Hallmark Coins – A Penny for a Martyr


Sponsored – Vanity is a very interesting thing. Just look around you in the traffic these days and take note of how many people have personalised number plates. There’s also those who like to embroider there initials on their clothing. But the highest rung on the ladder when it comes to having your name and surname noticed and remembered by one generation after another, is to have it struck onto a circulating coins(s). Easy enough if you’re a ruling monarch or the president of a country. Not so easy however if you re the average man or woman in the street. If you can’t have a denomination of a currency named after you, it is much easier to own it and bolster your portfolio.

King Edgar, who had become ruler of all England in 959, died not long after he ascended the throne in 975. He didn’t leave much of a lasting legacy during his reign over the land; however he did have a large scale contribution toward a reform of the coinage used during his time in Ye Olde England.

So what exactly is involved in a coinage reform I hear you say. In this instance, Edgar undertook to make the silver penny virtually the same throughout his kingdom and also forced the moneyers to sign their product with both name and city so that all would know who made a particular coin.

Prior to 973 the names did appear but not the city. At the same time the number of mints was greatly expanded, with about 40 in operation by the end of his reign. When Edgar died in 975 the succession was unexpectedly disputed by Elfrida, the wife of King Edgar.

She demanded, with the backing of powerful nobles opposed to the monastic policy, that her son Aethelred be made king despite the fact that it was an age-old custom that the eldest son succeeds his father. Edward, the second son of King Edgar, but from a different wife, however, announced that he would continue his father’s policies during his reign and a short civil war ended in his favour. At the age of 16 he reigned but did not rule; powerful forces behind the scenes controlled his every act.

Edward, probably because he had little except an empty title, soon developed a nasty temper and a generally unpleasant disposition. The new king soon began his own coinage of silver pennies though the dies of his father Edgar would have been used in some cases for a few weeks at the various mints until exchanged for those with Edward’s name.

The design, which is quite similar to the last coinage of Edgar, had the diademed bust of the king facing left with a typical inscription in Latin reading EADWARD REX ANGL (or ANGLOR), meaning “Edward, King of the English.”

The reverse had a simple cross in the centre, symbolising piety, surrounded by a legend naming the moneyer and town. The coin was struck in the northern part of the kingdom; the partially abbreviated legend reads HAFGRIM N-O LINCOL, or “Hafgrim, Moneyer at Lincoln.” Lincoln was one of the major mints in tenth-century England; coins of this ruler from smaller mints, for example, carry stiff price tags compared to coins struck at Lincoln or London.

Although most of Edward’s coins are quite rare, especially from the smaller mints, even the most common pennies are still worth a considerable sum. In very fine, for example the value can be several thousand pounds. Anglo-Saxon coins are difficult to grade and it is best to deal with an established dealer in British coins when purchasing a silver penny struck under King Edward or other rulers of this era. One such organisation being Hallmark Coins.

In older numismatic reference catalogues, dating from the 19th century, one occasionally finds that Edward struck two types of pennies, the one mentioned here as well as one with a right-facing bust on the obverse and a hand on the reverse. All known pieces of this second variety it is now known are fakes made in the past for collectors, however, as that design did not appear until the reign of Edward’s successor Athelred.

The silver penny was the main English coin of this period. On rare occasion smaller silver coins (half pennies and farthings) were made but in general the average adult saw only pennies. It was not until several centuries later that larger silver coins, or even gold, were made.

On July 18, 978, Edward and a few companions were hunting near Castle Corfe, a fortified structure occupied by his stepmother Elfrida. Edward had become separated from his friends and stopped at the castle for some refreshments before going on. Elfrida provided a drink, but then ordered a servant to stab him in the back. Mortally wounded, the king managed to remount his horse and flee the scene; he had lost so much blood, however, that he soon fell off the saddle but with one foot still in a stirrup. He was then dragged by the horse for some distance before falling free. He was dead when found by his friends. The dead king became known as “Edward the Martyr” and it is by this name that he has gone down in history.

Even if you’re not a king or queen and you’d like to get your hands on a coin or collection of coins that carry their name and time of reign, it is a no brainer that you should have a little peruse through the new Hallmark Coins website. You are sure to find what you’ve been looking for.


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