ID Aids – No Sceptre

The two ID pages for No Sceptre and Sceptre pennies are based on articles that I published in “The Searcher” magazine during 2016. Some revisions and updates have been made here.

Scroll to bottom of page for a useful summary chart.

One of the most common types of hammered coin found by detectorists is the voided long cross penny of Henry III, and in the two ID guides we will look at how to identify such finds. Many millions of these coins were produced over the issue’s 35 year life span from 1247. A fascination with this coin series is the extreme amount of variation that exists; if one wanted to collect an example of each class and moneyer from each mint then we are looking at over 560 coins, and if we throw in the different varieties of spelling and punctuation on the reverse then we are looking at well over 3,000
different varieties. With so many different types there are clearly going to be some that are much rarer than others, and so, as well as identification guidance, this section also includes some comments on rarity.

The two guides (for non-sceptre and sceptre pennies) will easily allow you to identify most voided long cross pennies if they are in reasonably good condition. If you use the scheme to identify a coin then you can usually build confidence in your identification by comparing with similar coins illustrated elsewhere on this website. Coins sometimes turn up that at first appear to probably be English Henry III pennies but which turn out to be continental imitations or even contemporary forgeries. If, after working through the identification guides, you cannot be sure of the identification then you are welcome to send me images and request my help – you can reach me via the contact page.


Keep in mind that the letter ‘N’ can be represented on these pennies by either an “N” or an ‘H’; where I refer to an ‘N’ it can mean either an ‘N’ or an ‘H’ unless specified otherwise. To identify a Henry III penny work through the following questions in the order indicated:

1) Firstly, looking at the obverse of the coin (the side with the king’s bust) see if there is a sceptre on the left hand side or not. Sceptres, which had been present on the earlier short cross pennies were not present on the earliest voided long cross pennies, but were re-introduced from class 4 onwards. See fig.1 for examples of coins with and without sceptres.

Fig.1. Examples of voided long cross pennies with and without a sceptre.

2) OK, so you have a coin with no sceptre: staying on the obverse (the side with the king’s head), look at the legend around the coin and select which of the following is most similar:
hENRICUS REX – go to #3
hENRICVS REX ANG (or AN) – go to #6
hENRICUS REX TERCI (or TERC) – go to #7
hENRICVS REX III – go to #10

3) A coin with hENRICVS REX – a lucky find! This coin will also have an initial mark comprising a star over a crescent, see type 1 in fig 2. This is either a rare class 1a or an equally rare 1a/1b mule. To determine which we now need to look at the reverse of the coin and check the lettering:
ANG/LIE/TER/CI’ – go to #4
LIE/TER/CI’/LOH (or … LON) – go to #5

Fig.2. Typical initial marks (sometimes called mint marks) found on voided long cross pennies.

4) This is a rare class 1a penny, which was only minted at the London mint in 1247, and although a moneyer is not named on the coin these pennies were issued under the oversight of Nicholas of St Albans. Only 30-40 of these class 1a coins are thought to still exist, so finding one of these is quite a rare event. Two types of crown exist on 1a coins – most have a caul (head-dress) above the crown-band, less commonly it is absent.

5) You have a rare class 1a/1b mule – as with the class 1a coins they are found only from the London mint; in contrast to 1a, these 1a/1b mules actually state the London mint name (LON or LOH) on the reverse of the coin. Equally as rare as class 1a.

6) Your coin says ‘hENRICVS REX ANG’ on the obverse, rarely the letter G is missing. This is either a class 1b coin, a class 1b/1a mule, or a class 1b/2 mule. All have type 1 initial marks. The 1b/1a mules have a reverse with ‘ANG/LIE/TER/ CI’ and rate in rarity alongside the class 1a and 1a/1b mules. It’s more likely that your find is one of the other possibilities. If it is a class 1b coin it will bear an inscription on the back similar to:

• LIE/TER/CI’/LON or /LOH or /LVH – these are all class 1b coins from the London mint
• LIE/TER/CI’/CAN – these are class 1b pennies from Canterbury
• LIE/TER/CI’/AED – class 1b from Bury St Edmunds

The London coins are scarce rather than rare. Canterbury 1b coins are less common, and consequently more valuable, and Bury 1b coins are even more scarce and valuable. It was with class 1b that we see the beginning of the ramp-up of production of the new coinage, with minting being expanded from London to Canterbury and Bury also. Coins with a reverse text not including LIE/TER/CI’/… represent the third possibility, i.e. 1b/2 mules. These were issued by Nicole at London, and by Gilbert, Ion, Nicole and Willem at the Canterbury mint, e.g. HIC/OLE/OHL/VHD or WIL/LEM/OHC/AHT.

7) The obverse of your coin reads ‘hENRICUS REX TERCI’ (or TERC) – a class 2 coin which can be class 2a, 2b1 or 2b2. Determination of which is a function of the initial mark and shape of the letter ‘X’ (fig.3). Class 2a coins usually have initial mark (“IM”) type 2 and a type 1 ‘X’; class 2b coins usually, but not always have initial mark type 3, and are subdivided into class 2b1 having X type 1 and 2b2 having X type 2. These two types of initial mark are illustrated in fig.2 and the types of letter X in fig.3.
• Your coin has IM type 2 – go to #8
• Your coin has IM type 3 – go to #9

Fig.3. Different forms of the letter “X”

8) Your coin has IM type 2 so you are thinking you may have a class 2a coin – but this is where things can get tricky as this initial mark can also occasionally turn up on later coins; the initial mark is only an indicator of probable class but is not a definitive characteristic. One also needs to look at the style of the bust and check that it is similar to those types of bust seen on class 1 coins; and one also needs to check the reverse of the coin to see if it was issued by one of the few mints issuing class 2a coins; these being London, Canterbury and Bury only.

If you think you have a class 2a coin, then you may wish to confirm the identification by comparing it to some of the examples illustrated on this website. In the example shown here note the sharp points the star initial mark, and note X type 1.

And in this interesting example again note the sharp points of the star initial mark, but importantly note that the X is of type 2 which is characteristic of sub-class 2b2. This penny may be transitional between classes 2a and 2b. Coins do not always cleanly fall into one class or another.

If your suspected 2a coin has a reverse bearing a class 1b legend, e.g LIE/TER/CI’/LON or similar, then you may have found an extremely rare class 2a/1b mule of which only two specimens are known, and both found by detectorists. (Link)

9) Your ‘TERCI’ coin has a type 3 initial mark having the more symmetrical arrangement of the star “rays”. If the X is of type 1 then the penny is the earlier class 2b1, or if X type 2 then the later class 2b2. (Fig.3). Both class 2b1 and 2b2 pennies were minted at London, Canterbury and Bury, starting in the Spring of 1248, however we now see an expansion of mints to the ‘provincial mints’ and class 2b1/2b2 pennies were also issued as follows:

2b1: issued at Lincoln, Northampton, and Winchester.

2b2: issued by the mints at Gloucester, Oxford, York, and also at Norwich (rare).
In this example from York we clearly see a fairly symmetrical initial mark type 3 and an “X” of type 2.

So, if your coin is from one of the provincial mints, one can normally deduce the sub-class 2b1 or 2b2 even if the letter ‘X’ on the obverse is not visible through wear or a
poor strike. If your coin is from London, Canterbury or Bury though it is more important to be able to see the shape of the ‘X’. However, the shape of the bust can also be indicative, and again one can look at the different examples on this website in order to firm up the identification.

Fig.4 The different styles of the letter “R”.

10) Your coin reads ‘hENRICVS REX III’ or similar on the obverse – a class 3 coin dating to 1248-50, and generally much more frequently encountered than all the previously described coins. It is in class 3 that we see further provincial mints start up; with all the provincial mints then closing down during the production of class 3c in (Autumn 1250), with the last coins in class 3 being produced only by the major mints at London, Canterbury and Bury. There are ten different sub-classes that can be identified and a few of them can at first be tricky to identify given the degree of transition between some of the sub-classes. Key factors in determining the sub-class include the shape of the bust, the initial mark and various details of the legend.

Does your coin have an initial mark with a star comprised of 6 rays?
• Yes – go to question #11.
• No – it has 8 rays (initial mark type 5, see fig.2) – go to section #19.
• Can’t tell? – go to question 11 for now, but keep in mind the coin could have an 8-rayed mint mark and hence not be covered by section 11.

Fig.5. Characteristic bust styles of class 3 pennies

11) A class 3 coin with a 6-rayed initial mark – This is where it helps to become familiar with the different bust styles. Examine the busts in fig. 5 and decide which is most like your coin, and then read more in the relevant section below to firm up the ID.

3a1: Go to #12
• 3a2: Section #13
• 3ab: Section #14
• 3b: Section #15
• 3bc: Section #16
• 3c: Section #17
• 3d: Section #18

12) Class 3a1 – these coins have fairly narrow busts, similar to the class 2 TERCI coins, usually of sub-class 2b style. Class 1 or 2a style busts are scarcer. There are two sub-classes of 3a penny – if the lower rays of the initial mark straddle the top of the central fleur (IM3) we have subclass 3a1, and if one of the initial mark rays points vertically down (IM 3*) then the coin is of sub-class 3a2, see #13 below.

The 3a1 coins normally have a beard of pellets, but less commonly a beard of strokes is seen, as in the example shown here.

13) Most 3a2 coins have a colon between REX and III, and their busts are somewhat different to those of 3a1; the faces are small and there is usually a clear neck present. Note that for both 3a1 and 3a2, as well as class 3b, the initial mark normally has sharp points to the star rays; otherwise, if rounded or angular points, we are looking at a coin of class 3bc or later. Class 3a2 mints are London, Canterbury, and Bury, and the provincial mints of Exeter, Gloucester, Ilchester (rare), Lincoln, Norwich (rare), Oxford,
Winchester and York.

14) Class 3ab1 – As with class 3a the initial mark has sharp points. The king’s bust is of a width intermediate between those of 3a and 3b. Owing to the degree of transition between the two, it can sometimes be difficult to decide between 3a1 and 3ab1 coins.

14 (cont.) Class 3ab2…. A variety of class 3ab has an ornate X on the obverse – this is known as class 3ab2, and is far less common than the class 3ab1 coin having a plain X type 2. In fact, class 3ab2 is the rarest of the class 3 coins, and I have seen them only from the mints at Bury, Canterbury, Gloucester, Northampton and Winchester.

15) Class 3b – the widest of the bust types, and the last sub-class to feature the initial marks with sharp points, though a few late 3b coins sometimes show the more rounded or angular points that characterise sub-class 3bc onwards. The bust style is the key determining factor. Issued by all mints except Durham, it is the commonest type of class 3 coin from the provincial mints.

16) Class 3bc – This and subsequent sub-classes are characterised by initial marks having rounded or angular points, not sharp points. The individual star ‘rays’ have a
tendency to be more finger-like rather than triangular. Sub-class 3bc coins often, but not always, have the ENR of hENRICVS ligated i.e. the letters are joined together.
Other Henry III pennies normally have only the N & R ligated.

Class 3bc was issued by many of the mints, but no examples were seen in the vast Brussels Hoard from the mints of Exeter, Gloucester, Hereford, Newcastle or Wallingford.

17) Class 3c – A bust similar to 3bc, with necklines, but the bust is typically smaller and has a rounded chin (if a pointed chin then see class 3d below). The provincial mints were closed down during the period when class 3c was produced, and so class 3c coins from provincial mints are usually scarcer and command higher prices than the other classes from these mints. Check that your coin has rounded ends on the IM and that the eyes are round, as in this example.

Class 3c coins can sometimes be difficult to distinguish from those of class 3a2; one needs to look carefully at the form of the initial mark. Also, the 3c bust is normally of a rougher style than that of 3a2, and the eyes are round rather than made up of two arcs.

18) Class 3d – Similar to class 3c, but with a more pointed chin. These coins were only minted in London, Canterbury and Bury. Carefully examine the obverse and reverse of your coin to see which of the sub-classes it is:

3d1 – A less course design compared to class 3c, with the letter R being of type 1 (see fig.4). Class 3c and 3d1 coins of the major mints can at first be difficult to distinguish – so be sure to refer to the illustrations on this website for further assistance.

3d2 – Finer die-cutting, and the letter R is of type 2 having a tail with a curved up end. The reverse of these coins shows a greater number of pellets making up the inner circle than is usual – many class 3 coins typically have about eight pellets comprising the inner circle in each quadrant, but in class 3d2 we often see ten or more pellets per quadrant.

Varieties of 3d2 include types with a single pellet after REX or with a colon after REX, as well as varieties with no punctuation marks.

19) Your class 3 coin has an eight-rayed star initial mark – these coins are relatively scarce and are seen on some coins of Lincoln as well as on some of the very latest coins of sub-class 3d2 from London. The Lincoln and London 8 rayed IMs are of a slightly different style to each other. If from the London mint your coin is a scarce sub-class 3d3 which is currently treated as a variety of 3d2 in the published literature.