Early Edwardian Pennies
Even with the benefit of an illustrated catalogue, accurate identification of early Edwardian pennies can prove extremely difficult. No substantive changes were made throughout the period, and such changes as did occur were often evolutionary, or even accidental. It is only by examining individual elements of the design - legends, letters, contractive marks, crowns, faces, hair, neck, drapery, etc. - that the nature of the classification becomes apparent, and only by extensive practice that proficiency can be achieved. Furthermore, almost every pointer to classification that can be devised is subject to qualification or exceptions, so it is wise to avoid the inference that any of them constitute watertight rules. The aids to identification that follow are intentionally simplified, but by using them collectively, it should usually be possible to narrow the range of potential groups to no more than two or three, at which point the images and descriptions of the relevant groups can be viewed for more specific information. Once the correct group is determined, details of the types within that group can be viewed by clicking the link at the foot of the description panel.
It is appropriate at this point to define some of the numismatic terms used in the article. In the context of the early Edwardian coinage, the obverse of a coin is the side that bears the facing bust of the king. The reverse is the side that carries the long cross with pellets in the angles. A mule is a coin struck with the obverse die of one type, and the reverse die of an earlier or later type. Mules are very useful for determining the order in which the coins were struck. Coins struck with dies that are normally used together are described as true coins.
Before using the identification aids, it is necessary to confirm that the coin under consideration falls within the fifteen groups that make up the coinage of Edward I and Edward II, rather than belonging to a later period. In 1335, 1344 and 1351, Edward III struck new issues of coins, now known as his 2nd, 3rd (or Florin) and 4th coinages. The 2nd coinage did not include pennies, but those of the 3rd and 4th coinages could potentially be mistaken for coins of the earlier Edwards. The illustrations below show examples of these later pennies along with a penny of the type covered by the present article. The means by which they may be differentiated are described in the annotations. Unless very worn, coins later than Edward III are unlikely to be confused with those of Edward I/II, as the king’s name does not re-occur until Edward IV came to the throne in 1461, by which time the penny was considerably reduced in weight and size. It should also be noted that some very deceptive contemporary imitations of Edwardian pennies exist. Unfortunately it isn’t possible to provide guidance on their identification, as familiarity with the minutest detail is required to detect them.
The obverse legend on every penny in the series is an abbreviation of EDWARDVS REX ANGLIE DOMINVS HYBERNIE (Edward, King of England, Lord of Ireland), but it is abbreviated in various ways, all of which preserve the initial letters E R A D and H. This is important to keep in mind, as the exact abbreviation of the king’s name can play a useful part in the identification process, and it would not otherwise be clear where the name ends and the titles begin. There are no spaces between the abbreviated words, so EDWRANGLDNSHYB must be read as EDW R ANGL DNS HYB and not as EDWR ANGL DNS HYB. Likewise, EDWARANGLDNSHYB must be read as EDWA R ANGL DNS HYB. Subject to this caveat, the number of possible groups can be appreciably reduced by reference to the following table. X indicates the normal abbreviation(s) used on the coins of each group; R and VR indicate rare and very rare occurrences respectively.
The reverse legend identifies the mint, so in many cases, particularly those where mints were active only during the recoinage periods, it can be a useful means of reducing the range of possible groups. If further guidance on the identification of mints is required, it can be found in ‘The mints’ section.
The crown is perhaps the most important single element, as it is the defining characteristic for all coins struck from the secondary phase of group 10 through to group 15, and for several types of coin in the earlier groups. It consists of a headband, a central fleur, two side-fleurs and two intermediate ornaments. The side-fleurs may be trifoliate (three-leafed) or bifoliate (two-leafed). The intermediate ornaments may be pearls (pellets), arrowheads (triangular) or spearheads (leaf-shaped). The crown was usually impressed on the die using a single punch, but occasionally the headband, fleurs and ornaments were entered using separate punches. In the latter case the crown is described as composite. In the figure that follows, groups and types marked with an asterisk indicate that the illustrated crown is representative only (i.e. other varieties exist). In the case of those that are not marked, the illustration can be regarded as definitive, although very slightly different forms, resulting mainly from repairs and recut punches, exist in some cases.
The form of certain letters, particularly A, C/E, N and S, can be a very useful pointer, and the figure below indicates the most likely groups for each of the illustrated types. However, there are numerous isolated instances where the various types occur in groups other than those indicated. This possibility should be kept in mind if none of the shortlisted groups appears to match the coin under consideration.
Marks are frequently inserted into the legends (predominantly the obverse legend) to indicate that a word is shortened, thus R’ is short for REX and ANGL’ is short for ANGLIE. The marks can be wedge-shaped, crescent-shaped, comma-shaped, etc, and their presence, position and shape are often a key part of the identification process. As with letters, however, there are numerous isolated instances where the various marks occur in groups other than those indicated. This possibility should be kept in mind if none of the shortlisted groups appears to match the coin under consideration.
The initial mark used on the obverse of the pennies is almost always a cross, but the form varies throughout the series. The bishops of Durham placed their distinctive personal marks on the coins, and the ecclesiastical mint of the archbishop of York is indicated by a quatrefoil. From time to time marks are also placed at the centre of the king’s drapery, suggesting a clasp or other type of fastener.