PAS self-recorder and one-time PAS volunteer Andrew Ramsden describes his research into die-linking on a particularly nice Medieval coin that was minted exactly 800 years ago this year.
“When I was invited by my local FLO, Amy Downes, to assist in the recording of hammered coins at her office, I jumped at the chance as not only am I very interested in English hammered coinage, but I am also more than happy to help the PAS in any way I can.
It was during a volunteer day with Amy that I came across a complete voided short cross silver penny amongst a batch of coins I was recording. I quickly determined that the moneyer was PERES and it was from the York mint and a class 6c3 of Henry III. However, the mint signature appeared to read EVERy; it was one that I wasn’t familiar with and it doesn’t appear in the book by Christopher Wren on the Short Cross Coinage. Initially I thought that there had been a flaw in the punches used to form the last letter as I knew there was a mint signature of EVERV. When identifying short cross pennies at home I use my copy of J. P. Mass, SCBI 56, to confirm anything I am unsure of as I consider this book to be the “Bible” on this particular coinage, but as Amy didn’t hold a copy of the book in her office, I suggested that I would consult my copy and confirm it with her via email should I find anything.
Sure enough when I consulted J. P. Mass there was indeed a mint signature of EVERy and it transpired that the York mint in this sub-class was a short lived one – there are only seven coins illustrated for this class and mint, and even better is the fact that of those seven coins, only two are of the same mint/moneyer/class combination. Upon closer inspection, the coin I identified appeared to match coin number 1881 VERY closely. When I viewed the illustration under my loupe I was surprised to see that it is near identical.
I contacted a friend called Tom Redmayne who is also a volunteer with the PAS and knows more about hammered coins than I have forgotten, to ask his opinion. Sure enough, he agreed with me and confirmed my opinion that I had in fact found a die link between the two coins. There is also a reverse die link with coin number 1880 and an obverse die link with coin number 1882.
For those of you who are unaware, let me take the time to explain what a die link is. At the larger mints, there will have been more than one pair of dies in operation at any one time. Two coins that are die linked are coins that have been struck from the same pair of dies and most probably by the same person. In class 6c3 there were only three main mints – London, Canterbury and Bury St Edmunds, and the mints of Winchester and York were added later and only very briefly. Only four moneyers worked out of the York mint and this coin is, I believe, an uncommon moneyer/mint/class/sub-class combination.
If you consider the number of coins churned out by any of the larger mints, and not only in this class, the likelihood of finding a pair of die linked coins is not very high. When you factor into the equation the brief operation of the York mint, the few moneyers working there and the fact that class 6c3 is a less common class for the York mint, then the probability of finding a single die linked pair of coins for this combination has to be reduced significantly. That’s why I am so excited to have found four die-linked coins within the space of three days (though granted, Mr. Mass did the hard work with three of them!).
After further research I have also found another obverse die link to a coin which is held at the Fitzwilliam museum, so all in all, from my identification of one coin it led to the linking of five coins that were conceivably all struck by the same person some 800 years ago. And people question why I like hammered coins?!
Dr Martin Allen of The Fitzwilliam Museum has also read this article and has verified that my research is correct. He also pointed out to me that it is noted in British Numismatic Journal 33 (1964) by John Brand, in ‘Some Short Cross questions’ (p.67), that the specific dies for this class were supplied to the York mint on 3rd December AD 1217, so this coin will have been struck sometime thereafter, but not after AD 1218 as that is when the coinage of class 7a commenced.”
So, thanks to Andrew’s hard work and knowledge, we have identified links between 5 coins, and narrowed the date of manufacture of these coins down to just a 13 month period. An excellent result! The coin that triggered this discovery is recorded as SWYOR-6672A0 on the PAS database at https://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/732496
Andrew has also summarised the main features he noted when matching the obverse of the coin to the published parallels:
i) The cross bar of the letter E breaks the crescent.
ii) Where the left hand upright of the letter N is punched higher than the right hand upright.
iii) Where the diagonal cross bar of the letter N terminates on the right hand upright.
iv) The size/style of the serifs on the uprights of the letter N.
v) The style of the letter H.
vi) The extra wide lower serif to the upright of the letter R.
vii) Where the central trefoil of the crown breaks/touches the inner circle.
viii) The 3 left hand hair curls.
ix) The general shape/style of the bust.