Irish and Scottish long cross coins, and contemporary imitations and forgeries

Ireland was under the suzerainty of Henry III and was included in the provisions made for striking the new long cross coins. However, none were struck until 1251, some four years after the recoinage began in England. The only mint involved was Dublin, and it ceased operation in 1254. The two moneyers named on the coins, Ricard and Davi, are believed to be the London moneyers, Richard Bonaventure and David de Enefeld, operating in absentia. The coins are distinguishable from their English counterparts by the king’s bust, which is depicted in a triangular frame. It should be noted, however, that there are contemporary imitations (see below) on which English obverses are muled with Irish reverses, and vice versa.

Scotland followed England and introduced its own long cross coins in 1250. All were struck during the reign of Alexander III (1249-1286), with up to eighteen mints participating in their production. The coins differ from the English type in having a profile bust on the obverse and a star (instead of three pellets) in the angles of the reverse cross.

The coins most likely to be confused with English long cross pennies are contemporary imitations of them, most of which were struck in Frisia or Westphalia. The high reputation of the English coinage at this time made it a target for imitation. The best clues that a coin is imitative are blundered reverse legends and slight differences in the punches used to make the dies. These differences apply both to the letters and to individual elements of the design, such as the crown ornaments and facial details. It is very likely, however, that the most convincing imitations will have deceived modern numismatists just as effectively as they deceived those receiving them in the thirteenth century.

Contemporary forgeries are usually much more easily identified than imitations, as they were made with the specific intention of fraud. By definition, therefore, the silver content of the counterfeit was less than the coin it copied. This could be achieved by various means, ranging from plating base-metal, through using base silver, to using fine silver of reduced thickness and weight. The baser examples are usually fairly obvious, particularly single losses recovered from the ground, as corrosion invariably exposes the true nature of their composition. Where the metal is of better quality, the counterfeit can often be recognised by irregularity of style and inscriptions. It seems from the relative frequency of finds that counterfeits were often cut into halfpennies, probably to make their irregular appearance less obvious and to preclude the use of tumbrels to check their weight. Contemporary counterfeits are far less of a problem than modern copies and forgeries, which can often only be exposed by the most rigorous examination and testing.

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Irish Long Cross Penny

Henry III long cross penny of Ireland, struck at Dublin between 1251 and 1254 by Ricard.

The obverse legend is HENRI/CVS R/EX III. The reverse legend is RIC/ARD /ON DIVE.

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Scottish Long Cross Penny

Alexander III long cross penny of Scotland, struck at Edinburgh by Alexander.

The obverse legend is ALEXANDER REX. The reverse legend is ALE/XAN /ON E/DEN.

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Continental Imitation Long Cross Penny

The obverse in this case copies the style and inscription of an English class 3 coin, but copies of most other classes also exist.

The obverse legend is HENRICVS REX III. The reverse legend is blundered, as is often the case with imitations. It reads RIO / HIE / ILW / L?O

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Contemporary Forgery

A contemporary long cross forgery, probably underweight and of base silver. As is often the case, the coin is a cut halfpenny, a convenient way of avoiding attention being drawn to the irregular style and illiterate inscriptions.


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