Viking Era

More discussion of Viking era weapons, ships, money, and warfare: converting silver value point estimates to per ounce.

Viking coin replica based on archaeological findings. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Previous post listed estimates of the value of silver during the Viking Age mentioned by John Kim Siddorn in his delightful book Viking Weapons & Warfare.

He describe the wide range of estimates of the valuation of an English silver penny and then selected one of those as the most likely. 

He also listed the estimated amount of silver the Vikings removed from England as Danegeld in four specific years. Then he converted that to an estimated value expressed in British Pounds in 2000.

Let’s take those estimates and convert them to U.S. dollars per ounce, using the current exchange rate and value of silver in 2000 and May 2021.

The range of estimates for the value of an English penny run from low side of £10 up to £200 on the high end. He says most of the estimates run in the narrower range from £20 up to £50.  He thinks £20 is the best point estimate.

What does that range look like? Here it is. For perspective, silver value was $5/troy ounce for quite a few years before and after 2000:

£ / penny£ / troy lb.US$ / pennyUS$ / troy lb.$ / troy oz.
£10.00£2,400$14.15$3,395$283
£20.00£4,800$28.29$6,790$566
£50.00£12,000$70.73$16,975$1,415
£200.00£48,000$282.92$67,900$5,658

In US dollars, that give the extreme range of $283/ounce up to $5,658 per ounce.  Range that most commentators come up with is in range of $566 to $1,415, with author’s point estimate of $566/ounce.

In about 2006 silver prices started rising, hitting a peak in 2011 before dropping, then rising since summer of 2020 to about $28 per ounce now.

What does the most common range of estimates look like in terms of exchange rate using 2000 silver price and May 2021 silver price? Let’s see:

silver in 2000silver in 2021
$5/troy oz.$28/troy oz.
$566$3,169
$1,415$7,922

If you think in terms of $5 silver prices in 2000 that gives a range of $566 to $1,415. Convert to the far higher prices of about $28 today, that gives a range of $3,169 to $7,922.

The guess on Danegeld in four main years is 114,000 pounds of silver at author’s estimate of £1.2 billion, which I convert to $1.7 billion.

Based on my not-very-extensive 30 second internet search, one source said the troy system has been used since the middle ages, so those pound measurements would have been in troy, not avoirdupois (which is how we normally think.)

Back to that 114,000 troy pounds of silver English rulers gave Vikings to go away… The estimate at £1.2B calculates out to estimate of £877 per troy ounce (1.2B/114,000#/12oz=877).  That is $1,243 (at $5/ounce value in 2000).  Those values are on the higher end of the £20 to £50 estimate of a silver penny.

So there you have the author’s point estimates converted to US dollars per troy ounce.

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