Early Viking Coinage
The early Viking period was a bullion economy i.e. silver, and to some extent gold, was valued for its weight and purity, not for what was made from it. The Vikings showed their wealth and status through the quality of their jewellery and weapons, however, jewellery could also be chopped up into smaller pieces known as 'hack-silver' to make up the weight of silver required for a trade. Fragments of coins were also used for the same purpose. Silver ingots have also been found alongside Viking period coinage, dating them to the same period. Traders carried small scales to accurately weigh metal, which allowed a sophisticated system of trade and exchange even without a regular coinage.
The main Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, East Anglia, Kent, Mercia and Wessex all had silver coinage, although the Kentish coinage disappeared after the kingdom was taken by Wessex in the 820s. Northumbria also had a coinage, but this was mostly made up of copper and bronze coins with a much lower value. After the Viking raiders settled in England in the late ninth century, they began to issue coins, imitating the Saxons and linking the Vikings rulers to Christian kingship. Almost all the coins appear to have been issued in the name of kings, rather than jarls, and carry Christian symbols and inscriptions.
Viking silver coin, issued under Siefred (circa 900). Minted in York, part of the Cuerdale Hoard Image used under the British Museum CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 licence
- 1 Penny
- 3d = thrym (threepence)
- 4d = 1 shilling
- 60s or 240d = 1lb
- 16d = 1 Ore
- 8 Ores = 1 Mark
- 15 Marks = 1 Long Hundred
A silver mark was worth 13s 4d, a gold mark was worth £6.
Cost of Living
This section covers some of the things that the pound in your pocket might buy you. Some of the figures are real - some are calculations based on real figures. The information was gleaned from charters, wills, law codes and other documents written between 900 and 1066. A smaller amount of documents up to 1200 were also checked for inflation indicators.
The symbol - lb - is used throughout. It means one pound weight of silver. The Mancus was a gold standard to the value of 30s Any references have been converted into 'lb'. Over the period 871 - 1198 prices rose roughly by 25% so inflation was negligible.
- Ship - dependent on size and type 140lb to 200lb
- 30 hides of land 190lb
- Mail shirt 60lb - 80lb
- Sword 10lb - 50lb
- Bride Price - Thegnly class 27lb 40s plus 150 acres of land
- Bride price - Princely class 55lb plus 4 villages
- Village of Appleton, near York 24lb
- Violation of a Minster Church (Fine) 2lb
- Drawing a weapon in a public meeting (Fine) 2lb
- Stealing a man (Fine) 2lb
- Fighting in an alehouse in the Danelaw
- involving a killing 6 ½ Marks 1lb 36s
- no killing 12 Ores 48s
- One Horse 30s
- One Ox 30s
- One Slave 30s
- One Cow 20d
- One Large Tree 20d
- One Sheep 4d* Putting sheepskin on a shield (Fine) 30s
- Failure to tithe -Thegnly class (Fine) 30s
- Rape of a Peasants Slave
to go the Peasant 5s
These taxes were due within 12 months of death. They are often interpreted as loan repayments. They went to a mans lord and only apply to ranks of Thegn and above. As we get toward the end of our period these payment are increasingly made in cash rather than the actual goods themselves.
- 8 horses (4 saddled),
- 4 helmets,
- 4 mail shirts, *8 spears,
- 8 shields,
- 4 swords
- 4 horses (2 saddled),
- 1 helmet,
- 1 mail shirt,
- 4 spears,
- 4 shields,
- 1 sword
- 1 horse with saddle
- his weapons
- 4lb 30s
Credit: Caroline Buckley and notes from a guest lecture by Gareth Williams, British Museum.
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