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Continental imitation of a penny of king John

The detectorist who unearthed this find wished to remain anonymous. At first sight this find is an English voided short cross penny. Even at second sight it looks English but it’s actually a Continental imitation.

Imitations copying the design of English pennies of Edward I, II and III turn up quite regularly in England but voided short cross copies are much scarcer. Some of the latter are very close copies and are still confused with the genuine article. If you are in doubt about any of the coins in your collection then do let me know. 

The head on the obverse of this coin is nearest to some of those on John class VI and the legend is exactly the same. The die cutting is professional but somewhat heavier than on English pennies.

On the reverse we have within the inner circle the usual voided short cross with a cross pommee in each angle and a cross pattee at the start of the legend. All the characteristics just mentioned are what could be expected to be seen on the reverse of a class VI penny of King John. However, the legend reads ALISENDRE.ON.LV (the letter D is like a letter O with two curls).  During the period that John class V was being issued a moneyer named Alisandre was known at Ipswich and Rochester but not at London; additionally, the spelling was Alisandre and not Alisendre. It is at this point that it becomes clear that this coin must be a Continental imitation.

I traced a specimen in the Doubleday collection (sold at auction in 1988); this was lot 1000 and the reverse had the same reading but the obverse was struck from a different die. The same coin appeared on the market again when the Jeffery P. Mass collection was sold (lot 806, March 2005).

After doing further research I traced a specimen struck from the same dies as the coin presently under discussion. This coin was sold at auction during February of 2015.

In the 1995 edition of the Numismatic Chronicle is an article by Lord Stewartby entitled ‘German Imitations of English Short Cross Sterlings’. This includes three imitations with a reverse legend reading ALISENDRE.ON.LV.   


Leading on from all this, I can say that Continental sterlings of this type were struck from at least two obverse dies and that they are very rare indeed. Therefore, this coin would be of great interest to specialist collectors. Not only is it a rarity, it is also in VF condition. If I was cataloguing it for sale at auction I would place upon it a rather wide pre-sale estimate of £300 – £400. It would sell for at least the lower figure and with competition between specialists in a saleroom the hammer price might even break through the upper estimate.

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