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Research Coins: Feature Auction


Dies by ‘the Helmet Master’

Triton XXI, Lot: 1137. Estimate $1000.
Sold for $1300. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

SWEDEN. Olof Skötkonung (the Treasurer). 995–1022. AR Penny (20mm, 1.47 g, 6h). Imitation of Æthelred II Helmet type. Sigtuna mint. Struck after 1003. + EDELERD REX A(NG), helmeted bust left / + ED : PI(NE)’ MΩ Θ LV(ND), voided long cross, with pellet in center and triple crescent ends, over square with trefoil at each point; annulet in third quarter. Malmer, Sigtuna Chain 24, 311.801; Viking Collection (Spink 150, 14 March 2001), lot 1165 (same dies, cover coin). VF, toned, some peck marks. Very rare. The work of a highly skilled engraver who Malmer dubbed ‘the Helmet-master’ (Malmer, p. 23).

Also known as Olof Eiríksson, Olof Skötkonung (the Treasurer) was the first Christian King of Sweden. The epithet Skötkonung refers to Olof’s role as a treasure king: taxes, a tributary relationship, the minting of coins, or an ancient land ownership ceremony have all been suggested as possible explanations. Much of what is known about him comes from the great Icelandic historian and mythographer, Snorri Sturulson, as well as the German medieval chronicler, Adam of Bremen. Olof’s reign was spent in negotiating the complicated politics of eleventh century Scandinavia. At one point Olof participated in a Viking raid into northern Germany. There, he captured Edia, the daughter of a local West Slavic chieftain. Becoming his mistress, Edia gave birth to King Emund of Sweden (1050-1060) and Astrid Olofsdotter, Queen of Norway (d. 1035). Olof appears to have not always been interested in maintaining his territories. He lost control of Denmark (which his father had conquered) to Sweyn I Forkbeard and, in 1000, formed and alliance with him. When war erupted between Sweden and Norway following Olaf II Haraldsson’s reestablishment of the latter kingdom, it became a personal family feud, since Olaf II Haraldsson had been married to Astrid Olofsdotter and later engaged to Ingegerd Olofsdotter. No one on either side wished the war to go on, apart from Olof Skötkonung. The Swedes became so incensed at Olof’s obstinacy that one of his revered advisers, Thorgny Lawspeaker, threatened to kill the king if he did not cease and turn his attention eastward toward the old areas once controlled by his ancestors. Olof was thereupon compelled to share power with his son, Anund, and submit to the terms of the peace treaty forged at Kungahälla in 1020. Olof also betrothed his daughter Ingegerd to Yaroslav I the Wise.

In 1008, Olof Skötkonung was baptised a Christian by St. Sigfrid at Husaby. Olof’s death in the winter of 1021/2 was, according to legend, the result of his refusal to sacrifice to the pagan gods. He was later canonized as St. Olof of Sweden.