Last updated

The styca (pronounced  [ˈstykɑ] ; pl. stycas) was a small coin minted in pre-Viking Northumbria, originally in base silver and subsequently in a copper alloy. Production began in the 790s and continued until the 850s, though the coin remained in circulation until the Viking conquest of Northumbria in 867.



The coin's name derives from Old English styċċe [ˈstyttʃe] , meaning "piece." [1]


A styca of AEthelred II of Northumbria Kings of Northumbria AE Styca Aethelred II.jpg
A styca of Æthelred II of Northumbria

Stycas were first minted in the reign of Æthelred I of Northumbria (790–796), replacing the earlier sceat which ceased production in c. 790. [2] They were initially made from a debased alloy of silver, and from c. 830 until c. 835 they were also minted in a copper alloy. Production switched over entirely to copper in c. 837 and lasted until c. 855. Production ceased at this time, though the coin remained in circulation until the Viking conquest of Northumbria in 867. [3] Stycas were unique to Northumbria; from the late eighth century onwards the other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms minted only silver pennies based on the Frankish denier. [4] The vast number of copper stycas which are known to exist indicates that production from the 830s onwards was both intensive and constant. The large quantity of stycas produced, combined with the fact that large numbers of stycas are clearly of unofficial creation, might suggest a reason as to why production was halted in the reign of Osberht of Northumbria. [3]


With a few exceptions, the various issues of stycas share a common design standard. Typically the name of the issuing king (or archbishop) appears on one side surrounding a central motif, and the name of the moneyer who made the coin appears on the other side. Common central motifs include simple cruciform designs and rings of annulets. [5] Exceptions include those stycas made by the moneyer Leofdegn during the reign of Æthelred II of Northumbria. These stycas feature much more elaborate designs including complex central cruciform devices and one issue in particular features both a hound and a triquetra on the same side. [6]


Hoards that consist of stycas, or where stycas are part of the assemblage, include:

See also

Related Research Articles

Northumbria Medieval kingdom of the Angles

Northumbria was an early medieval Anglo-Saxon kingdom in what is now Northern England and south-east Scotland.

Burgred of Mercia 9th-century king of Mercia

Burgred was an Anglo-Saxon king of Mercia from 852 to 874.

Eanred of Northumbria King of Northumbria

Eanred was king of Northumbria in the early ninth century.

From c. 1124 until 1709 the coinage of Scotland was unique, and minted locally. A wide variety of coins, such as the plack, bodle, bawbee, dollar and ryal were produced over that time. For trading purposes coins of Northumbria and various other places had been used before that time; and since 1709 those of the Kingdom of Great Britain, and then of the UK.

Wigmund (archbishop of York) 9th-century Archbishop of York

Wigmund was a medieval Archbishop of York, who was consecrated in 837 and died in 854.

Wulfhere of York 9th-century Archbishop of York

Wulfhere was Archbishop of York between 854 and 900.

Eardwulf was king of Northumbria from 796 to 806, when he was deposed and went into exile. He may have had a second reign from 808 until perhaps 811 or 830. Northumbria in the last years of the eighth century was the scene of dynastic strife between several noble families: in 790, king Æthelred I attempted to have Eardwulf assassinated. Eardwulf's survival may have been viewed as a sign of divine favour. A group of nobles conspired to assassinate Æthelred in April 796 and he was succeeded by Osbald: Osbald's reign lasted only twenty-seven days before he was deposed and Eardwulf became king on 14 May 796.

Æthelred II of Northumbria King of Northumbria

Æthelred was king of Northumbria in the middle of the ninth century, but his dates are uncertain. N. J. Higham gives 840 to 848, when he was killed, with an interruption in 844 when Rædwulf usurped the throne, but was killed the same year fighting against the Vikings. Barbara Yorke agrees, and adds that Æthelred was the son of his predecessor, Eanred, but dates his death 848 or 849. D. P. Kirby thinks that an accession date of 844 is more likely, but notes that a coin of Eanred dated stylistically no earlier than 850 may require a more radical revision of dates. David Rollason accepts the coin evidence, and dates Æthelred's reign from c.854 to c. 862, with Rædwulf's usurpation in 858.

History of the English penny (c. 600 – 1066) Coin in Anglo-Saxon England

The history of the English penny can be traced back to the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of the 7th century: to the small, thick silver coins known to contemporaries as pæningas or denarii, though now often referred to as sceattas by numismatists. Broader, thinner pennies inscribed with the name of the king were introduced to southern England in the middle of the 8th century. Coins of this format remained the foundation of the English currency until the 14th century.

British Museum Department of Coins and Medals

The British Museum Department of Coins and Medals is a department of the British Museum involving the collection, research and exhibition of numismatics, and comprising the largest library of numismatic artefacts in the United Kingdom, including almost one million coins, medals, tokens and other related objects. The collection spans the history of coinage from its origins in the 7th century BC to the present day, and is representative of both Eastern and Western numismatic traditions.

Events from the 8th century in England.

Penny (British pre-decimal coin) British pre-decimal coin worth 1/240 of a pound sterling

The pre-decimal penny (1d) was a coin worth 1240 of a pound sterling, or 112 of a shilling. Its symbol was d, from the Roman denarius. It was a continuation of the earlier English penny, and in Scotland it had the same monetary value as one pre-1707 Scottish shilling. The penny was originally minted in silver, but from the late 18th century it was minted in copper, and then after 1860 in bronze.

Coinage in Anglo-Saxon England

Coinage in Anglo-Saxon England refers to the use of coins, either for monetary value or for other purposes, in Anglo-Saxon England.

Viking coinage

Viking coinage was used during the Viking Age of northern Europe. Prior to the usage and minting of coins, the Viking economy was predominantly a bullion economy, where the weight and size of a particular metal is used as a method of evaluating value, as opposed to the value being determined by the specific type of coin. By the ninth century, the Viking raids brought them into contact with cultures well familiarised with the use of coins in economies of Europe, hence influencing the Vikings own production of coins.


The thrymsa was a gold coin minted in seventh-century Anglo-Saxon England. It originated as a copy of Merovingian tremisses and earlier Roman coins with a high gold content. Continued debasement between the 630s and the 650s reduced the gold content in newly minted coins such that after c. 655 the percentage of gold in a new coin was less than 35%. The thrymsa ceased to be minted after about 675 and was superseded by the silver sceat.

Elizabeth Pirie British numismatist

Elizabeth Jean Elphinstone Pirie was a British numismatist specialising in ninth-century Northumbrian coinage, and museum curator, latterly as Keeper of Archaeology at Leeds City Museum from 1960–91. She wrote eight books and dozens of articles throughout her career. She was a fellow of the Royal Numismatic Society, president of the Yorkshire Numismatic Society and a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London.

The Beeston Tor Hoard is an Anglo-Saxon jewellery and coin hoard discovered in 1924 at Beeston Tor in Staffordshire. The hoard consists of forty-nine coins, two silver brooches with Trewhiddle style decoration, three finger rings, and miscellaneous fragments. The coins date the burial of the hoard to approximately 875 AD.

Hexham Hoard Hoard of ninth-century stycas

The Hexham hoard is a 9th-century hoard of eight thousand copper-alloy coins of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Northumbria, which were discovered whilst a grave was being dug close to Hexham Abbey in 1832.

Kirkoswald Hoard 9th-century Cumbrian hoard

The Kirkoswald Hoard is a ninth-century hoard of 542 copper alloy coins of the Kingdom of Northumbria and a silver trefoil ornament, which were discovered amongst tree roots in 1808 within the parish of Kirkoswald in Cumbria, UK.

The St Leonard's Place hoard was a hoard of c. 10,000 early medieval Northumbrian coins known as stycas, discovered by workers during construction work at St Leonard's Place in York in 1842. Many of the coins were subsequently acquired by the Yorkshire Museum.


  1. "Stock (botany) |".
  2. Cook, Williams, and Archibald, p. 213
  3. 1 2 Cook, Williams, and Archibald, p. 214
  4. Davies, p. 125; Spink, p. 101
  5. Pirie, Elizabeth J. E. (Elizabeth Jean Elphinstone), 1932-2005. (1996). Coins of the Kingdom of Northumbria c.700-867 in the Yorkshire collections : the Yorkshire Museum, York, the University of Leeds, the City Museum, Leeds. Llanfyllin, Powys: Galata. ISBN   0-9516671-4-9. OCLC   38338882.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. Spink, pp. 103–105