The penny that’s worth a mint

The rare Prince Henry coin.
The rare Prince Henry coin.

IT’s only a penny, but it must be worth a mint – a rare coin, discovered in the Alnwick area, from the time when Northumberland was ruled by Scotland.

The silver piece was found by Brian Gray while searching with a metal detector, who reported his discovery to the local Portable Antiquities Scheme officer at the Great North Museum: Hancock.

Because Mr Gray found only one coin, it was not declared treasure, and it has been bought by the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne for display in the museum.

And not only is it rare, but it’s also in excellent condition.

The coin was minted in Carlisle between 1136 and 1152 for Henry, crown prince of the Scottish throne, who also happened to be the Earl of Northumberland and Huntingdon. At the time of its minting, much of northern England was under Scottish dominion due to the conflict between Stephen and Matilda, the rival claimants to the English throne.

Dr Rob Collins, honorary keeper of coins for the Society of Antiquaries said: “I am thrilled that this penny of Prince Henry will be on display for the public. This was a very exciting period in border history, and this is the first coin of its type to be added to the Antiquaries collection.”

Andrew Parkin, keeper of archaeology at the Great North Museum: Hancock said: “I am very pleased that such an important part of Northumbrian history from a period when this area was under Scottish rule will be shown in the museum.”

Lindsay Allason-Jones, president of the society, said: “Given the current debate about Scottish ties to England, this tiny coin is a timely reminder that Northumberland was once part of Scotland.”

The coin was purchased by the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne with the assistance of the V&A Purchase Grant Fund and the Headley Museums Archaeological Acquisition Fund.

It fills a gap in the society’s important coin collection of 5,000-plus coins, which includes the famous denarius of Cleopatra and Mark Antony.