Short Cross Pennies
The Sub-Classification of Class 7 - Further Guidance
The respective periods of production of each of the eight main classes of short cross coins vary considerably, but at twenty-four years that of class 7 is by far the longest. It represents more than one third of the total duration of the short cross issue, and probably accounts for about one fifth of the total output of coins. (The quantitative estimate is based on approximately 1600 individual short cross coins recorded on the UKDFD over a fourteen-year period. Mass¹, in SCBI 56, estimates that more than half of all surviving short cross pennies may be of class 7, partly due to the two largest hoards, Eccles, 1864 (5715 short cross coins) and Colchester, 1902 (10568 short cross coins), being deposited during the issue of class 7.)
Despite the long period of production and the large number of coins available for study, it has proved very difficult to divide and sub-divide the class in a definitive way. Lawrence², in the mint and moneyer tables of his 1915 paper, subdivides the class into 7a, 7b and 7c, but offers little guidance on the criteria that distinguish the three sub-classes. This shortcoming is addressed by Stewart³, who in 1979 establishes basic descriptions for Lawrence’s three sub-classes, corrects some points of detail, particularly those relating to mint/moneyer attributions, and considers sub-class 7a in some detail. In 1988, North⁴ builds on Stewart’s work and extends the detailed analysis to include sub-classes 7b and 7c. He analyses many small features of the design, including the eyes, nose, sceptre-head and lettering. Of these features, he concludes that the nose and sceptre-head can assist with the sub-division of class 7a, but only the eyes are sufficiently distinctive to form the basis of his sub-division of 7b and 7c.
Mass, in his Sylloge volume of 2001, largely adopts the classification proposed by North with just two minor amendments: the reversal of the first two sub-classes of 7a, and the amalgamation of the last two. As it stands, therefore, class 7 is divided into three higher-level sub-classes, 7a, 7b and 7c, which are further divided into a total of ten lower-level sub-classes, 7a1 to 7a3, 7b1 to 7b4, and 7c1 to 7c3.
Even at the higher level, attribution in some cases can be problematic. The basic criteria, as established by Stewart, are:
7a. ‘Well-struck coins with neat portrait and lettering, the A being of the roman (pointed) form with the addition of a top bar.’
7b. ‘Rougher in execution and design, the lettering is less tidy, with a rectangular A (H with top bar); H soon replaces M. There is a great variety of bust and lettering.’
7c. ‘Largish coins with a large degenerate face, and tall letters, with long fronts to C and E. Sometimes the A (still square) is chevron-barred, and a true M reappears⁵, instead of H, on a few coins.’
Problems arise, however, because several of the criteria are subjective, many coins, particularly those of London, do not have the letter A (or M) in their legends, and letter sizes vary within classes and between dies.
In view of the difficulties presented, the best approach to identification within class 7, particularly for those with limited experience, is progressively to narrow the range of possible sub-classes. In performing this task, objective criteria should be given priority over subjective criteria wherever possible. This approach is adopted in the present guide, which entails selecting applicable criteria from two tables.
Table 1 lists in approximately chronological order the moneyers of each of the four mints that produced class 7 coins. The number of sub-classes struck by each moneyer varies from one to nine, but with an average of about four sub-classes per moneyer, the number of possibilities is immediately reduced (on average) by more than half. (If any difficulty is experienced identifying the mint/moneyer combination, please refer to the section of the article entitled 'Mints & Moneyers' or make use of the CoinSearcher tool.)
Table 2 lists the following predominantly objective features and indicates the sub-classes where they occur:
(a) The form of the letter A
(b) The form of the letter M
(c) The shape of the king's eyes
(d) The presence or absence of pellets on various parts of the coin
Examples of each of the above features are illustrated below for clarity.
The process simply entails identifying the possible sub-classes by reference to Table 1, and then using Table 2 to check which of the features applicable to those particular sub-classes apply to the coin under consideration. The final stage may require returning to the main Class 7 page to decide between two possibilities on the basis of subjective criteria.
Where it is present, the letter A with angled sides and a protruding top-bar is the defining feature of sub-class 7a. However, the form of the letter varies during the course of this sub-class, as indicated by the first two images. It should be noted that the top-bar is sometimes shaped like a bow-tie and sometimes plain, and that the two angled sides do not necessarily meet at a point under it. In general, the bow-tie form would appear to be more common during the earlier part of the sub-class, and the plain form more common during the later part, but there is not a direct correlation between the form and the sub-division of 7a into 7a1, 7a2 and 7a3. It should also be noted that on a few coins where two instances of the letter A occur, one may be of the form with angled sides, as the second image, and the other of the later square-topped form, as the third image. Where this occurs, Mass attributes the coin to 7a3 rather than 7b1.
Where present on coins of sub-classes 7a1-7a3, the letter M is always of the normal chevron-barred form. It also occurs on the earliest coins of sub-class 7b1. Later coins of sub-class 7b1, and all subsequent coins, have the straight-barred form.
In his 1988 paper, North identified eight different forms of the king's eyes, which he regarded as a key feature for the sub-classification of class 7 coins. In practice, however, it is very difficult to distinguish between some of the forms, and I have chosen to group his 'thin annulet', 'thick oval', 'thick annulet' and 'irregular annulet' under the single description, 'annulet'. The five forms that remain are relatively easy to differentiate, even on worn coins, and remain a useful aid to identification.
The presence, or absence, of pellets in various parts of the design can be helpful for identification, but care is required as there are potential pitfalls. By way of example, all class 7b2 coins have a pellet on the chin, but not all coins with a pellet on the chin are class 7b2. A particular point to note is that 'pellets in legend' in the present context refers to oddly placed pellets (e.g. within the mint or moneyer's name, thus: AD•AM or CAN•TER, or either side of the initial cross: •+•), not functional pellets like those used in multi-part names (e.g. ROGER•OF•R• or IOAN•F•R•), or either side of on (•ON•).
1. Mass, J.P. The J P Mass Collection of English Short Cross Coins, 1180-1247, SCBI 56, 2001
2. Lawrence, L.A. The Short-Cross Coinage, 1180 to 1247, BNJ 11,1915
3. Stewart, I. English Coinage in the Later Years of John and the Minority of Henry III, BNJ 49, 1979
4. North, J.J. A Re-examination of Classes 7 and 8 of the Short Cross Coinage, BNJ 58, 1988
5. I have not traced a class 7c coin with this form of the letter M, and have therefore omitted it from Table 2