Primary sources providing information about the value of weapons and armour, or giving other relevant information. The list is ordered chronologically. Click a title to go to the full description of a source.

Title Type Place Year
The laws of Ine Law England: Wessex 688 - 694
Einhard's Life of Charlemagne Vita Germany: Aachen 791 - 814
Lex Ribuaria Law Germany: Cologne region circa 800
Ewa ad Amorem Law Netherlands: central river area circa 800
Will of Abba the Reeve Will England: Kent 833 839
Baldric's donation Charter Netherlands: central river area 850
Gesta s. Rotonensium Chronicle France: Brittany 851
Will of King Alfred Will England: South-west 873 - 888
Ordinance London District Law England: London 924 - 939
Laxdla saga Norse Saga Norway 938
Will of lfgar Will England: South and Central 946 - 951
Law of Hywel Dda Law Wales circa 950 - 1300

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Title The laws of Ine
Type Law
Place England: Wessex
Date AD 688 - 694
Edition Original text: www.georgetown.edu/labyrinth/library/oe/texts/prose/laws.html.
Translation: Whitelock, D., English Historical Documents Vol. I, Eyre & Spottiswood, London, 1955.
Article 54.1
Original text Gif hine mon gilt, onne mot he gesellan on ara hyndenna gehwelcere monnan 7 byrnan 7 sweord on t wergild, gif he yrfe.
Translation
(Whitelock)
And if wergild is paid, than he may have in each of the hundreds (of the wergild) a slave, and a coat-of-mail, and a sword, if he need.
Comments Price in shillings

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Title Einhardi vita Karoli Magni
Type Vita
Place Germany: Aachen
Date AD 791 - 814
Edition Holder-Egger, O., Einhardi Vita Karoli Magni, MGH, SRG, Hannover, 1911.
Translation: Thorpe, L., Two Lives of Charlemagne, Penguin Classics, 1969.
Chapter Book III, chapter 23
Original text Sago veneto amictus et gladio semper accinctus, cuius capulus ac balteus aut aureus aut argenteus erat. Aliquoties et gemmato ense utebatur, quod tamen nonnisi in praecipuis festivitatibus vel si quando exterarum gentium legati venissent.
Translation
(Thorpe)
He wrapped himself in a blue cloak and always had a sword strapped to his side, with a hilt and belt of gold or silver. Sometimes he would use a jewelled sword, but this was only on great feast days or when ambassadors came from foreign peoples.
Comments Einhard resided at Charlemagne's court between about 791 until the emperor's death in 814. He wrote his Vita Karoli between 829 and 836.

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Title Lex Ribuaria
Type Law
Place Germany: Cologne region
Date Circa AD 800
Lex Ribuaria was codified between AD 630 and 750. For a large part, it is a copy of the Lex Salica from a century earlier. However, the pricelist with weapons, horses and cattle was added later to Lex Ribuaria, towards the year 800. The addition was made because people did not necessarily have to pay their fines in silver but they could also settle them in kind, for instance with weapons or livestock. Originally, a judge had to come in to estimate the value of the goods. Charlemagne formalised these prices in a law, so one did no longer depend on the personal judgement of a lawyer. [Sohm 1866, p. 79 f.f.].
Edition Sohm, R., Lex Ribuaria, MGH, Leges V, Hannover, 1875.
Article XXXVI: 11
Original text Si quis weregeldum solvere debet, bovem cornutum videntem et sanum pro 2 solidis tribuat. Vaccam cornutam videntem et sanam pro 1 solido tribuat. Equum videntem et sanum pro 7 solidis tribuat. Equam videntem et sanam pro 3 solidis tribuat. Spatam cum scogilo pro 7 solidis tribuat. Spata absque scogilo pro 3 solidis tribuat. Brunniam bonam pro 12 solidis tribuat. Helmum conderecto pro 6 solidis tribuat. Bainbergas bonas pro 6 solidis tribuat. Scutum cum lancea pro 2 solidis tribuat.
Translation
(Nieuwenhuijsen)
If someone must pay wergild, than a horned, sighted ox counts for 2 solidi. A horned, sighted and healthy cow counts for 1 solidus. A sighted and healthy horse counts for 7 solidi. A sighted and healthy mare counts for 3 solidi. A sword with scabbard counts for 7 solidi. A sword without scabbard counts for 3 solidi. A good breast plate (or chain mail byrnie) counts for 12 solidi. A usable helmet counts for 6 solidi. Good greaves count for 6 solidi. A shield and lance count for 2 solidi.
Comments The scabbard in Lex Ribuaria costs more than the sword itself. Coupland [1990] suggests that scabbards often had silver fittings, which would explain their high value.
Presumably, the prices mentioned here are from before the money reformation that took place during Charlemagne's reign, by the end of the 8th century. The old unit of account, the golden solidus, seems to be used here. This golden solidus equalled 36 silver pennies, or 36 x 1,3 grams of silver while the new silver solidus equalled 12 pennies [Henstra, 1999].
There are two versions of the Lex Ribuaria. The one cited here gives 1 solidus as the price of a cow and 7 solidi for a horse, the other gives 3 and 12 respectively. Both give 2 solidi as the price of an ox. I have chosen this cheaper version here, because in none of the other Germanic laws that I checked, cows were more expensive than oxen.

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Title Ewa ad Amorem
Type Law
Place The Netherlands: central river area
Date Circa AD 800
Edition Nieuwenhuijsen, K., Ewa ad Amorem or Lex Francorum Chamavorum, 2005, www.keesn.nl/ewaadamorem.
Article 25
Original text Quicquid in casa furaverit, in wirdira solidos VII. De warnione in wirdira solidos VII. De spadato caballo solidos VII. De servo solidos VII. De spata VII. De iumenta solidos IV. De bove solidos II. De vacca solidos II. De porcis et vervecis et animalibus iuvenibus et de capris tertiam partem quantem valet in wirdira.
Translation
(Nieuwenhuijsen)
Anyone who has stolen from a house [pays] as wirdira 7 solidi. For a breeding stallion as wirdira 7 solidi. For a castrated horse 7 solidi. For a slave 7 solidi. For a sword 7. For a pack-animal 4 solidi. For an ox 2 solidi. For a cow 2 solidi. For pigs and sheep and young animals and goats a third of their value as wirdira.
Comments The wirdira is the fine that a thief had to pay to the bereaved for the lack of the stolen object during the time between the theft and its replacement [Niermeyer, 1953]. I assume that for a sword (as for pigs and sheep etc.) the wirdira is one third of the value of the item itself. So the sword in Ewa ad Amorem would cost 21 solidi.
These are new silver solidi, from after the money reform, worth 12 silver pennies, or 12 x 1,3 grams of silver [Henstra, 1999].

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Title Will of Abba the Reeve
Type Will
Place England: Kent
Date AD 833 839
Edition Anglo-Saxons Net - www.anglo-saxons.net/hwaet.
Number S 1482
Original text Freoomund foe to minum sweorde agefe ert feower usenda, him mon forgefe eran reotene hund pending.
Translation
(Sawyer)
And Freothomund is to have my sword, and he is to give four thousand for it, and of this sum, thirteen hundred pence are to be given back to him.

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Title Baldric's donation
Type Donation charter
Place The Netherlands: De Betuwe (central river area)
Date 12 August 850
Edition Sloet, L.A.J.W., Oorkondenboek der graafschappen Gelre en Zutfen, 's-Gravenhage, 1872.
Muller, S. and Bouman, A.C., Oorkondenboek van het Sticht Utrecht vol. I, Oosthoek, Utrecht, 1920.
Number Charter 41 (in Sloet); charter 67 (Muller and Bouman)
Original text ... et caballum ei donet, valentem xx solidos, scutum cum lance, valentem v solidos, ...
Translation
(Nieuwenhuijsen)
... and he gives a horse, worth 20 solidos, and a shield with lance, worth 5 solidos, ...

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Title Gesta sanctorum Rotonensium
Type Chronicle of the abbey of Redon
Place France: Brittany
Date AD 851
Edition Brett, C., The Monks of Redon, Gesta sanctorum Rotonensium and Vita Conuuoionis, The Boydell Press, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1989.
Chapters 1.6 and 1.7
Original text 'Dicite abbati uestro: propterea ueni, ut emat mihi abbas gladium ualentem quinque solidos, quod si non fecerit, ego discedam, et quantum ualuero illi perniciosus ero'.

'Nam neque equum optimum possumus inuenire, neque loricam, quia non est noster usus his armis indui. Sed si tibi placet, uiginti solidos ab aliis inueniemus, quia nos non habemus: hos accipe et caballum de eis eme.'
Translation
(Brett)
'Tell your abbot that I have come for this reason: for the abbot to buy for me a sword worth five solidi, and if he does not do it, I shall go away and be as troublesome to him as it is in my power to be.'

'We cannot find a good horse or a lorica, because it is not our custom to use these weapons; but if it suits you we will find twenty solidi from others, since we have not got them ourselves. Take them and buy a war-horse with them.'
Comments Chaper 1.6 is about a visit to the abbey by a very unpleasant person called Hincant. In chapter 1.7, another unwelcome visitor, a man called Risuueten, demands a horse and a lorica (breastplate or chain mail byrnie) in return for dropping his claim to an estate held by the abbey. The monks suggest to pay him 20 solidi as an alternative. Risuueten refuses the payment. Shortly thereafter, he is killed by the Franks at Jengland.
Apparently, the 20 solidi were not enough for a horse and lorica.

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Title Will of King Alfred
Type Will
Place England: South-west
Date AD 873 - 888
Edition Anglo-Saxons Net - www.anglo-saxons.net/hwaet.
Number S 1507
Original text ... erede ealdormenn an sweord on hundteontigum mancusum.
Translation
(Sawyer)
... and to Ealdorman Ehtelred a sword worth 100 mancuses.
Comments A mancus is a golden coin, worth 30 silver pennies [Blackburn, 2005; Carlson, 2005]. So this sword valued 3000 pennies.

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Title The ordinance of the bishops and reeves of the London district
Type Law
Place England: London
Date AD 924 - 939
Edition Whitelock, D., English Historical Documents Vol. I, Eyre & Spottiswood, London, 1955.
Numbers 3, 6.1, 6.2, 8.5
Original text  
Translation
(Whitelock)
... on penalty of 30 pence or one ox.
... a horse (is to be paid for) with half a pound, if it is worth so much, and if it is inferior it is to be paid for according to its value...
And an ox (is to be paid for) at a mancus; and a cow at 20 (pence); and a pig at 10 (pence); and a sheep at a shilling.
... is to be liable to pay 30 pence or one ox.
Comments This source does not contain information on weapons. It has been included for the values of cattle and horses in Anglo-Saxon England.

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Title Laxdla saga
Type Norse Saga
Place Norway
Date AD 938
Edition Original text at the Nettgfan-website www.snerpa.is/net/isl/laxdal.htm.
Translations:
Press, M., Laxdale Saga, The Temple Classics, London, 1899.
Magnusson, M. and Palsson, H., Laxdaela Saga, Penguin Classics, 1975.
Online version at: http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/OMACL/Laxdaela,
and at www.yorku.ca/inpar/laxdaela_press.pdf.
Chapter 13: Hoskuld returns to Iceland
Original text Konungur dr gullhring af hendi sr, ann er v mrk, og gaf Hskuldi og sver gaf hann honum annan grip, a er til kom hlf mrk gulls.
Translation
(Press)
The king drew a gold ring off his arm that weighed a mark, and gave it to Hoskuld; and he gave him for another gift a sword on which there was half a mark of gold.
Comments Magnusson and Palsson [1975] give a slightly different translation, saying that the sword as a whole valued half a mark of gold. The translation by Muriel Press is more accurate.
A mark of gold contained eight ounces, and each ounce was worth a mark of refined silver at this time, and a mark of silver was equivalent to the price of about four milch cows. So the gold ring was worth 32 cows, and the sword 16 cows [Magnusson and Palsson, 1975].

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Title Will of lfgar
Type Will
Place England: South and Central
Date AD 946 - 951
Edition Anglo-Saxons Net - www.anglo-saxons.net/hwaet.
Number S 1483
Original text And me kidde eodred bisccop and Edric Alderman a ic selde mine louerd at suerd at Eadmund king me selde on hundtuelftian mancusas goldes. and four pund silueres on am fetelse at ic moste ben mine quides wirde.
Translation
(Sawyer)
And Bishop Theodred and the Ealdorman Eadric told me, when I gave to my lord the sword which King Edmund gave to me, which was worth a hundred and twenty mancuses of gold and had four pounds of silver on the sheath, that I might have the right to make my will.

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Title Law of Hywel Dda
Type Law
Place Wales
Date Circa AD 950 - 1300
Edition Jenkins, D., The Law of Hywel Dda, Gomer Press, Llandysul, Dyfed, 1986.
Comments At first glance, the Law of the Welsh king Hywel Dda seems to be a relevant source for our topic, since Hywel lived in the 10th century. His book of law contains (among many other things) a chapter summing up the prices of several weapons, animals, and all sorts of equipment. It's much more comprehensive than the other, rather fragmentary sources mentioned here.
However, this list is probably not from Hywel's time. After Hywel's death in AD 950, many subsequent writers have made additions and possibly alterations to the original law. The price list is very probably such an addition, dating from the 13th century. Dafydd Jenkins starts his translation of the law with a warning: 'Any Welsh law manuscript contains a good deal of material which is later than Hywel's time, and great care is needed before a Welsh lawbook is cited as evidence for tenth-century conditions'.
So, I have decided not include data from Hywel Ddas law in my overview.

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Article
Primary Sources
References
Dr. Kees C. Nieuwenhuijsen
e-mail: kees.nieuwenhuijsen@tip.nl
home page: www.keesn.nl