The Williams Collection of Anglo-Saxon, Viking and Norman Coins Part I: Anglo Saxon Coins - Spink London 2018
The Williams Collection of Anglo-Saxon, Viking and Norman Coins Part I: Anglo Saxon Coins - Spink London 27 March 2018
The one hundred Anglo-Saxon Pennies and Halfpennies offered here have been selected from the collection of nearly 900 Anglo-Saxon, Viking, and Norman coins formed over the last 30 years by Allan Williams. It is a pleasure to be able to offer such a group, replete as it is with high quality, interesting, rare, and sometimes even beautiful, numismatic treasures.
The Anglo-Saxon silver coinage occupies a very special and unique place in English history. For three centuries before the Norman Conquest the various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms produced some of the finest silver coins in the world, a feat unrivalled in Western Europe, and the envy of their neighbours. The Normans, aware of this, happily embraced the English monetary system, changing nothing, except of course the name of the king, and so the silver Pennies continued to be produced into the twelfth century. There is only one other element of Anglo-Saxon civilization that can stand alongside the coinage, and that is the remarkable series of Chronicles, the books of ‘events and laws’, written in the vernacular, and now collectively known as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. This also survived and continued to flourish after the Norman Conquest, and like the coinages, gives us first hand evidence of the richness and complexity of Anglo-Saxon society, as well as the civil wars, invasions, tumults and ‘anarchy’ that were a part of every-day life. To sit with a tray of coins and a copy of the chronicles is both a joy and a luxury for the historian of the period that cannot be matched. These coins also present us with an intriguing secondary study.
While the ‘circulation’ life (we could call it the ‘first life’) of an Anglo-Saxon Penny might be ‘nasty, brutish and short’, the ‘academic’ life of the same coin (the ‘second life’) might be peaceful and extend over two centuries. Take the contrasting examples of the two coins of Wulfred Archbishop of Canterbury, lots 10 and 11. The first is in beautiful condition and must have had a short ‘first life’ before it was lost. Since being found in 1987, in its ‘second life’, it has been around the world. The second coin may have circulated for slightly longer, but this coin was found in 1834, and in the 180 years of its ‘second life’ it has been the subject of learned papers read before academic societies, been engraved by 19th century artists, and has passed through at least ten famous collections. The piecing together of the ‘second life’ of Anglo-Saxon coins is a curious and fascinating study in its own right. For the collector, in a fast moving world, the ‘second life’ of a coin, its provenance, is becoming increasingly relevant.