The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Dates
In use at the end of the Third Age
Location
Associated with the Shire and Bree-land, and perhaps used more widely
Races
Cultures
Meaning
'Penny' comes from Old English pæning, of unknown origin1

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  • Updated 10 May 2018
  • This entry is complete

Silver Pennies

A currency of northern Middle-earth

The penny seems to have been the common currency throughout northern Middle-earth. It was known at least as far back as Fram's time, more than five centuries before the War of the Ring, and continued in use into the Fourth Age. Pennies were used in the Shire, and also in Bree, but in most cases the word is used merely to refer to a trifling amount of money. Only in one case - the purchase of the pony Bill from Bill Ferny in Bree - do we actually see the currency in action. The weak and underfed pony was said to have been worth four silver pennies, though its owner in fact charged three times that amount.

If four silver pennies would purchase a pony, then each coin must have had more than a trivial value (and we're also told that a sum of thirty silver pennies was a substantial amount, even to the comparatively wealthy Barliman Butterbur). Given other references to pennies as minor coins, it seems that there must have been at least two types of currency in use: valuable silver pennies, and lesser pennies made of some cheaper metal (which is never specified, but would most likely have been copper or brass).

We also know that there were also gold coins in use in Middle-earth. For example, Bilbo and his companions discovered pots of golden coins in a Troll-hole on their journey to Erebor. These coins are never named, and indeed we cannot be sure whether they were still being minted in the later years of the Third Age.


Notes

1

Silver pennies (or pæningas) were in fact the common coinage of Anglo-Saxon England and beyond, and no doubt this influenced Tolkien's choice of name for the currency. Of course the people of Middle-earth would not have used the word 'pennies', which represents a translation of an unknown Westron name, though it does seem safe to assume that both kinds of coin were minted in silver.

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About this entry:

  • Updated 10 May 2018
  • This entry is complete

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