The Viking Age

Olav Tryggvason was made king in Norway after many years as a Viking chieftain far abroad in Europe. Olav minted Norway's first coin, on the obverse of which is inscribed ONLAF REX NOR, meaning "Olav, King of the Norwegians". Olav's penny is an imitation of Anglo-Saxon pennies issued from 991. At this point Arabic, German and Anglo-Saxon coins made up most of the coinage circulating in Norway. This was a result of the Viking activity in Russia and their forays into England and Ireland.

To the right: An Olav Tryggvason penny found at Igelösa cemetery in Skåne, southern Sweden, in 1924. This specimen is part of the collection at the Historical Museum of the University of Lund..

More than 700 000 Arabic, German and Anglo-Saxon coins from the Viking Age have been found in northern Europe. Of these, approximately 10 000 coins have been found in Norway. Only three of them are Norwegian coins St. Olav's pennies found in 1924 at the farm Stein, in Buskerud, southern Norway. After approximately 990 there is a marked increase in the number of coins in Norway. Coins from the 1000s have been found all over the country, as far north as Haukøy in Troms.
Old Norse sagas tell of the king paying his men in coins. The Danish king, Knut (Canute) the Great, bribed Norwegian chieftains with coins in the battle against St. Olav. Coins were used in trade and people paid fines and fees with coins. In the 1000s there were hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of coins circulating in Norway.

Many medieval portraits of the canonised king, Saint Olav , have been preserved. The oldest images of St. Olav are found on contemporary coins.

To the left: a St. Olav (1015-1030) penny