Anglo-Saxon Kings of Mercia Pennies

The origins of Mercia are disputed, but it is generally agreed that the name 'Mercia' (Old English Mierce) means 'borderers, marhlanders' and that the original Mercian territory was somewhere in the Midlands west of the Fens and south of the Humber. The traditional Mercian capital was Tamworth (Staffordshire) but it is not known how far back the association between this site and Mercian royalty goes. As a central territory, Mercia was able to expand into its British hinterland in Wales and Cumbria, as well as coming into conflict with is Germanic neighbours in East Anglia, Northumbria and Wessex. The regnal lists of the Mercians contain many puzzles, but the principal kings are: Offa (A.D. 757-796) (coins only from A.D. 770 onwards); Cynethryth (Queen, wife of Offa); Coenwulf (A.D. 796-821); Ceolwulf I (A.D. 821-823); Beornwulf (A.D. 823-825); Ludica (A.D. 825-827); Wiglaf (A.D. 827-840); Berhtwulf (A.D. 840-852); Burgred (A.D. 852-874); Ceolwulf II (A.D. 874-877). Mercian power was effectively ended by the Danish 'Great Army' of the 860s, although under-kings continued to reign rather than rule for a decade or more.

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King Offa (757 - 796 AD)
The most powerful and best known of the Mercian kings, Offa is one of the few early Anglo-Saxon kings whose names are still celebrated today due to his establishment of the border with Wales. Offa rose to power in the Kingdom of Mercia in 757 A.D., after driving out his rival, Beornred; Offa's claim to the throne was based in part on his descent from Pybba, brother of Penda, a 7th century king of the Mercians. Offa was a highly successful ruler and tactician, defeating several other kings to proclaim himself rex totius anglorum 'king of all the English', the first to claim such wide rule. He was probably named for the legendary hero of the Angles, Offa of Angeln, who set out a boundary in single combat against the Swabians at the River Eider in northern Germany. In 779 A.D. he was at war with Cynewulf of Wessex from whom he wrested land in the Thames Valley; ten years later, he secured an alliance with Berhtric of Wessex by giving him his daughter, Eadburg, in marriage. In 794 A.D. he slew Ęthelberht of East Anglia, though some accounts ascribe the murder to Cynethryth, Offa's wife. He died after a reign of thirty-nine years and was succeeded by his son, Ecgferth.

Offa 'London / Ibba' Heavy Coinage Anglo-Saxon Penny 023866

Very Rare Offa 'London / Ibba' Heavy Coinage Anglo-Saxon Penny
Silver, 1.05 grams, 17.80 mm. 792-796 AD, Type 208, Blunt 101. Obverse: Mercian M above +OFFA REX legend in two lines, divided by beaded lines. Reverse: long cross with I B B A in angles for the moneyer Ibba. S. 908; N. 329; Chick 209a (this coin). Very fine, chipped. Ex A. Abramson collection; ex Kevin McKay collection, Canada.

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Offa 'London / Ibba' Heavy Coinage Anglo-Saxon Penny 023866


Queen Cynethryth
Cynethryth was the wife of King Offa, although the date of their marriage is not known. Early in their history, the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms generally shrank from female monarchy and royal ladies were usually regarded as consorts rather than regal personages in their own right. She first witnessed a charter dated 770 A.D., along with cosignatories Ecgfrith and Ęlfflęd. By 780 A.D. she was styled Cynešryš Dei gratia regina Merciorum 'Cynethryth, by the Grace of God, Queen of the Mercians', a unique departure from Anglo-Saxon practice. The imagery employed on her coins follows that used for late Roman empresses, just as that used on Offa's coins depicts him as a late Roman emperor. This coinage is unique in Anglo-Saxon England, and indeed in Western Europe in this period. Cynethryth is associated with her husband in charters and is said to have been a patron of Chertsey Abbey, Surrey. Pope Adrian I, when elevating Higbert's Bishopric of Lichfield to an Archbishopric, wrote to Offa and Cynethryth jointly. Her children with Offa, besides Ecgfrith, included at least four daughters. As an aside, her name is associated with one of the textual cruces in Beowulf (line 1931) where a royal lady named Žryž is depicted as cruel and wanton until tamed by her future husband, Offa; this is not Offa of Mercia but his ancient ancestor, Offa of Angeln.

SP 011410

Excessively Rare Cynethryth 'Wife of Offa' Saxon Penny
Silver, 1.00 grams; 16.46 mm. Struck during the period of Offa’s light, Circa 770?-792 A.D. Obverse: CYNETHRYTH REGINA, beaded inner circle containing M. Reverse: EOBA on leaves of quatrefoil with six pointed stars with two long arms in each angle of quatrefoil. Recorded and graded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme with the following comments: ‘Berk 328187’ coin of the kings of Mercia 8th-9th centuries. Completeness: Complete. Degree of wear: Slightly worn but very fine. A type of coin very rarely offered for sale. Recorded with the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge University as: EMC 2008.0332. Found Oxfordshire. Only five non portrait type coins recorded on the Early Medieval Coin Corpus and one in all the volumes of the Sylloge of Coins (SCBI) in the British Isles.

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SP 011410


Coenwulf (796 - 821 AD)
King Coenwulf has had a bad press due to the circumstances of his rise to power: he succeeded to the throne on the death of Ecgfrith, the illustrious son of Offa. In 798 he invaded Kent, deposed and imprisoned Eadberht Pręn, and made his own brother, Cuthred, king of that territory. Cuthred reigned in Kent from 798 to 807, when he died, whereupon Coenwulf seems to have taken Kent into his own hands. He died in 821, and was succeeded by his brother, Ceolwulf I.

Anglo-Saxon Coenwulf of Mercia 'Beornferth at Canterbury' Pincer Cross Penny 026543

Excessively Rare Anglo-Saxon Coenwulf of Mercia 'Beornferth at Canterbury' Pincer Cross Penny
Silver, 1.00 grams; 20.31 mm. Canterbury, Group III-IV, circa 810 - 820 AD. Obverse:+COENVVLF REX, around diademed bust to edge of flan facing right, within inner circle. Reverse: [BIO]RNFRED MONETA (NE ligated), Beornferth at Canterbury, around ornate pincer cross pellet in centre and wedges in angles and within limbs. S 916; N 347. Ex Merritt collection; found Devises, Wiltshire, UK and recorded with Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS). Extremely fine, chipped. No coins of this moneyer for this type recorded on the Early Medieval Coin Corpus (EMC) and only a single specimen for this moneyer known from 176 individual coins having been found in the UK to date (see EMC 2009.0136).
£1,250.00

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Anglo-Saxon Coenwulf of Mercia 'Beornferth at Canterbury' Pincer Cross Penny 026543


Ceolwulf (821 - 823 AD)
King Coenwulf of Mercia died in Basingwerk in A.D. 821, preparing for another assault on the Welsh territory of Powys. His son, Cenelm, was chosen to succeed him, but was killed soon after, probably fighting the Welsh. There is a tradition of sibling rivalry which ascribes his death to his sister, Cwenthryth. The Mercian throne passed to Coenwulf's brother, Ceolwulf I. The king renewed the assault on the Welsh lands to ther west, and yet found time to meddle in East Anglian affairs over the attempted accession of the prince, Ęthelstan. In A.D. 823 the Mercians invaded Powys, but were thwarted by King Cyngen, although they managed to raze the capital of Gwynedd at Degannwy. It was perhapson this campaign that Ceolwulf received his mortal wound, or was ousted by Beornwulf, his successor.

SP 002205

Ceolwulf 'Cross-crosslet' Penny
Silver, 1.24 grams; 21.29 mm. +CEOLVVLF REX M, Ceolwulf King of Mercia. Circa. A.D. 821 - 823. Rochester mint, with large portrait breaking inner circle facing right. R. Cross-crosslet within inner circle, +EALHTAN MONET [N and E ligated] , Moneyer: Ealhstan at Rochester. Only five coins of this reign and moneyer, and only one of this type recorded with the Medieval Coin Corpus (EMC) at the Fitzwilliam Museum and Sylloge of Coins (SCBI) of the British Isles. Only one other example with the Cross-crosslet reverse. S 924; N 382; C 13; Coin Register 2002, no. 161. Recorded with the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge University as: EMC 2002.0228. Although this coin has a nibbled edge, it is stable and is otherwise in sound condition and is better than scanned. Found Stutchbury, near Salgrave, Northamptonshire 1999, and seen by the British Museum in that year.

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SP 002205


Beornwulf (823 - 825 AD)
Beornwulf was a descendant of the late King Beornred, and probably represents a rival claimant line within the royal family - this assumption is strengthened by the fact that King Baldred of Kent came to power during his reign while Mercia held sway in the south-east. Baldred's background is not certain, but he was probably a relative of King Beornwulf. The alliteration on B- in this clan implies close ties by marriage and/or consanguinity.

SP 01

Beornwulf 'Cross-Crosslet' Penny
Silver, 0.62 grams; 16.21 mm. Bare headed bust of Beornwulf right. R. Cross crosslet in centre with pellets in angles. East Anglian mint. N 397; BMC 114; Be 2-4; S 929. Extremely fine. Extremely rare monarch.

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SP 01


Berhtwulf (840 - 852 AD)
Berhtwulf is known mainly from his coinage and some charters recording land-grants, mostly made at the Mercian royal centre at Tamworth and concerning land in the West Midlands. London - the centre of East Saxon royal power which had been in Mercian hands for about a century - was first successfully attacked by Danes (Vikings) during his reign, and it is probable that territory in the Thames Valley was seized from Mercia by Wessex at this time.

Berhtwulf 'Deneheah' Anglo-Saxon Portrait Penny 023865

Extremely Rare Berhtwulf 'Deneheah' Anglo-Saxon Portrait Penny
Silver, 0.81 grams, 20.63 mm. 843-848 AD, Group I, BMC 124. Obverse: profile bust right with BERHTVVLF REX legend. Reverse: cross crosslet with annulet at centre and wedge in angles and +DENEHEAN legend for the moneyer Deneheah. S. 935; N. 414. Very fine, once broken and repaired. Ex A. H. Baldwin (with coin ticket from founder, A. H. Baldwin 1858-1936); ex Kevin McKay collection, Canada.
£1,950.00

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Berhtwulf 'Deneheah' Anglo-Saxon Portrait Penny 023865


Burgred (852 - 874 AD)
Burgred succeeded Berhtwulf to the Mercian throne in 852, and within a year called upon Ęthelwulf of Wessex to aid him in subduing the North Welsh. Their alliance was sealed by Burgred's marriage to Ęthelswith, daughter of King Ęthelwulf. In 868 the Mercian king appealed to the brothers, Ęthelred and Alfred of Wessex, for assistance against the Danes, who were attacking Nottingham. The armies of Wessex and Mercia did little more than harry the invaders, and the Danes were allowed to remain through the winter. In 874 the march of the Danes from Lindsey to Repton drove Burgred from his kingdom and he retired to Rome where he died.

Burgred 'Lunette Type' Penny 012053

Burgred 'Lunette Type' Penny
Silver, 0.50 grams, 17.68 mm. Lunette Type; 852-874 AD. Obverse: profile bust right with legend BVRG[ ]. Reverse: unbroken lunettes with MON above and ETA below with moneyer name [ ]RED for the moneyer Eanred or Cunred. S. 938; N. 423. Half of the coin remaining, Extremely fine.

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Burgred 'Lunette Type' Penny 012053


Ceolwulf II (874 - 880 AD)
Although his reign was short, Ceolwulf's rulership marked an important departure: the Viking 'Great Army' installed Ceolwulf II as king of Mercia after the abdication of Burgred. Ceolwulf was already a political opponent of Burgred, and the Danes chose to gain control through sponsorship of an Anglo-Saxon ruler rather than by installing one of their own men. Ceolwulf was not content merely to hold a nominal office: he actively pursued an aggressive policy against the neighbouring Welsh states and in 878 he killed Rhodri Mawr of Gwynedd, Powys and Seisyllwg in battle.

SP 002237

UNIQUE Ceolwulf II 'CROSS-AND-LOZENGE' Penny
Silver, 1.28 grams; 19.53 mm. King of Mercia, circa. A.D. 874 - 880. This unique and unpublished coin is of the extremely rare and practically unobtainable Anglo-Saxon King - Coelwulf II. +CIOLWVLF REX, with a slightly different right facing bust and a Previously Unknown Drapery. R. Moneyer's name in angles of the long-cross, with a Unique orientation of the central cross within the central lozenge. BE/AG/ST/AN, Moneyer Begastan at London. UNRECORDED MONEYER for Coelwulf II. A very difficult coin to scan and do it justice, the coin is appealing and the bust is more distinctive. Recorded with the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge University as: EMC 2005.0108. N 429; BMC 403; S 944 unique variant, with unpublished moneyer. Good fine for the issue with a very fine bust (Un-cleaned 'as found' condition). A knowledge breaking discovery of historical importance.

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SP 002237


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