Monday, 3 February 2014

Hammered Coins

Finally I seem to be getting the knack of finding the small and metal. It's true what the other mudlarkers say, you just need to get down on your knees and search small patches of foreshore. It was the first time I'd brought along proper knee pads and  this time I made myself search for a couple of hours. Previously I'd got a bit bored, preferring the ambling of beach combing. I'm also shocked by how difficult I find the systematic searching (with my eyes) between all the pebbles and muck. It takes a lot of  concentration. I often find myself drifting off and not really looking, similar to reading the words in a book but not taking in the meaning.

I was rewarded though with this tiny (around 1cm) paper thin medieval silver penny. The surround has disappeared, either eroded over time or slivers of the valuable silver were snipped, a common practice in this era. The surround holds the writing used to date these coins, so I suspect this one is impossible to date. I believe it could be anything from 1300-1500. 

This one is rather worn but you can just make out the crown, face and hair on the left.

Mudlarking find medieval silver penny

I met Nick, mudlarker for 35 years, on the foreshore yesterday who kindly tried to id the coin for me. Apparently up until Henry VIII they didn't go in for likenesses, so a stylised crowned and wavy haired king stares out from the front on all of them. A cross sections the reverse, three dots cluster in each section  (or pellets as they called by the numismatists). In this instance there is a rose shape with a dot in the middle, the 'proper' term is quatrefoil which means 'four leaves' - what a surprise. 

Coins with quatrefoil seem to be less common. I've found a few similar coins on the net and posted a couple below, one is from Richard II another Edward IV, another Henry IV and V and quite a few from Henry VI, so clearly the flower thing doesn't help much in dating. 

Henry V1 1421- 1471 - Silver Hammered Penny (ebay) 
It's difficult to estimate the value of a penny in today's money. However, according to Wiki answers 6 pennies bought you a sheep in medieval times. A penny would buy you roughly what  £10-£15 will buy in today's money. 

Richard II  (1367- 1400) silver hammered penny (historyincoins) 
Hammered coins were produced by hammermen or moneyers who belonged to one of the medieval guilds. They placed thin metal on one die which was usually embedded into  some kind of stand and then whacked it with another. The dies were metal and engraved with the image to be transposed onto the coin.

Detail from a wall in  Rostock (Wiki) 
In the early medieval period each large town had their own moneyer, but as time went on fewer and fewer cities minted coins, until eventually they were all minted at the Tower of London. By the middle of the 17th century hammered coins were no long made, as machined made milled coins became the new currency.  


  1. I love this blog! Thanks for taking the time to explain the history of the objects you find. If we found something that old it would be a rock.

  2. I agree I somehow stumbled across your blog and I was instantly fascinated. I love mosaic work and the thought of finding these treasures in London is amazing. Your research is top notch and I love reading all about your finds.

    1. Thank you both, glad you are enjoying it, Julia

  3. It was great to see your hammered coin in the flesh yesterday. Amazing! Thanks for sharing the 'back story' about these coins. Fascinating history. See you again soon, Jason

  4. What a fantastic find well done, You're absolutely spot on about needing to concentrate looking for small finds, I always get bored far too quickly(after about 2 minuets) and go back to looking for pipes.
    I must agree with the other comments, your blog is always very informative and excellently researched..

  5. Well researched. I also enjoy your blog very much.
    Thank you.

  6. Nice finds. I need to get down on my knees and find some of the little stuff. With the cold weather it's easier to keep moving to keep warm. Yesterday was so windy I thought I was going to get blown away!