A Short Cut: the minting of Anglo Saxon cut coins

A Short Cut: the minting of Anglo Saxon cut coins

By David Barrowclough

Report, Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge, 2001

Pile of English coins – photo by Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P. / Flickr

Abstract: The production of Anglo-Saxon cut halfpennies and farthings has been a hitherto neglected area of research. Metcalf proposed that cut fractions were produced in the mints where chisels were used to cut pennies into smaller denominations. The mints were therefore responsible for officially issuing the currency and for controlling its circulation.

His theory was upheld with little more than anecdotal evidence. Using a previously unstudied collection of eighty cut fractions Metcalf’s theory was tested for the first time. Having created a reference collection of the characteristics of cuts made by different types of tool each coin was microscopically examined to determine how it had been cut. It was found that Anglo-Saxon cut fractions were manufactured in a systematic manner using a chisel to make the cut. This finding offers the first independent evidence to support Metcalf’s explanation of cut coin production.

Introduction: Whilst the production of the coinage of Anglo-Saxon England is generally well documented there is remarkably little literature concerning the minting of cut pieces: that is, the halfpennies and farthings that make up a substantial  proportion of the coins that were in circulation.

The aim of this paper is to make some  preliminary observations on the processes that were involved in the manufacture of the cut coins and to stimulate wider debate on this interesting but hitherto neglected area of research.

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