World Coins

Monday Morning Brief for Jan. 31, 2022: Found treasure coin exciting

A newly discovered gold penny of Henry III, the eighth known and only fourth available in private hands, sold at auction Jan. 23 in London.

Images courtesy of Spink.

All of us imagine finding buried treasure in the form of a rare coin or hoard of coins. Some achieve that dream.

A 765-year-old, 1257 British gold penny that realized more than $868,255 in a Jan. 23 Spink auction was literally found buried in dirt in Devon, England, by a metal detectorist.

It was the find of a lifetime. Few gold pennies of King Henry III survive (eight pieces, records indicate), and when a new one is discovered, it becomes a hot property. The auction results (see here) prove that.

Under the UK’s Treasure Act of 1996, the coin as a single-piece find did not qualify as treasure. Under the act, a hoard of coins is required to be relinquished to the government. Finders of such hoards (and the owners o the lands on which they are found) benefit financially, splitting the proceeds from their sale to a British museum or to collectors through public auction. Single coins like the Henry III gold penny, no matter how rare, valuable or historic, do not have to turned over to the government.

Britain has a rich history, and coins make up a big part of that. As small, portable objects, single coins could easily be lost by their owners centuries ago, or the locations of buried hoards forgotten by their owners, lost to history.

Britain has a well-thought-out law in place that governs what must be done when a metal detectorist discovers a lost hoard or a single coin. The law ensures that the coins and jewelry in hoards are turned over to relevant authorities to study and dispose of in a way that can benefit the society at large, while also compensating the finders for their good fortune. It is a win-win policy that works well.

Most of the finders are ordinary Joes and Janes, people with an interest in metal detecting or gardeners digging up something more than the potatoes they had planted earlier.

Finding such a historic and valuable coin would be an exciting experience for anyone. Finding a huge hoard is an even greater experience for many, even if one cannot keep the coins pulled from the earth.

The finder of this coin and the owner of the land on which it was discovered will split the proceeds, and a collector now has a new prize for their collection.
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