Penny of Stephen

Last week we featured a highly desirable cut halfpenny of King Stephen and Queen Matilda.  This week we have another really nice Watford type penny of Stephen, which is a very recent find unearthed by Steve Smith. I was told that this is Steve’s first Norman period find and he was particularly chuffed with it as the king on the obverse has the same Christian name.

Firstly, this penny is an example of the rare variety with no inner circle on the obverse. In J. J. North’s English Hammered Coinage it is listed as number 874. The variety is known for a number of mints but is much rarer than the standard type with an inner circle.

Overall this coin would grade VF, so it is in a far better state of preservation than the average penny of Stephen. However, there is a problem with the reverse; it is struck off centre, so the start and end of the legend cannot be seen. An even greater problem is the reading of the letters that do show up. The missing or problematic letters are dashes and what can be seen appears to read: -ERRI –MV:ON:

In an attempt to make sense of the reverse legend I checked out several hundred Watford type pennies of Stephen. There were only two moneyers at this time with RR in their name: Terri (or Terri D) of London and Herrevi of Lewes. After giving the coin a thorough going over I am of the opinion that if all the letters were clear then the first part of the legend on the reverse would be most likely to read [T]ERRD: The letter D has a thick upright but a rather narrow frontal curve and is followed by a colon, which has MV:ON: after it. The moneyer responsible for the issue of this penny will be Terri D. However, the letter after the second R is a D with a thick upright, so it could be argued that this letter acts both as an I and as a D.

The start of the reverse legend is somewhat anomalous but it gets worse: after the moneyer’s name is MV (the V with a stroke across the second upright). What is the meaning of MV? It is between the end of the moneyer’s name and the copulative (ON) but there should be nothing in this position. The only suggestion I can offer is that it might be a crude and misspelt abbreviation for moneyer.

The legend on the reverse is so out of the ordinary that this penny might be an unofficial issue. However, overall the dies are well cut, so the anomalous reverse legend could simply be due to an off day on the part of the die sinker.

Valuation

I haven’t mentioned the mint but as the coin names Terri as the moneyer this penny will have been struck at London. Would the anomalous reverse legend be likely to put off collectors? In actual fact, it would make the coin even more interesting to specialists. In its present condition a likely pre-sale auction estimate would be in the region of £700 to £800 and there should be no shortage of prospective buyers.

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