World Coins

Rare Viking silver coin stars in CNG online sale

A rare silver penny of Viking ruler Eric Bloodaxe, though damaged, realized a hammer price of $17,000 in Classical Numismatic Group’s e-auction No. 432 ending Nov. 14.

Coin images courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group.

An exceptionally rare Viking coin — damaged, no less — realized a hammer bid of $17,000 in Classical Numismatic Group’s online auction No. 432. The auction ended Nov. 14 with the coin selling for 12 times its estimate. 

The coin was issued by Eric Bloodaxe, the Anglo-Viking ruler also known as Eric Haraldsson. The coin was issued during his second reign, from 952 to 954, in the Hiberno-Norse town of Northumbria. The piece in the auction is damaged, with a chunk missing, representing perhaps 20 to 25 percent of the surface, from the “southeast” portion of the coin as viewed from the obverse. 

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The coin is only the third example of Eric Bloodaxe’s Sword pennies (named for the sword in the obverse design) offered at public auction since 1955, according to CNG. The example in the CNG auction was discovered by a metal detectorist in Lincolnshire in 2007. 

David Guest of CNG’s London office told Coin World, “There is very high demand for the Viking series and the coins of Eric Bloodaxe are the most desirable and difficult to obtain. Although we expected a strong result we never imagined that it would make such a big price.”

The coin was struck by the moneyer (medieval mint master) Radulf, at the York Mint. 

The coin weighs 0.93 gram, and it measures 21 millimeters in diameter, or about the size of a Jefferson 5-cent coin.

Bill Dalzell, numismatist with CNG, cataloged the coin, which he said is “an exceptionally rare coin and ... the most celebrated of the Anglo-Viking series.”

The coin is apparently recorded (though not illustrated) in the Fitzwilliam Museum’s Corpus of Early Medieval Coin Finds, with a matching weight, therein described as a “large fragment.” The Corpus records single-coin finds, including more recent finds, like this one. No additional information about the finder, the find location, or anything else is recorded there. United Kingdom treasure law treats single-coin finds differently than hoards and less public information is made available about the find. The Very Fine coin exhibits minor porosity. 

CNG sold another example of the coin in its Triton XX auction Jan. 9, 2017, for a hammer price of $130,000. Unlike the partial example offered in this sale, that piece was complete.

The latest example was consigned to the firm as part of “an important private collection of Anglo-Saxon and Norman coins that we have been auctioning over the past several sales,” Dalzell said. “Obviously, while the hammer was ten times our estimate, it was less than 10 percent of what the intact, undamaged coins brought. So I suppose we can say that 80 percent of a coin is only worth 10 percent.” 

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