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Fine Style Offa Portrait

541947. SOLD $13950

ANGLO-SAXON, Kings of Mercia. Offa. 757-796. AR Penny (17mm, 1.08 g, 3h). Light coinage, portrait type. London mint; Eadhun, moneyer. Struck circa 785-792/3. :· ΘFFA REX, bust right with elaborate hairstyle / (pelleted cross) Є: ·A∂: ·:HV· :N:· in the angles of a lozenge cross crosslet with central small cross. cf. Chick 32g; EMC 2019.0266 (this coin); North 303; SCBC 905. Slight crimp and some very light porosity under light tone. Otherwise a full coin. Near EF. Unique and struck from dies of the finest style.

This superb portrait piece, which depicts Offa sporting an extraordinary ‘Glam Rock’ hairstyle, belongs to the very beginning of English coin portraiture. It is the work of an engraver or atelier identified by Derrick Chick as supplying the 'finest portrait dies' to the moneyers who participated in the primary phase of the issue in the late 770s. Chick noted that ‘the workmanship is inevitably discernible particularly in the unenclosed busts [by] the exceptional balance of the design, the relationship between the bust and the letters of the inscription, and in particular, the characteristic treatment of the head with its proud, often elevated stance, its junction with the bust and the detail of modelling in the face.’ After this brilliant first flowering numismatic portraiture in England would not attain these heights again until the Renaissance, many centuries later.