December 2022

A RARE AETHELSTAN COIN WILL BE UNVEILED AT THE WILTSHIRE MUSEUM BEARING HIS NAME

Rare King Athelstan Coin Unveiled - the Athelstan coin
Rare King Athelstan Coin Unveiled – Photo shows the rare King Aethelstan silver penny recently purchased by the Athelstan Museum in Malmesbury and being displayed from early 2023. 

Rare King Athelstan Coin Unveiled. A rare coin showing King Aethelstan’s crowned head and describing him as ‘King of All Britain’ will soon be displayed at the Athelstan Museum in Malmesbury.

Volunteer Jonathan Tucker, who is also a trustee, who spotted that such a rare coin was coming up for auction. Jonathan, an experienced art dealer, specialising in Asian art for over thirty years, has an eye for unusual items.

He said: ‘When I started volunteering at the museum, I realised we didn’t have any exhibit contemporaneous to Athelstan’s life. In particular when he became king and when Malmesbury was his capital. We had later items but nothing from his lifetime or his reign (924-939).

‘I saw this coin come up and approached the museum about it. They granted permission to bid for it on the museum’s behalf.’

The Oxfordshire Mint

The moneyer Æthelmund struck the coin at the Wallingford (Oxfordshire) mint. Very few coins feature both Æthelstan’s portrait and the extended title: Æthelstan rex to Brit, ‘King of All Britons.

This coin does, and is the only penny of Wallingford to do so. The extended title denotes that it was made after he became king of England following his victory over the Vikings.

Rare King Athelstan Coin Unveiled
Rare King Athelstan Coin Unveiled

The museum council paid an undisclosed sum to buy the Anglo-Saxon coin. It’ll be on display in the museum from later in January.

Jonathan said: ‘The museum couldn’t be more delighted to have acquired an object with a direct link to this key figure for Malmesbury’s history. One from whom our museum takes its name. It’s particularly pleasing to have one with his image.’

Susan Mockler, vice chair of the trustees, said: ‘The museum is looking forward to displaying the coin in the New Year. This latest addition will enjoy the new lighting that the musuem is soon to install. It’ll show off the coin to its best advantage. l’m sure it will be much admired for the skill shown by the original makers and for the historic importance it has to our town.’

Sale catalogue notes

The sale catalogue for the coin explained that, when Æthelstan of Wessex, the grandson of Alfred the Great, became king, the country once again fell under the control of a single leader. And the country hadn’t seen that since the height of the Roman Empire.

Æthelstan didn’t miss the significance of that. He celebrated his position as ‘Rex Totius Britanniæ on charters and coins.

The expansion of West-Saxon control also served to increase to the number of burghs striking money for the King. This coin is one of several recent acquisitions to honour the history of Malmesbury

The Athelstan Museum Turner

The Athelstan Museum is also known for its own painting by the celebrated artist Joseph Mallord William Turner RA (1775-1851), showing an aspect of Malmesbury Abbey. More on that here:

For more information about its various collections and regular events visit https://www.athelstanmuseum.org.uk

And on the topic of coins – see here about the Roman coins on display at the Athelstan Museum:



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