequently with the place of mintage after MO. Two coins have been discovered upon which the word VRBS is used in connection with the place of mintage, the annexed specimen is in the collection of Mr. Cuff. Rud. C. 19, D. 30.

About 60 variations in the names of mints and about 110 of moneyers occur upon his coins, all of which are pennies, of good silver, and weigh from 22 to 24 gr., occasionally exceeding or falling short of those weights.

The heads of former kings have generally appeared with a fillet formed diadem, after the manner of the later Roman emperors; AEthelstan appears with a small coronet; even the rudest of his heads have rays or points indicative of such a crown, except our No. 8, 9, 10. Rud. xvii. 5.

There are four distinct characters of head upon this king's coins, all rare.

  1. Expressed by mere lines, no relief, helmetted, crowned. Rev. cross crosslet (184). Rud. xvii. 1, 2, 3, 4. MB. 3.
  2. Head in considerable relief; poins, projecting from the head, intended for a crown. Rev. small cross. (185). Rud. xvii. 6, 7. MB. 4.
  3. Head in low relief crowned. Rev. small cross. (186). Rud. xvii. 8, 9, 10, 11. D. 28. MB. 12. For the fourth style of head see below.

    The four following types are without the king's head.

  4. Small cross. Rev. moneyer's name in two lines ornamented with foliage or crosses, &c. Rud. xvii. 12- 16. MB. 12.
  5. Small cross. Rev. a building with moneyer's name and sometimes mint. (187). Rud. xvii. 17, 18. xxx. 22. D. 29. MB. 3. r.
  6. Small cross with king's titles as Rex totius Britanniae or Saxorum. Rev. small cross, with sometimes an additional ornament, moneyer's name, title and mint. Rud. xviii. 21, 22, 23, 24, 27, 28, 29. xxviii. 3. MB. 22.
  7. Small cross. Rev. rosette of dots on one side or other. Rud. xvii. 19. xviii. 20, 25, 26. xxviii. 1, 2. MB. 8.
  8. Bust expressed by lines, coarse, like bad Mercian work, with letters of peculiar form. Rev. cross crosslet. (188). Rud. xvii. 5. MB. 1. v. r. moneyer's name Eadgar.
  9. Bust of similar work. Rev. star of eight rays, pellet between each, moneyer's name MONN. (189). Rud. C. 2. CUFF. v. r.
  10. Similar bust. Rev. EADGAR MOHETA in four lines. (190). Rud. C. 3. CUFF. v. r.
Of the four characters of head remarked upon coins of a king of the name of Athelstan, if we compare No. 1, 2, 3 with those of Eadmund and his successors, we most come to the conclusion that they belong to AEthelstan the sole monarch. The same may be said of the other types which are without any bust of the king; but with regard to our types, Nos. 8, 9, 10, the case is very different, and we are of opinion that they must be removed from the sole monarch. But then comes the difficulty how to dispose of them. There are two other kings of the same name, Ethelstan, king of East Angles, from 870 to 890, to whom several coins are attributed, and from whom we do not see any sound reason for removing any of them; and Athelstan, son of Ecgbeorth, who reigned over Kent, Essex, Sussex and Surrey, from 837 to 852, and to whom no coins have yet been attributed. Ethelstan, the East Anglian, has two moneyers of the names of MON and EADGAR, the same names which appear upon our Nos. 8, 9, 10. The letter G in Eadgar, Rud. ix. 10, is very peculiar, unlike any that we recollect upon any other coins, but it is exactly the form of the T used in the name of Ethelstan upon our nos. 8, 9, 10, and the one letter may possibly have been blunderingly used for the other. The form of the M like two HH united is very peculiar, and as it prevails upon the coins of the last Anglian Eadmund, Rud. ix. 2, 4; it prevents our removing from that kingdom the coins of Ethelstan figured in that plate, the M upon our 8, 9, 10 is not so formed, but it is like that upon some of the coins of Eadmund, as Rud. ix. 8, 9. The coin which most resembles them in type, form of letters, and character of work, is one of Beornwulf king of Mercia, 820 to 824, who is more nearly cotemporary with Athelstan the son of Ecgbeorht, but we can scarcely attribute these coins to him without removing some of the East Anglian coins of Eadmund and Ethelward (90) (92) (95). Rud. ix. 8, 9, and this we have not the courage to propose. Upon the whole we are disposed to consider that out Nos. 8, 9, 10 belong to Ethelstan the East Anglian.

Eadweard | Table of Contents | Eadmund


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