Confused or unsure about purchasing coins of this era on ebay ? I hope my guide will provide some answers to your questions.
This guide is intended to be of help when considering which Saxon and/or Norman coins to purchase. It is not exhaustive, nor is it particularly authoratative, although I am a collector with some experience. If someone reads this guide and decides not to buy a Saxon penny that is subsequently proven to be a reproduction, or simply thinks twice, then I will have achieved my goals. The safe purchase and enjoyment of coins from my chosen era. The old adage is never more applicable than when buying pennies in this category : If it looks too good to be true ...... it probably is.
Collectors of Anglo-Saxon and Norman coinage are by definition specialists. Our cabinets often contain rare and expensive coins. With experience comes recognition and eventually a 'feel' for the coinage. Consistant research expands knowledge and allows an in-depth understanding of branch topics including classification, minting and moneyers. Often Similarly related subjects such as history and archaeology are also encountered. Collectors tend to closely study their coins, and coinage in general, on a regular basis.
Research may involve books, the internet, associations, societies, schemes, museums, dealers, experts, and so on. I would recommend the following books and website as standard :
Coins of England. Spink. Published yearly.
English Hammered Coinage. Volume One. J.J. North.
Early Medieval Coinage/Sylloge of Coins of the British Isles. [EMC/SCBI] Database. Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. Invaluable.
Coins or good quality photos/pictures may be submitted to Dr. Martin Allen of the Fitzwilliam, who will record them and provide [free of charge] a positive identification and associated information. Dealers literature and websites are definately worth a look as these usually provide accurate info on the coins they sell. Sites that showcase collections [professional and amateur] are another avenue to explore. Single coins, detector finds and the like, can be identified by local museums and/or the Portable Antiquities Scheme.
HOW TO AVOID A BAD TRANSACTION.
The majority of sellers in this Sub Category [Hammered Coins pre-c.1662] are honest, friendly and completely trustworthy. But gut instinct tells the collector when something is not as it should be. The following should be taken into account when browsing to buy.
Cast coins. These are all fakes. Saxon and Norman coins were hammered and as such are very thin. Cast coins are thick and have a 'cast line' around the edge.
Size. Certain books will provide the correct flan size. "English coins in the British Museum : Anglo-Saxon" Volumes one and two are ideal for this kind of info. For the Saxon/Norman era the average size for pennies was around 20mm.
Weight. If uncertain always ask the seller. Some books will give the correct weight [see above]. Fakes are almost invariably heavier than genuine coins.
Material. Pennies of this era were ALL made of silver [in varying quantities]. Testing kits are available. Silver blackens with age [especially when debased], often has verdigris and sometimes oxidizes, [and becomes very dark, brittle and chalk-like. It also bends and breaks easily with the characteristics of thin lead], in extreme conditions. It is a comparatively soft metal. # I would not advise cleaning these coins under any conditions. #
Stamped Coins. This is done by the manufacturer to mark it as a copy. Often carefully filed or burned off in an attempt to pass the coin as genuine. Generally made of pewter, or plated, etc...
Myths. This involves coins and types that did not exist at the time ! I was once caught out in this manner and purchased a supposed cut half penny of Aethelstan I. Cut halves are exceptionally rare before the reform coinage of king Eadgar in AD973. My coin is a broken penny of Aethelstan I, 'trimmed' to be sold as a cut half.
SELLERS TRICKS AND TRAITS.
No pics, or very blurred ones on the listing. Seller probably has something to hide, or isn't bothered if the coin sells. Ask for pics [genuine ones, not stock photos], or better pics, and certainly more info. Or avoid.
Bad Feedback. Dont simply trust the numbers to tell the story. Read the feedback, then decide whether or not to purchase.
Unwilling to Discuss. No answer to emails, too busy to talk etc..something to hide ? Avoid. [Please note if the seller cannot discuss the coin through lack of knowledge - and makes this clear, then allowances must be made, similarly if they are away on holiday etc...].
Exaggeration. Coins described as Superb, Fantastic etc...when clearly they are nothing of the kind. Also includes overgrading. A notorious practice on ebay. Several times I have seen coins from this era advertised as uncirculated [unlikely unless hoarded straight after minting] and even one described as a Fleur-de-Coin.
Trick Photography. This is frequently done when the seller offers a job lot of coins for sale at once. Some sellers will lay all the coins out evenly on a surface and photograph [and usually describe] the entire group....but most will simply photograph a small pile of coins [and offer a vague, or semi-vague, description]. The best few will be on top of course [these will usually be mentioned in the listing]. This is done to tempt the buyer into bidding on what is essentially a pile of scrap metal !! If selling poor quality coins, please sell them openly and honestly.
History Lesson. Far too much information on the monarch and historical period of the coin. Please do that amount of research on the coin itself and add that to the listing ! And keep actual history to a minimum.
Excessive Postage. Very annoying. Sellers trying to make extra money on top of the cost of the coin, by raising the cost of postage to ridiculous levels. I have seen this taken to ludicrous extremes at NINE POUNDS for standard postage. A hammered coin weighs next to nothing and will in fact ship on a first class stamp [although not recommended unless bought very cheaply]. Standard parcel post for this size and weight would be less than a pound. Recorded delivery is at around £1.25. Special delivery is £4.10 [your coin is insured for up to £500 with this option]. Add a pound at most for a padded envelope, bubble wrap and perhaps a capsule or similar. Enter into a conversation with the buyer and find out why their postage is so high. If you dont like the answer, or dont get one, dont bid.
May be genuine... This annoys me. Also listings with 'part of my late fathers collection', 'bought as part of a collection', 'bought from car boot sale' etc...If the seller cant be bothered to have it authenticated, then dont buy it [unless you know something they dont] as the chances are that its a copy. I try to warn buyers if I can tell its a fake.
Shill bidding or 'shill-ing'. This can happen if the ID of the bidders is kept private on the sellers listing pages. It involves the seller [or another person or people in league with the seller] bidding on their own item to force the price higher for genuine buyers. I was actually asked by a seller to do this once. I did not even offer the courtesy of a reply. It is against ebay policy and many bidders have strong feelings about the private ID system. The official ebay anonymous bidding policy, in which the bidders ID's are hidden once the price exceeds a certain amount [usually £100 for coins] unfortunately serves as an extension of the private ID system.
I hope this guide has been of help. Kind Regards, Dave.
P.S. I regularly identify coins from my specialist era for sellers on ebay. I also offer a coin identification and advice service [free of charge]. I can be contacted for any reason through my profile [Contact member] or at :
[my ebay forum] Early Medieval Hammered Coinage. This is a public group with over 100 members and as such all are welcome to join.
My website is "Daves Rare Coins" Please see my 'About Me' page.
I WOULD LIKE TO THANK EVERYONE WHO HAS VIEWED THIS GUIDE, AND ESPECIALLY THOSE WHO HAVE VOTED IT AS HELPFUL. MUCH APPRECIATED.