William the Lion, penny

The finder of this coin asked to remain anonymous. He asked for a valuation so that he could give the landowner his half of its value. It’s an early Scottish silver penny, which was struck for William the Lion, circa 1195-1205. The coin is an example of phase A of the short cross and stars coinage.

On the obverse is the head of the king with a sceptre in front. The head looks rather crude but some of the representations of William the Lion are even worse than this one. On the reverse is the short cross and stars.

The finder reported this coin after it was unearthed and it was subsequently listed on the PAS database. The moneyer was identified as Hue and the mint as Edinburgh. The identification was on the basis of figure 41 on page 66 in The Coinage of Scotland by E. Burns. This was published in 1887 but is still by far the best reference work on the coinage of Scotland. The reverse legend on the coin published by Burns was interpreted as hVE ON EDINEBVR; on the coin under discussion hVE O- – – -NEBVR can be seen. At first I was dubious about the reading, for I cannot remember ever having seen a reverse legend with the orientation as on this coin. The legend normally starts with a cross directly above one of the arms of the voided cross. However, on this coin the legend starts between two arms of the cross.

The legend is certainly anomalous but everything else is as it should be. And. I have no reason to believe that the interpretation of the legend (as given in Burns) is wrong.


William the Lion pennies bearing the name of a mint and a moneyer are much scarcer than the later coins struck jointly by Hue and Walter. About one third of this specimen is flat on both sides but the rest of it shows up very well. In terms of value, were I cataloguing it for sale at auction then in its present condition I would place upon it a pre-sale estimate of £180 – £250.

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