World Coins

Man turns in coins found 60 years ago

Two brothers rummaging around as youngsters underneath the church floor in a village in Norway 60 years ago found a total of 14 silver coins, most from between the 1300s and 1350s, and one from 1450 to 1481. All are shown here.

Image courtesy of Carl Fredrik Wahr-Hansen Vemmestad.

A man in Norway has turned in to local authorities coins found 60 years ago when he was a child.

Jan Gunnar Fugelsnes and his brother found the coins while exploring under the floor of Edøy church in Smøla in 1964, crawling around in an area that had been used for munitions storage during World War II.

Smøla is a small municipality in Møre og Romsdal county, Norway, on the northwest coast of the country. Germans had used the location to store ammunition during the war, according to a translation of a press release from the local government.

Finding the coins

Fugelsnes said they found the first coin in a corner, then another, and in total found 14 silver coins, packing them neatly in a yellow Kodak slide box, where they were stored until autumn 2023.

“We were just children hunting for treasure under the church; we didn’t realize how rare the coins were,” he said, in the translated press release. “In addition, we found three fittings, an amber pearl and nine needles that day.”

When the county council carried out investigations on Edøy at the end of last year, Fugelsnes, who still lives in Smøla, told county archaeologist Carl Fredrik Wahr-Hansen Vemmestad about what he had found that time, 60 years ago.

The find is incredibly rare. Elsewhere in central Norway, literally only a handful of such coins exist that have survived to modern time, the local archaeologist said.

The coins give a unique insight into the Middle Ages on Edøy, Vemmestad said.

About the coins

According to the archaeologist, the coins, which are marked with a crown head, are from between the 1300s and 1350s.

These were most likely issued by Magnus Lagabøte, a very important king in Norway in the Middle Ages.

Among the coins is also one from between 1450 to 1481, issued by King Christian I, the ancestor of today’s Norwegian and Danish royal houses.

The site of the discovery and the composition of coins and objects suggest that they may originate from a burial mound that was placed under the church floor in the Middle Ages, Vemmestad said.

The needles may be from the clothing of the corpse, and the amber bead may be from a so-called paternoster, a prayer wreath.

The finder, Fugelsnes, has his own theory.

“I think the coins may be from the collection, that may have merged with the church sometime in the past,” he said, in the translated press release. “After all, Edøy church has burned several times.”

According to county officials, all coins older than 1650, which have not been privately owned before 1905, belong to the state under the Cultural Heritage Act.

“We are very happy that Jan Gunnar let us take over these coins, so that they can be preserved in a safe way and secured for the future,” said Vemmestad.

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