World Coins

On the Block: 1066 silver penny of Harold II in sale

A rare silver penny of Harold II recalls his short reign, which was ended at the Battle of Hastings where he died.

Original coin images courtesy of the New York Sale; tapestry image in public domain.

The year 1066 in British history is forever linked to the Norman Conquest, the military conquest of England by William, duke of Normandy, primarily effected by his decisive victory at the Battle of Hastings (Oct. 14, 1066) and resulting ultimately in profound political, administrative, and social changes in the British Isles.

The Norman victory, against English forces led by Harold Godwinson (called Harold II), spelled the end of Harold’s short reign, which began on Jan. 6 that year.

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His defeat also marked an end to the issuance of his coins, making them rare today.

An example of Harold II coinage, a silver penny struck at the London Mint by the moneyer Edwine, is one of many highlights in The New York Sale’s auction XLVI Jan. 9 in New York City.

The auction is scheduled in conjunction with the New York International Numismatic Convention.

The silver penny is not the rarest or most expensive item in the sale, by far, but it offers some fascinating history. 

The reign of King Harold II was shorter than that of Edward VIII, the modern British king who famously abdicated and produced no coins for British currency. 

The coins of Harold II all have the same Peace type reverse and for the obverse a head and neck bust that on some faces right, while on some the scepter is absent. Demand for a type coin from the reign King Harold remains strong, especially since 2016 marked the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings; the Royal Mint marked the anniversary by releasing a 50-penny coin depicting Harold with an arrow in his eye as seen on the Bayeux Tapestry.

Legends on the offered classic coin translate to “Harold King of the English” on the obverse; the moneyer is identified as Edwine of London on the reverse, with the Latin PAX for “Peace” across the center.

The coin is toned, with “just a little striking weakness at corresponding parts both sides around facial profile,” and in Good Very Fine condition, the auction house said.

It has an estimate of $3,000 and up.  

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