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Baldwin's of St. James's
Auction 2  27 March 2017
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Lot 8

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Estimate: 15000 GBP
Price realized: 16200 GBP

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British Coins, Kings of East Anglia, Aethelberht I/Alberht (acc. 749), transitional penny, Tilraed, large pellet within inner-circle, runic inscription around, EAELBEHT (runic), interspersed with pellets, rev. TIAELRED (runic), interspersed with pellets, between arms of a long cross extending from inner-circle containing a large pellet, wt. 0.99gms. (cf. S.945c; cf. N.430/3; cf. SCBI 63 (British Museum) 851), good metal, full details on obverse and reverse, reverse slightly dished and off-centre, very fine, extremely rare, only the second known example and a new variety for this king, the only other example in the British Museum
Found Suffolk, recorded with the Fitzwilliam Museum (EMC 2017.0009)
Alberht is the same name as Aethelberht, with Anglo-Saxon names beginning with the root Aethel- often abbreviated to Al- in later sources. The king who had this coin struck can therefore be named as Aethelbert or Alhbert and is referred to as Aethelberht I to distinguish him from the later Aethelberht II who was killed by Offa of Mercia in 794. As with most of the kings of East Anglia, very little is known about this king. The only reference to him is in the Historia Regum (History of Kings) written some four hundred years later in the eleventh century where it is recorded that the kingdom of East Anglia was divided between Beonna and 'Alhbert' in 749. King Beonna is known from coins mainly from the Middle Harling hoard, but Alberht was unknown until a single coin was found with others of Beonna at Burrow Hill in Suffolk. This was acquired by the British Museum in 1992 and until this new coin was found, was the only known coin naming Aethelberht I.
This new coin reinforces the historical attestation that Beonna and Aethelberht I were active at the same time as it has much in common to some coins of Beonna that use the Runic letter form on both the obverse and reverse. This new coin, struck from different dies to the British Museum example, is by the same moneyer Tilraed (likely Anglo-Saxon name pronounced Ceolred), who is not known for Beonna or any other issue. The obverse introduces a new variety with the pellet within inner-circle on both sides and a continuous legend which omits the Runic Þ (th) and is unbroken by a cross. The weight aligns better to the known coins of Beonna than the British Museum coin, further reinforcing the connection between the two coinages. The long cross dividing the reverse legend is also a feature on some of Beonna's coins.
It is not known how long Aethelberht I ruled but with his coins extremely rare it would seem his reign may have been short. Archibald writing about the BM coin in 1995, suggested that the Beonna was Beornred, a Mercian ruling East Anglia who, on the murder of Aethelbald of Mercia in 757, seized the Mercian throne only to be ejected a short time later by Offa. At this point he went back to East Anglia where Aethelbert I, a co-ruler since 749, had become the sole ruler. The suggestion in this is that his short reign as sole ruler of East Anglia was terminated by Beonna around 757/58, who then ruled long enough for his moneyer Wihtred to strike light coinage pence for Offa.
Numismatically the East Anglian coinage of Beonna and Aethelberht I stands between the earlier smaller flan 'sceatta' pence and the later broad flan pence of Offa. Little coinage can be confidently assigned to the years 740-80 in Southern England whilst the Northumbrian kings, notably Eadberht (737-58) along with Archbishop Ecgberht (d.765) were actively producing coinage at this time. The East Anglian coins of Beonna and Aethelberht I therefore seem to be linked to the Northumbrian coinage and were the only Southumbrian coins to be produced in any volume at this time. In common with the Northumbrian coins they name a ruler on one side and a moneyer on the other. The coins, of larger flan size than the 'sceattas' but smaller than Offa's pence, therefore belong to a transitional phase in the Southumbrian coinage and as such not only are Beonna and Aethelberht I the first English kings to be named on silver coins south of the Humber but also their coins are the precursors of the broad flan pence to be widely introduced after c.780. (15000 - 20000 GBP)
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