Ancient Anglo-Saxon gold coin found by metal detector sells for record price in Britain The British Museum is delighted to announce that it has acquired a rare and important Anglo-Saxon gold coin depicting Coenwulf King of Mercia (796-821).
For further information please contact Hannah Boulton on 020 7323 8522 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Joe Edwards on 020 7323 8583 or email@example.com
Notes to Editors:
The coin was purchased by the Museum for £357,832, a record figure for a British coin. The NHMF provided £225,000; the Art Fund £60,000; British Museum Friends £10,000; and the Goldsmiths’ Company £5,000. Individual donations provided over £3,000, with the remainder paid for by the British Museum itself.
The Museum is making arrangements for the coin to be displayed at the Bedford Museum in 2007, thus enabling it to be seen close to its findspot. This is part of a wider plan for the coin to be exhibited at a number of museums across Coenwulf’s former kingdoms as part of Partnership UK, the Museum’s national touring programme. The tour will start at Norwich Castle Museum.
The weight of the coin suggests it was designed to represent the sum of a ‘mancus’, a word which appears to have represented both a nominal weight of c.4.25g and also the value of thirty silver pennies.
The coin also provides new information about the status of London during Coenwulf's reign, in addition to carrying his name and title on the obverse, the coin contains the intriguing inscription DE VICO LVNDONIAE(from the trading place of London) on the reverse. This has parallels with a gold coin of Coenwulf’s contemporary Charlemagne, with the description VICO DORESTATIS. This suggests that Coenwulf, who was the overlord of much of southern England as well as king of Mercia, was playing one-upmanship games with the most powerful ruler in Europe. In addition, London is described as a ‘vicus’ rather than a ‘civitas’, implying that in the context of this coin, London was seen as a trading centre rather than a centre of royal authority.
The National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) was established in 1980 as a memorial to those who gave their lives for this country and it continues to operate as a fund of ‘last resort’, focussing on saving heritage which is under threat, whether from sale overseas, the break-up of collections, or, in the case of land, from unsympathetic development. The Fund’s current budget is £5million per annum which comes from government grant-in-aid.
The National Art Collections Fund (Art Fund) is the UK’s leading art charity. It has 80,000 members. Since its foundation in 1903, the Art Fund has helped UK public collections acquire over 850,000 works of art. In 2004 the Art Fund offered £4.3 million to museums and galleries and distributed 11 gifts and bequests. The Art Fund is independent of government and raises money from membership subscriptions, donations and legacies. The Art Fund has led successful campaigns to save for the nation masterpieces such as Velázquez’s ‘Rokeby Venus’, the Leonardo Cartoon and the Macclesfield Psalter. Visit the charity’s website at www.artfund.org