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Hack-Silver, Weights and Coinage: The Anglo-Scandinavian Bullion Coinages and their Use in Late Viking-Age Society
Gotland University, School of Culture, Energy and Environment.
2011 (English)In: Silver Economies, Monetisation and Society in Scandinavia, Ad 800-1100 / [ed] James Graham-Campbell, Sören M. Sindbaek, Gareth Williams, Aarhus: Aarhus University Press , 2011, 259-280 p.Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The aim of this paper is to discuss the monetary use and function of the Anglo-Scandinavian coinages, especially the Sigtuna coinage. Ever since their discovery by the Swedish scholar Nicolas Keder, in 1706, the Anglo-Scandinavian coinages have been puzzling. In the early days of numismatic research their status among other Viking-age and early medieval coinages was not clearly understood, nor was it clear how they should be classified. Today, their status as Scandinavian imitations of English coins – minted in Viking towns such as Sigtuna and Lund – has been recognized. Their numismatic classification has recently been accomplished by meticulous die-studies, but the question of how they were used as means of payment remains unresolved.

It is suggested that the coinages did not necessarily have a nominal value, but an officially sanctioned exchange-value, which could only be reckoned and valued by weight and not by number. In such a monetary system, which had both elements of a coin-based and a bullion-based economy, weighing was probably the only way in which to settle the exchange-value. The archaeological evidence from the Sigtuna mint seems to suggest that the Sigtuna coins were weighed with oblate spheroid weights. These weights follow the Islamic mitqal standard which was the basis for the Scandinavian ertog standard.

It is also argued that at some stage in the bullion economy, coined silver was preferred to hack-silver in transactions. Because of that there might have existed a similar situation in the transactional sphere in the Viking Age, as later during the Middle Ages, whereby different qualities of silver were recognized and valued according to different exchange-rates. This change in the transactional sphere had probably been influenced by the arrival of Western European silver coins to Scandinavia at the turn of the first millennium AD.

Finally, the Anglo-Scandinavian coinages probably did not have any monetary valueoutside the strongholds in which they were minted. They were intended for use only by people visiting the town and using its market. It would be reasonable to suggest a short time period of value and use during which these coins were regarded as being worth more than ordinary weighed silver. Another conclusion based on this observation is that both English coins and Anglo-Scandinavian imitations were regarded as being of the same silver quality and handled for a higher exchange-rate than, for instance, German coins or hack-silver in the Sigtuna market.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Aarhus: Aarhus University Press , 2011. 259-280 p.
Keyword [en]
silver, bullion economy, weights, coins, Viking Age
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:hgo:diva-1155ISBN: 978-87-7934-585-0ISBN: 8779345859OAI: diva2:460463
proceedings University Aaarhus december 2008
Available from: 2011-11-30 Created: 2011-11-30 Last updated: 2016-02-02Bibliographically approved

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