Richard II Pennies

Identification Aids

General

As all the pence of Richard II are of a standard design, their classification is necessarily based on the study of relatively small differences of detail. Early attempts at classification established that the style of the letters in the legends was changed during the reign, and that those with flat-ended serifs are found on 'early' coins, while those with fish-tail serifs are found on 'late' coins. This simple division between coins now designated Types I and II on the one hand, and Types III and IV on the other, is largely correct, but there are, in fact, three discrete lettering styles, as described below. A similar binary division, which usefully serves to corroborate the one described above, can be made on the basis of the pellet clusters in the angles of the reverse cross. On 'early' coins the three pellets are separate, but on 'late' coins they are joined together such that they resemble a trefoil. The 'early' and 'late' periods mentioned are now considered to be 1377-c.1390 and c.1390-1399 respectively. However, although the chronology of the coins is reasonably certain, close dating of the individual types within the two periods is not yet possible.

Further helpful information is provided by various marks that may be present on the king's breast, and others that are found within the obverse and reverse legends and fields. In the former case, the mark is usually either a fleur-de-lis or a cross, and in the latter case, the marks include double and single saltires and pellets in various positions. In the case of Type III coins only, an enigmatic mark, thought by many numismatists to be an escallop, occurs in the reverse legend after TAS.

In addition to the above, the form of the obverse legend and the division of the reverse legend by the cross-ends can often be helpful. In the case of the obverse legend, the king's name is either given in the full Latin form, RICARDVS, or abbreviated to RICARD. On some coins his English title alone is used (REX ANGLIE); on others both his English and French titles occur ( REX ANGLIE Z FRANC - variously abbreviated). With regard to the reverse legend, the mint name is divided as EBO RACI on some coins, and as EBOR ACI on others.

Each of the foregoing aspects is discussed in more detail below.

Lettering

In his 1962 BNJ paper, Purvey makes considerable use of relatively minor changes between letter punches to sub-divide Type Ia York pennies into six sub-types designated Ia1 to Ia6. These changes are all variations within the first of the three major styles of lettering discussed here and should not be confused with them. In the present article I have not sub-divided the coins of Type Ia, but occasionally make reference to Purvey's sub-classes for particular purposes.

The three lettering styles considered here are designated 'early', 'intermediate' and 'late' to avoid any confusion with the labelling of the classes, but in other publications they are often given either alphabetic or numeric labels. 

Early style letters have straight sides and flat-ended serifs, or very slightly concave ends to their limbs. They are found on Type I and Type II pennies. Intermediate style letters have 'fishtail' serifs and are found on Type III coins. Late style letters are mixed, but shorter and squarer than the previous two types. They are used only on the rare coins of Type IV. A damaged bottom right serif on the letter 'I' (as illustrated below) is invariably found on the 'I' of RICARD on both York and London coins.

The examples shown below are representative, but it should be borne in mind that wear of punches, dies and coins can result in features becoming less pronounced. It should also be stressed that styles under discussion apply only to coins struck with London-made dies. Those of York, struck with locally-made dies, are not covered, but they are usually recognisable by their coarseness and irregularity.

Style 1 A.jpg
Style 2 A.jpg
Style 1 I.jpg
Style 2 I.jpg
Style 3 I.jpg
Style 1 N.jpg
Style 2 N.jpg
Style 3 N.jpg

Early

Style A

Intermediate

Style A

Early

Style I

Intermediate

Style I

Late

Style I

Early

Style N

Intermediate

Style N

Late

Style N

Marks

As indicated above, various marks used on the coins are often helpful in determining their classification. They fall into three categories, namely those on the breast, those within the legends and those in the fields.

 

Marks on the breast are usually either a fleur-de-lis or a cross, but it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between them on worn coins. They occur on some coins of Type I, all coins of Type III, but not on Types II and IV.

 

The words in the obverse legend are usually separated by either double or single saltires, and the latter also occur immediately before the start, or after the end, of both obverse and reverse legends. Where this occurs it is sometimes difficult to be certain whether they are saltires or quatrefoils (see image below, for example). In a few cases, coins struck from London-made dies have a pellet before EBO or EBOR in the third quadrant of the reverse legend, but pellets in both legends are far more prevalent on coins struck from locally made York dies. The final mark within the legends is the enigmatic one illustrated below. Its identification has long been debated by numismatists, but the consensus view is that it is an escallop. The reason why an escallop was chosen, however, is unknown. It occurs after TAS in the reverse legend of all Type III pennies, but on no others.

Obverse field marks are limited to a pellet by each of the king's shoulders, and reverse field marks to an additional small pellet in the third angle of the cross. Pellets by the king's shoulders occur on a very few coins of Type Ia (Purvey Ia5), all coins of Type Ib, and virtually all York pennies struck from locally made dies. The additional pellet in the third reverse angle occurs on all Type Ib coins and a few of Type Ia and II, which might be regarded as Ia/Ib and II/1b mules respectively.

Examples of some of the above marks are illustrated below, but as there is much variation within the major types, reference to the detailed descriptions in the Classification section will usually be necessary.

Cross on Breast.jpg
Lis on Breast.jpg
Pellet above Shoulders.jpg
Quatrefoil Stop.jpg
Extra Pellet.jpg
Enigmatic Mark.jpg

Cross on

Breast

Lis on

Breast

Pellets by

Shoulders

Saltire or

Quatrefoil

Extra

Pellet

Enigmatic

Mark

Legend Variations

As indicated above, the main legend variations are whether the king's English title alone is used, or both his English and French titles. In the latter case, the form and extent of abbreviation varies between coin types and dies. In the case of the locally struck York coins, the form of the obverse legend - in particular the spelling of the English title - is the sole basis on which they are classified. With regard to the reverse legend on coins struck from London-made coins, there are just the two ways in which the mint name is divided, namely EBO RACI or EBOR ACI. 

The table that follows lists the above variants of both obverse and reverse legends and indicates on which types and sub-types of Richard's pennies they occur. 

Legends Table.jpg

Mules

 

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. In the case of Richard's pennies, the most interesting mules are perhaps those stuck with one side from a London-made die and the other side from a local die. 

In most cases the difference in quality between locally made and London-made dies is readily apparent, as in the case of the first illustration below. The obverse of this coin is from a London-made Type Ia (Purvey Ia5) die, and the reverse from a local die with crude and irregular lettering. 

The second illustration, however, poses more of a challenge. The obverse is from the same London-made die as the previous example, but the reverse is of much better quality than its counterpart. In this case, its identification as a local die is based only on the presence of two pellets in unusual positions within the legend.

Mule 1 Alt.jpg
Mule 2 Alt.jpg

 

The following mules are known of Richard's London pennies:  H4/III,  H4/IV,  IV/H4  (H4 = Henry IV heavy coinage)

The following mules are known of Richard's York pennies:  Ia/Ib,  Ia/local,  local/II,  IIIa/II,  IIIa/local,  local/III.