Silver penny from 'virtually unknown' Saxon king expected to fetch £10,000-£15,000 at auction

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03 February 2020
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A silver penny of Saxon king Ludica, discovered in Wiltshire by metal detectorist Andy Hall, is to go to auction at Dix Noonan Webb on 10 March 2020.

Dix Noonan Webb will offer the coin in a sale of Coins, Tokens and Historical Medals at their auction rooms in Mayfair, London.

A unique find

Found at Coombe Bissett, in Wiltshire in January 2016 during a one-off organised visit on farmland, the coin was buried 3-4 inches deep in a rotted down stubble field using an XP Deus metal detector.

When found it was in a ball of thick mud. Andy, who at the time of the find been detecting for two years,  saw that it was a Saxon Silver penny and took it home before carefully removing the mud. After researching online, he sent details to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge where new discoveries of early medieval coins are registered.

Initial questions

Initially the coin's authenticity was questioned because it was unique and so historically significant. Andy spent the next three years having the coin examined by experts and then paid for metallurgical analysis before it was declared genuine.

Andy says it became his mission to have the historical importance of the coin recorded. It has now been published in the British Numismatic Journal 2019 and confirmed as an 'important addition' to our understanding of the status of London in the Mercian Kingdom.

Who was King Ludica?

As Nigel Mills, Antiquities Expert at Dix Noonan Webb, explains “Ludica is first recorded as an Ealdorman in 824 AD under the Mercian king Beornwulf. An Ealdorman was a title of high status comprising administrator, judge and military commander with authority independent of the King.

Beornwulf was defeated by the Wessex king Ecgberht at the battle of Ellandun in 825 AD and it was believed that he then took control of South Eastern England. This coin shows that Mercia still retained London or Lundenwic as it was called in 826 AD and that it did not fall under Ecgberhts control until after Ludica was killed fighting the East Angles in 827 AD.”

“The coin has a right facing bust of unique style compared to the other existing nine specimens of Ludica, and has the remarkable reverse inscription of LUNDONIA CIVIT (City of London). All the other examples have just the moneyer's name and are believed to have been struck in East Anglia.”

Auction details

The coin has on the obverse a diademed bust of Ludica facing right with the legend LUDICA REX MER, while the reverse features the inscription LUN/DONIA/CIVIT in three lines. Ludica reigned for just over a year in 826-827 AD.

The coin will be auctioned at the Dix Noonan Webb sale of coins, tokens and historical medals on 10 March 2020 at 10am. For details, visit the website.