Silver penny of Ethelred II

Anglo-Saxon, AD 1003-16
Minted in Lewes, southern England

Changing coin types

From some time in the 970s to 1180, the design of the English coinage was changed every few years. Almost all the designs followed a general pattern, with a royal bust on one side, and a cross on the other. The busts were not realistic portraits, and most were copied from old Roman coin designs.

Changing the designs was a form of hidden tax. All old coins had to be exchanged for coins with the new design, but the moneyer who issued the coins would charge a fee for the service. The moneyer would in turn pay the king for the right to issue coins.

Although the designs were changed quite often, it is difficult to date most of the coins very precisely, since coins at this period did not carry the date. However, it is sometimes possible to link these changes with known historical events. This example, known as the 'helmet' type of Ethelred II, king of the English (978-1013), was probably introduced around 1003. In that year the town of Wilton, where coins were minted, was sacked, and the mint was tranferred to nearby Salisbury. The coinage at Wilton stopped with the previous type, while coinage at Salisbury began with the 'helmet'type.

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More information


H.A. Grueber and C.F. Keary, A catalogue of English coins i (London, 1893)

K. Jonsson, The new era: the reformation o (Stockholm, 1987)

D.M. Metcalf, An atlas of Anglo-Saxon and No (London, Royal Numismatic Society, 1998)


Diameter: 19.000 mm
Weight: 1.270 g

Museum number

CM 1975-11-26-44



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