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Research Coins: Feature Auction


Masterpiece of Dark Age Art

Triton XXII, Lot: 1359. Estimate $5000.
Sold for $9000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

ANGLO-SAXON, Kings of Mercia. Offa. 757-796. AR Penny (16.5mm, 1.19 g, 4h). Light coinage, portrait type. London mint; Ealhmund, moneyer. Struck circa 785-792/3. + ΘFFΛ REXX (various pellets), bare bust right / ALHM/4ND in two lines within two-headed serpent torque. Chick 37e (this coin); SCBI 67 (BM), 67 (same obv. die); SCBI 2 (Hunterian), 307 (same obv. die); North 318; SCBC 905. EF, toned, minor edge loss. Well struck.

Ex Alan Williams Collection, purchased from Spink, December 1994. Found Brentwood, Essex, September 1994.

While several of the beautiful portraits of Offa appear to have been inspired by Roman prototypes, the depiction of the king on the coin offered here, with its schematically rendered nude bust and long, closely pleated hair is, as Michael Dolley commented, ‘more redolent, perhaps, of his Germanic past’. The reverse device, at times described as a ‘dragon headed wreath’ and a ‘serpent torque’, has aroused considerable comment. The dragon, so often the jealous hoarder of treasure in Anglo-Saxon and Norse mythology, is encountered in the thrymsa and sceatt series. Here it protectively encircles the name of the moneyer, and serves as an entirely appropriate choice of reverse for this masterpiece of Dark Age art.