World Coins

Piano in Great Britain contains something unexpected

This article comes from our April 2017 monthly issue of Coin World. Want to get all of our content, including special magazine exclusives? Subscribe today !

A hoard of gold containing what might be considered “key” coins still awaits its owner.

An undisclosed number of gold sovereigns and half sovereigns dating from the reigns of Victoria, Edward VII and George V were discovered hidden away inside a piano in South West Shropshire, a county in the West Midlands region of Great Britain. 

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The find was reported to local museum authorities before Christmas, and an appeal has made in recent weeks to find the heirs of the piano’s original owner before the ownership of the hoard is settled April 20. 

The hoard was first disclosed locally on Jan. 12, when coroner John Ellery at Shrewsbury Coroner’s Court, opened the inquest (investigation) into the discovery. 

Not your typical hoard

Though not the typical United Kingdom coin hoard that comes to mind, (Roman loot from many centuries ago is often found), the cache of gold coins is subject to U.K. treasure laws, because they are substantially made of silver or gold and certainly appear to have been deliberately concealed with the intent to recover the items at a later time.

The oldest coin within the group was made in 1847 and the youngest in 1915. This suggests that the deliberate hiding was after the later date.

For the hoard to be declared treasure, becoming property of the United Kingdom, the original owner of the coins, or his or her present heirs or successors, must not make a claim. 

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Right now that’s the rub — full information about the size, nature and historic value of the cache is not being disclosed until the final hearing on the case April 20, when the local coroner will rule on the ownership of the cache. Officials don’t want to disclose too much information that could allow a would-be owner to make a false claim. 

Images of approximately 60 to 70 gold coins with the pouch in which they were found are identified as only part of the hoard, indicating that the number of coins is even larger than that. 

Upon finding the coins, the owner of the piano contacted Peter Reavill, the finds liaison officer for Shropshire and Herefordshire, under the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme, which governs the disposition of treasure.

“We are saying that the find is substantial and I have been quoted as saying that it is a potentially life-altering sum,” Reavill told Coin World.

Ownership record murky

The record of ownership of the piano is mostly blank. 

The coins were deliberately hidden within an upright piano. The piano was made by Broadwood & Sons of London and sold to a music establishment in Essex in 1906. Essex is a county northeast of London. 

According to reports, the enterprise that purchased the piano has been traced to two gentleman music teachers/piano tuners Messrs. Beavan & Mothersole of 27, West Road, Saffron Walden Essex.

The recent history of the piano is been traced to around 1983 when it was purchased by a local family in the Saffron Walden area.

Further details will be available after the April 20 inquest. 

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