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English Silver Penny

The Roman Empire was no longer a threat to the world during the middle ages. The great Roman Empire was just a fragment of what it once was and the European world was going through many different religious and geopolitical changes. New countries were emerging and forming across the European continent.

The Short Cross and Long Cross Silver Penny are excellent examples of coins from the middle ages. These coins were made in England. The kings appointed “Moneyers” to hammer out of sterling silver coins to replace the Roman coins and Anglo-Saxon forms of money that were still circulating during the ages of Knights and Royalty.

What became known as the Short Cross Silver Penny circulated in England during the 12th century (around the mid 1100’s A.D.) but considerable clipping and counterfeiting occurred with these crudely made sterling silver hammered coins. In fact, the clipping was so serious that the king decided to redesign the short cross on the back of the penny to a long cross. The long cross came to the edge of the coin and helped the public to determine the true size of the coin, thus preventing clipping. Since these coins were hammered, not minted or made with milled edges, it was still quite easy for the moneyer to err and create an off strike coin. The error helped some of the coins to again get the "clip" on occasion from the unscrupulous scavengers looking to make quick money from the pieces of collected silver. The long cross pennies were minted and continued in the 12th and 13th centuries.

The Moneyer’s job was to flatten out a pound of sterling silver and cut out small silver planchets as accurately as possible with the crude instruments given. Then the planchets were struck by hand with a hammer and die. There was a front or obverse die and a back or reverse die. These were used even if greatly worn. There were no dates on the coin, but a crude image of the King was evident on the front with the name of the king on the obverse. On the reverse was the name of the coiner and the town it was minted in. The coin’s dimension is about the size of a U.S. Dime. The thickness of the coin varies but it is usually slightly thinner than a U.S. Dime. Silver pennies circulated in England for more than five hundred years before being retired or melted down for the newer minted milled coins of the modern era.