Imagine the populace entering into a panic as the end of a millennium
approached, and the future of life on Earth was cast into question.
The occasion this time wasn’t Y2K, though.
Instead, consider the last decade of the first millennium, when “the
shame of Aethelred’s succession achieved through fratricide and
regicide was still felt and millenarian fears about the end of the
world found substance in ever increasing pagan Viking raids on
[England],” as the June 2 auction catalog for Ira & Larry Goldberg
Coins and Collectibles recounts the history.
In the Goldbergs’ auction, a silver penny of Aethelred II (“the
Unready”) realized $7,931, including the 17.5 percent buyer’s fee. The
attributes making the coin special are the “Hand of God” design on the
reverse, shaped in benediction. The coin is one of only three known
from the mint in Lewes.
The coin is not recorded in Viking Age Hoards and Late
Anglo-Saxon Coins by K. Jonsson, and only about 140 examples of
the manus dei or “Hand of God” type are known, according to the
According to the Goldberg catalog, the Hand of God type, of which
the Benediction is the rarest variety, may have been intended to
invoke a very strong message to the populace and perhaps even to God.
“The manus dei had of course been used as a coin type in England
during the ninth century but in advance of the first millennium it was
perhaps more relevant than ever,” the cataloger writes.
The coin was issued circa 991 A.D., under the moneyer Leofwine, and
weighs 1.66 grams.
It is graded About Uncirculated, Details, by Numismatic Guaranty
Corp., and had an estimate of $6,000+.
To learn about other results from the auction, visit the firm’s website.