The Coinages of Viking York and Dublin Compared
This talk compared the coinages of the two foremost towns of the Viking West; York
and Dublin. The two coinages are separated in time with the coinage of viking York
being struck between the 890s AD and 954, when the town finally fell to West Saxon
(or self-styled ‘English’) overlordship. Dublin’s coinage began much later, c.995
when Sitric Silkenbeard initiated a distinct Dublin coinage.
It was argued that the two coinages are quite different in their character. The scale of
Dublin’s coinage dwarfs that of York some hundred years before. Many more coins
were produced in Dublin, reflecting its position as the foremost trading town in the
west. The Iconography of the coins is also quite different. Where clear political
messages are evident on York’s coinage, particularly the blurring of Christian and
‘viking’ imagery, the imagery on Dublin’s coinage seems largely commercial,
focused upon gaining commercial credibility for the coins. Finally, the extent of their
use was considered. A ‘Hacksilver’ economy, where silver was valued according to
its weight, existed alongside the coinage of Anglo-Scandinavian York. Coinage was
only latterly the dominant medium for silver in Yorkshire. In Ireland, if you were
using coinage it was that produced in Dublin for its Hiberno-Scandinavian king.
Drawing these elements together it was suggested that, at the broadest level, York had
a predominantly political coinage with a focus on creating an image of authority for
the newly-formed Anglo-Scandinavian kingdom. In Dublin, the coinage was
predominantly an economic one, designed to facilitate the extensive trade that was
occurring around the Irish Sea.
A. R. Woods, January 2014