A 1,200-year-old silver coin will go under the auction hammer for the second time in six years next week, and could break its own record to become the most expensive Anglo-Saxon coin to ever be sold at auction.
The penny, found by a treasure hunter in Pevensey, East Sussex, during a hailstorm six years ago, will be sold off by London auction house Spink next Tuesday, one of 32 lots of coins dating as far back as 700.
While most of the coins are estimated to go for prices in the low thousands, the coin – displaying an East Anglian king murdered in 794 – is estimated to sell for as much as £80,000, due to its rarity and ‘utmost historical significance’, according to the auction house.
The Anglo-Saxon penny was auctioned off in 2014 a month after it was discovered and sold for a record £78,000. Its upper estimate this time is even higher, at £80,000
However, Spink often tends to estimate conservatively to encourage bidding, with a March auction of gold coins seeing some lots sell for three times their estimates.
If this happened next Tuesday, the coin would sell for just shy of a quarter of a million pounds.
The coin already holds the record as the most expensive Anglo-Saxon silver coin ever sold at auction, when Mayfair-based Dix Noonan Webb gavelled it off for £78,000 in June 2014, after it was previously expected to fetch just £20,000.
It was found a month earlier by then-48-year-old Darrin Simpson, a pest controller from Eastbourne, after his metal detector went off when he was sheltering in a farmer’s field during the storm.
He expected it to be a World War II bullet case, although Pevensey’s history dates back to Roman times in 300 AD and was where William the Conqueror landed in 1066 ahead of claiming the English throne at the Battle of Hastings.
The coin is just one of four found from the reign of the East Anglian king Ethelbert. It is the only one of them to feature the title ‘Rex’
However, it is unclear why a coin displaying the name of the king of East Anglia, Ethelbert II, who was killed in 794 in Herefordshire on the orders of the then-king of Mercia, which covers much of the modern midlands, ended up in East Sussex.
At the time, England was divided into seven Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, including East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Mercia, Northumbria, Sussex and Wessex.
Just four coins featuring the East Anglian king have been found, with the 2014 penny the first to be discovered in more than a century.
Just four coins commemorating Ethelbert, estimated to have reigned for around 15 years in the late-8th century, have been discovered, Spink said.
In the listing, the auction house described the coin as ‘of the highest rarity and utmost historical importance’, and said it was the only one from his reign available on the open market.
The penny is the only coin to feature Ethelbert’s name and the title ‘Rex’, meaning King, on the same side, with this presumption suggested by some experts as a reason for his death in 794.
Anglo-Saxon was divided up into seven kingdoms. Ethelbert II was the king of East Anglia for around 15 years before he was killed on the orders of Offa the Great of Mercia, the largest kingdom
‘The importance comes not only in the fact it is the first new coin for this obscure East Anglian king in over a century, but also because it is a new type of coin for him that may, in the subtleties of its design point to why he was executed by his overlord’, Spink specialist Gregory Edmund told This is Money.
He added: ‘Collectors have certainly expressed interest, and to some it may be the ‘last hurrah’ before the furlough scheme winds down and the market bites as we enter the later autumn.
Despite commemorating a king of East Anglia, the coin was found in a farmer’s field in Pevensey, East Sussex, by a man from Eastbourne. The town’s history dates back to Roman times and its fort was rebuilt into a Norman castle (pictured above) by William the Conqueror, who landed there in 1066
‘On a further note because a lot of these coins have a history that transcends the collector and rests in the national psyche, they are especially popular to ‘trophy’ hunters.
‘Who doesn’t want a piece of King Alfred the Great?’
The price of the coin starts at £50,000 and the collection of Anglo-Saxon and Viking coins dating from 700 to the Battle of Hastings goes under the hammer at Spink on 15 September.