Alexander III Penny

It shouldn’t exist

Some coins are common, some rare or very rare. Occasionally great rarities turn up, which can include previously unknown types and varieties. Glyn Peak recently unearthed the coin featured here. It is not only incredibly rare, it is a coin that should not exist! It’s an Alexander III of Scotland second coinage penny, otherwise known as the REX SCOTORUM type because of the legend on the reverse. However, instead of being a full penny, it has been cut into two pieces to make a halfpenny. Somewhere, perhaps near the find spot or maybe hundreds of miles away, will be the other half.

Edward I’s New Coinage

English and Scottish cut halfpence and farthings are very common, so what’s so special about this one? Well, at the start of the reign of Edward I the only coins in circulation were of the voided long cross coinage. These continued to be produced for the first few years of the reign. However, the New Coinage of Edward I commenced in 1279, which included not only freshly designed pennies but a reasonably large issue of round halfpence and farthings. The latter removed the necessity for pennies to be cut up to make small change. This is why voided long cross cut fractions are very common but cut coins of Edward I’s New Coinage are non-existent.

Alexander III’s coinage

A similar thing happened in Scotland, when Alexander III’s voided long cross coinage was replaced in 1280 by the second (REX SCOTORUM) coinage made up of pennies, halfpennies and farthings. As was the case in England, in Scotland there was no longer a need to cut up pennies. Therefore, Glyn has found something that shouldn’t even exist.

Never seen before

I’ve been interested in Scottish coins for more years than I care to remember and I have never seen a cut coin of Alexander III’s second coinage. It’s a detecting find, not something that has been turned into a cut halfpenny at a much later date. The only explanation is that someone, perhaps in the 1280s, wanted a buy something for a halfpenny but he or she only had a penny. The shop keeper had no halfpennies, so the buyer and the seller settled the deal by cutting a penny in two.

Valuation

On the plus side Glyn’s find is a real rarity, on the minus side this doesn’t make if very valuable. I’m pretty sure that if a coin like this sold for a high price then specimens would turn up here, there and everywhere. This, of course, would be the end result of people cutting up Scottish pennies in 2020. It’s academically interesting but would not be of much commercial value.

Pricewise, my best estimate on this highly unusual find would be £12-15.

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