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Auction 17006  25-26 Sep 2017
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Starting Price: 15000 GBP

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Anglo-Saxon, Kent, Eadbald (616-40), gold Thrymsa or Shilling, Crondall phase, c.620-35 (73% AV), London, 1.28g, avdv[arld re]ges, the s inverted, diademed and draped bust right, cross before, rev. crucifix on globe within beaded border (Dies A/c; Sutherland VI.1, no. 78; Metcalf 50; N.29; S.758), obverse double-struck on a mildly concave and oversized flan, a slight contact mark to reverse at 6 o'clock, nevertheless a most attractive specimen, virtually as struck, the eighth presently known, extremely rare.
provenance
Found Billericay, Essex, 1 May 2017
Recorded with the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, EMC 2017.0175

This enigmatic coin has been associated with the earliest issues of Anglo-Saxon gold coinage struck in post-Roman Britain ever since an example was recovered from the watershed 1828 Crondall Hoard deposit of c. AD 670. However it was not until the 20th Century that a more assertive attempt was made to associate this issue to the chronicled Kentish king Eadbald. The emergence of new specimens finally enabled the obverse inscription to be deciphered as reading the name 'Audvarld'. This spelling was immediately noted for its similarity to the 'Auduarldus' in Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica (written c. AD 731). Consequently, whilst one should be often cautious about drawing relationships between historical texts and physical evidence, today this type is generally accepted as having been struck in Eadbald's name.

Bede tells us that Eadbald ascended the throne as king of Kent in 616 after the death of Aethelberht. His predecessor has been lauded for his acceptance of St. Augustine into his kingdom and his subsequent conversion to Roman Christianity. However, according to Bede, soon after his accession, Eadbald fell out of favour with the Church, after ejecting its Bishops and incurring its wrath by committing 'such fornication as the Apostle Paul mentioned as being unheard of even among the heathen, in that he took his father's (second) wife as his own.' However great the extent of Eadbald's transgressions, the situation did not last, for he repented and was duly baptized, rejecting his wife and thereafter favouring the Church within his kingdom. These events are ultimately symptomatic of the widespread confusion amongst the Anglo-Saxon elite, as it struggled to combat the encroachment of Christianity into their traditional Pagan belief system. This conflict is best testified in the mix of Pagan and Christian artefacts discovered in the famous Sutton Hoo ship burial, an event which undoubtedly overlapped with the life of King Eadbald.

Examining the coin itself more closely, its attempt to replicate the existing standard (c.1.30-1.40g) of 'Tremissis' gold coinage circulating at the time on the near continent are evident, with the precise regimentation of flan weight and metal fineness clear across the known specimens. As with the contemporary 'Witmen' and 'Londiniv/Londeniv' types, this coin has its apparent mint signature on the reverse. Alongside this new specimen, this is most clearly legible on the Ashmolean Museum example (no. 1) as containing londenv, which highly suggests London as the primary mint site or at the very least the origin for the dies.

The real significance of this coin, must be however in the obverse legend and the 'naming' of king Eadbald himself. This feature is quite simply outstanding for the period, and would not be replicated consistently for another half century and the Sceatta issues of Aldfrith of Northumbria (685-705). As such these eight examples exhibit the earliest known coin to be issued in the name of an English king.

Corpus

Seven specimens besides this example are currently recorded with five of those held in institutional collections. All are known to share the same obverse die, with five reverse dies currently recorded. Dr Martin Allen (pers. comms.) has kindly identified this example to be a die match to the Fitzwilliam Museum specimen (no. 3). At time of publication, only two other examples are available to commerce.

1. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 1.26g, AV 69%, Crondall Hoard, 1828. (Dies A/a)

2. American Numismatic Society, New York, 1.29g, AV 64%, formerly Norweb; SCBI 16/42; Lockett I, lot 206; Grantley 595a; Ponton D'Amecourt 658, Robert = Belfort 6527. Found Pas de Calais. (Dies A/b)

3. Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, 1.27g, AV 72%, BNJ Coin Register 1998, 37. Found Tangmere, West Sussex, 1997. (Dies A/c)

4. The British Museum, London, 1.28g, AV 74%, BNJ Coin Register 1998, 38. Found Shorne, Kent, 1998. (Dies A/d)

5. Dr. Andrew Wayne, 1.28g, AV 58%, Spink auction 203, 24 June 2010, lot 1. (Dies A/d)

6. Hunterian Museum, Glasgow, 1.30g. See Bateson and Campbell, 1998, p171, and plates 28-29, no. 1. Ex. Hunter, possibly an eighteenth century find. (Dies A/e)

7. Lord Stewartby, 1.28g, AV 67%, Spink auction 16019 (Part 1), 22 March 2016, lot 1; Bonhams auction, 16 October 2007, lot 325. (Dies A/d)

A additional Thrymsa, 1.29g, also currently attributed to Eadbald, but apparently of Canterbury production and from different obverse die and reverse dies, was found at Goodnestone, Kent in September 2001. It now resides in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

References
C.H.V. Sutherland, 'The Anglo-Saxon Gold Coinage in light of the Crondall hoard', 1947.
G. Williams, 'The Gold coins of Eadbald, King of Kent (AD 616-640)', BNJ 68 (1998), pp. 137-140.
Estimate: £15,000.00 - £20,000.00
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