In the last article on the early Anglo- Saxon silver coinage, we looked at the Secondary Phase coins struck on the continent. In this issue, we survey the last of the ‘early’ English coins with a look at the coins of Northumbria, which include early gold shillings, sceattas, and the styca coinages. While the Northumbrian coins lack the interesting designs of the sceattas, they do name individual kings and bishops and so can be much more easily dated and placed in some sort of chronological order. The arrangement of the coins in the following discussion continues to draw on Rory Naismith’s new volume in the Medieval European Coinage series Britain and Ireland c.400-1066.
The story of Northumbrian coinage began as early as the mid-seventh century, with a series of gold shillings, mirroring the production of English shillings in south-eastern England. The findspot evidence almost certainly points to the important central town of York as the mint. There is some variety in the known types but all share a similar obverse type of a facing full-length figure holding two crosses, which becomes increasingly stylized in each of the four subsequent varieties. The reverses show more diversity. The unique first type has a central forked cross with a surrounding ‘inscription’ of crosses and runic’. The next two varieties are quite similar: The first comprises a central cros