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Research Coins: Feature Auction

CNG 91, Lot: 1573. Estimate $2000.
Sold for $4250. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

IRELAND, Hiberno-Norse. Sihtric III Olafsson. 995-1036. AR Penny (19mm, 1.43 g, 3h). Phase I coinage, Long Cross type. Difelin (Dublin) mint signature; ‘Faeremin,’ moneyer. Struck circa 995/7-1020. + SIHTRIC REX DУFLII, draped bust right; pellet behind / + FÆ REMI N MΘ DУFLI, voided long cross, with triple crescent ends. Cf. SCBI 8 (BM), 21 (for type); SCBC 6103. Superb EF, toned. Rare.

Ex Heritage (2 January 2011), lot 24838.

The minting of coinage in Ireland began shortly before 1000 when the Hiberno-Norse king of Dublin, Sihtric III Olafsson, authorized the striking of silver coins to pay for the town's defenses. Copying directly from contemporary Anglo-Saxon issues of Æthelred II (979-1016) and Cnut (1016-1035), these pennies bear the name Sihtric or Æthelred on the obverse, and the moneyer and mint name of Dublin on the reverse. In addition to these coins, a series of derivative types, based on Æthelred's Long Cross coinage type, became so popular that they continued to be struck until at least 1150. The designs of these later issues grew increasingly more schematized and the legends unintelligible. Numismatists call this coinage Hiberno-Norse (or, sometimes, Hiberno-Danish), since it was struck for those of combined Norse-Gaelic background who settled in the area of the Irish Sea. The coinage is traditionally divided into seven distinct phases. Phase I (Circa 995/7-1020) and Phase II (circa 1018-1035) are issues roughly contemporary with the reign of Sihtric Anlafsson. Phase I coins are heavier than those of Phase II and attempt to accurately copy their English prototypes, sometimes even including obverse legend with the name of the English king rather than the name of Sihtric. Phase I mules abound, combining a Sihtric obverse with an English reverse, and vice versa. During Phase II, the coins, in addition to becoming lighter, begin to imitate the earlier imitations, with the name of Sihtric passing from NIHTRIC to NHTRC and INTRC. The majority of Phase II issues have the reverse legend FÆREMIN M'O DYFLIN, indicating that the direct copying of English prototypes was no longer necessary in coin production. Coinage of Phase III (circa 1035-1055/60) is of a consistent, albeit reduced, weight. The majority of extant examples of this Phase came from four distinct hoards, three of which were deposited in southern Leinster County, Ireland, and one on the Isle of Man. Dublin remained the Hiberno-Norse mint to the inexplicable exclusion of a flourishing Hiberno-Norse community at Waterford. Phase IV (circa 1055/60-1065) is the most numismatically intriguing. This phase continues the types of the earlier phases, though with more crudely-designed "scratched" dies, and occur in two varieties that are distinguished by a left or right facing bust. In addition, a new, short-lived, and quite rare, facing bust type was introduced. In appearance, this obverse type was unlike anything to this point in the Hiberno-Norse series, and led to the suggestion that it was an early Anglo-Norman issue of local produce, namely Limerick (SCBI 8, p. 132 and note 4). The epigraphy of the obverse is similar to other Hiberno-Norse issues, and the close resemblance of some reverse dies between this type and other Phase IV issues, almost certainly makes this type part of that phase (cf. SCBI 8 145 and 155). Phase V (circa 1065-1085/95) is the perhaps the most complicated phase. In addition to returning to the traditional Hiberno-Norse types of prior phases, new types are introduced. The prototypes for these new coins are mostly near-contemporary English coins, but it is highly probable that contemporary Danish coins were also used (SCBI 8, p. 137). Like the previous phases, the coins of Phase VI (circa 1095/1100-1150) are also uniform in their design and further-reduced weight. One significant feature of this phase is the common inclusion of a crook to the left of the portrait, a feature which appeared only occasionally in Phase V. While the symbol has been argued to represent an ecclesiastical event (and, hence described in some catalogs as a crozier), the evidence is insufficient. The average weight of coins of this phase is 0.52g. The final phase, Phase VII (circa 1150), is represented by two major hoards, Scrabo and Castlelyons, both locations far-removed from Dublin, as well as two coin types. The first type, found in the Scrabo hoard, is familiar in design, although much rougher and of a very thin fabric, and is is referred to as a semi-bracteate, because, due to the thinness of the metal, the design of either the obverse or reverse assumes some concavity. The second type, found exclusively in the Castlelyons hoard, is a true bracteate. The style and fabric of this latter type suggests a mint authority different from that of the previous Hiberno-Norse phases. One possible source, suggested by Dolley (SCBI 8, p. 142-144), for these coins is Toirrdhealbhach Ó Conchubhair, the twelfth-century king of Connachta (Connaught). According to the 1662 Cambrensis Eversus of John Lynch (SCBI 8 op. cit.), Toirrdhealbhach, who aspired to the High Kingship and was deeply religious, ordered silver coinage to be struck at the important Connachta monastic center of Cluain Mhic Nóis (Clonmachnoise). While compelling, the evidence for such an attribution is largely circumstantial. If these bracteates were struck on behalf of Toirrdhealbhach Ó Conchubhair, they would be the only coins to date of one of the High Kings of Ireland prior to the Norman incursion on the island.