World Coins

Rare silver penny of Saxon ruler coming to auction

A rare silver penny from the ruler Ludica, struck circa 826 to 827, is being offered by Dix Noonan Webb in its March 10 auction.

Images courtesy of Dix Noonan Webb.

A metal detectorist’s find, a silver penny of Ludica, a virtually unknown Saxon king of Mercia, is being offered at auction in March.

The coin was discovered by Andy Hall while metal detecting in Wiltshire. 

Dix Noonan Webb will offer the coin in its March 10 auction in London. The coin is estimated to realize £10,000 to £15,000 ($12,928 to $19,392). 

The coin has on the obverse a diademed bust of Ludica facing right with the legend LUDICA REX MER, while the reverse features the inscription LUN/DONIA/CIVIT in three lines. Ludica reigned for just over a year in A.D. 826 to 827.

At Coombe Bissett, in Wiltshire, in January 2016 during an organized search on farmland, the coin was found buried 3 to 4 inches deep in a rotted stubble field. Hall, using an XP Deus metal detector, found the coin in a ball of thick mud. 

Now 55 years old, Hall had been detecting for two years when he found the coin. He saw that it was a Saxon silver penny and took it home before carefully removing the mud. After researching online, he sent details to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, where new discoveries of early medieval coins are registered.

Historical significance

Initially the coin’s authenticity was questioned because it was unique and so historically significant. 

Hall then spent the next three years having the coin examined by experts and then paid for metallurgical analysis before it was declared genuine, according to the auction house. 

Hall says it became his mission to have the historical importance of the coin recorded. It has now been published in the British Numismatic Journal 2019 and confirmed as an important addition to understanding the status of London in the Mercian Kingdom.

Nigel Mills, antiquities expert at Dix Noonan Webb, said, “Ludica is first recorded as an Ealdorman in 824 AD under the Mercian king Beornwulf. An Ealdorman was a title of high status comprising administrator, judge and military commander with authority independent of the King. Beornwulf was defeated by the Wessex king Ecgberht at the battle of Ellandun in 825 AD and it was believed that he then took control of South Eastern England. This coin shows that Mercia still retained London or Lundenwic as it was called in 826 A.D. and that it did not fall under Ecgberhts control until after Ludica was killed fighting the East Angles in 827 AD.”

He continued: “The coin has a right facing bust of unique style compared to the other existing nine specimens of Ludica, and has the remarkable reverse inscription of LUNDONIA CIVIT (City of London). All the other examples have just the moneyer’s name and are believed to have been struck in East Anglia.”

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