World Coins

Rare medieval silver penny found by metal detectorist sells

One of 20 known examples of a silver penny from Eustace Fitzjohn, a 12th century businessman, sold Nov. 3 in a Dix Noonan Webb auction for £29,760 ($38,422 U.S.).

Images courtesy of Dix Noonan Webb.

An extremely rare silver penny of Baron Eustace Fitzjohn, a 12th century Yorkshire business magnate, that was recently discovered by a metal detectorist sold for £29,760 ($38,422 U.S.) on Nov. 3 in a live/online auction by Dix Noonan Webb.

It had an estimate of £10,000 to £15,000 ($12,911 to $19,366 U.S.) and the sales result includes the 24 percent buyer’s fee.

The coin, which measures 19 millimeters in diameter, (the size of a Lincoln cent) was minted in York and is one of only 20 surviving examples with this design.

Finding treasure

Rob Brown, a 56-year-old from Leeds, found the coin in August using his Deus XP metal detector on a stubble field near Pickering in North Yorkshire.

Brown did not initially recognize the coin, which is a very rare silver penny issued in York by Eustace Fitzjohn, the Lord of Malton and Knaresborough, who served under King Henry I becoming a wealthy landowner through marriage and then supporting the Empress Matilda when she fought a civil war with her cousin Stephen in the period known as The Anarchy in England.

Following the sale, Brown said, in a press release from the auction house: “The auction felt quite surreal and it seemed to go so fast. I was amazed by all the interest from around the world with bidding from the USA, Brazil and the UK. It was very exciting; selling for much more than I expected. I am planning to add the money to my pension pot, and continue to carry on metal-detecting as I would love to find another one!”

In 1138, Eustace lost custody of Bamburgh Castle to Stephen and decided to join forces with David I of Scotland fighting with him against Stephen at the battle of the standard that year. In July 1157 Eustace was killed in Flintshire after being ambushed by the Welsh army.

Nigel Mills, expert in artefacts and antiquities at Dix Noonan Webb, commented: “This is a tremendous result of £24,000 (hammer price), it exceeded all of our expectations. Bidding came from the United States and Brazil but with two UK buyers fighting it out it at the end, so the Eustace stays here.”

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