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Henry II, penny

The coin pictured here is a very early example of a voided short cross penny of Henry II. The images were sent in by Peter Vernon but the coin was unearthed recently by a detecting colleague, Norman Phillips.

On the obverse the legend reads hENRICVS .  REX; the hand holding the sceptre breaks the legend between the R and EX of REX. The first letter E is Lombardic (it has a rounded back) and the other two are both Roman. The sceptre is nearer horizontal than vertical. The outer beaded circle is solid but it has pellets on it that are well spread out; this means that the obverse die is an example of class 1a1.

On the reverse the legend reads +IEFREI ON LVNDE; the first E is Lombardic and the other two are both Roman. Therefore, the moneyer is Iefrei and the mint London. The outer beaded circle is not altogether clear; it might or might be decorated with pellets; if it has pellets it is class 1a1, if it hasn’t it is 1a2

Lord Stewartby (in English Coins 1180-1551) states that in class 1a1 the break in the obverse legend is usually between the E and X or REX. Additionally, he makes no mention of the sceptre sometimes being very low. Therefore, I had to do a good deal of research in order to pin down this find.

I checked through the sale catalogues of the Elmore-Jones, Doubleday, Mass and Stewartby collections but failed to trace a class 1a1 London penny of Henry II by the moneyer Iefrei. However, after searching through the British Numismatic Journal I traced an article by J. P. Mass on the opening phase of the voided short crops coinage. Mass illustrated a few early London pennies issues by Iefrei:  two 1a1/1a2 specimens and a 1a2 coin but no pure class 1a1 coins. Neither of the two 1a1/1a2 pennies and the 1a2 coin had the very low sceptre.

There is some uncertainty about the class of the reverse on the coin illustrated here. It might be 1a1 but if it definitely has no pellets on the outer circle it will be 1a2, so the coin would be a class 1a1/1a2 mule. Either way, this would seem to be a coin of significant rarity.

The obverse has been struck slightly off centre but it would still grade near VF. The reverse is centrally struck and would grade VF. Therefore, besides being a significant rarity, this find is in well above average condition.


After sending Peter Vernon a report on the Henry II penny he got in touch again. In the Sylloge of Coins of the British Isles volume 56 focuses on the J. P. Mass collection but is a more comprehensive study of the voided short cross coinage. An informant, John Allen, told Mr Vernon that a die duplicate of the coin found by Mr Phillips is included in SCBI 56 as a class 1a1/1a2 mule. Mass also had three examples but all were cut halfpennies and not mentioned individually in the sale catalogues.

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