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Monday, 13 June 2011

Help in identifying the Short Cross Penny

The Short Cross coin, which was introduced by Henry II, in 1180, often causes confusion when Metal Detectorists or collectors try and identify the period of issue. One common misconception is that because it bears the name ‘HENRICVS’ is that it must be attributed to King Henry II or III. This is not correct. Both of Henry II’s sons, Richard and John, used the same name on the coins.

In fact the only known coins bearing Richard’s name are from his territories of Aquitaine and Poitou in western France. In the case of John his name appeared only on Irish coins, such as the penny, half penny and farthing.

It is because all four Monarchs use the same or very similar legend,  that makes identification of the coins, a bit difficult for the less experienced collector and can be quite challenging for the experienced ones also. However there are differences, and with practice it is possible to date the coins reasonably accurately.

So what differences might you encounter? Well on the obverse most common ones are the pellets on the crown or curls of hair. Others include a different cross on the saltire or unusual shaped letters. However on the reverse it is often small pellet stops, or the Moneyer himself that gives you the biggest clue.

The difficulty really comes into its own when the coin is worn or damaged. It may also be that the coin has been cut into quarters or halves, in order to use as smaller change, such as a farthing or half penny, as at this stage in English history, only the Penny coin existed. In these cases you will only have certain letters available to you, and it is a case of eliminating the other Moneyers from that class. It can help even more if you can decipher the actual Mint, were the coin was made.

In total there were twenty one mints operating during the Short Cross period, and dozens of Moneyers – many with the same name or similar names.
The Mints in operation were: Canterbury, Carlisle, Chichester, Durham, Exeter, York, Ipswich, Kings Lynn, Lichfield, London, Lincoln, Northampton, Norwich, Oxford, Rochester, Rhuddlan, Shrewsbury, Bury St. Edmunds, Wilton, Winchester and Worcester.

It is also worthwhile remembering that just like today, there were forgeries and imitations – many from the continent. New examples are always being found by Metal Detectorists and the reference books very quickly become outdated, due to this invaluable information. However for those with a real interest in this coinage, a reference book (of which there are many) is the only real way of developing your knowledge.

Copyright Treasurehunterste 2011

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