It’s enough to make a bloke dig out that old metal detector from behind the dusty treadmill in the garage and replace its batteries. Paul Coleman, 60, a Brit who found a batch of old coins in December, is all the richer for joining Weekend Wanderers Detecting Club and romping through the meadows. In his case, the bounty was a hoard of silver Anglo-Saxon coins he found in rural farmland near Aylesbury, Bucks. Speaking of bucks, his government owes him a handsome reward for discovering the cash cache.
According to a Mirror report out today, Coleman found 5,248 Anglo-Saxon silver pennies and is due to receive a large share of the treasure trove from the British government. Shortly after discovering a lead basket filled with £1.3 million in rare coins, Coleman said, “I joked that the hoard had my name on it – I didn’t realize it literally did.” Many of the coins were actually minted with his name inscribed.
In the U.S., it would be highly improbable for a metal detector enthusiast to find coins more than a few hundred years old. However civilizations in Europe have been minting coins for more than 1000 years, which adds a lot of history and potential treasures to the hobby of metal detecting. Early paper money was introduced in Europe in the later Middle Ages, but some coins continued to have the value of the gold or silver they contained throughout the Early Modern period. The penny was minted as a silver coin until the 17th century.
Still, there are billions of dollars in buried treasures right here in the good old USA. For example, check out the following list published in National Geographic Magazine:
- 1952—Uncovering Pirate Treasure: Massachusetts-based treasure hunter Edward Rowe Snow, on a visit to a small island off the coast of Nova Scotia, used a metal detector and old charts to find eight 18th-Century Spanish doubloons and parts of a skeleton that was still clutching the coins in its hand. The treasure was believed to have come from a Spanish galleon captured by pirates in 1725.
- 1966—Lost Gold Mine: In Texas, a group of treasure hunters using metal detectors reported that they had rediscovered the lost San Saba gold mine, which had been abandoned by the Spaniards in 1758 when they were overrun by Comanche Indians.
- 1966—Buried Model T: In Detroit, a group of people, includinga man wielding a metal detector, unearthed what appeared to be a Model T Ford that a man had buried in his backyard back in 1926, to preserve it for posterity.
- 1974—High School Lost & Found: In Florida, metal detector enthusiast Roy Lloyd found a 1926 high school class ring with the initials “M.B.” in four inches of lake-bottom sand. He eventually located the ring’s owner, Miles Baker, who had lost it 48 years before at the city’s pier.
- 1974/1975—Conspiracy Fuel: Richard H. Lester, an amateur treasure hunter, used a metal detector to find a bullet on railroad property in Dallas, near the area where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The FBI eventually determined that the bullet was of a different type than those known to have been fired by alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.
- 1976—Live Ammo Near the Schoolyard: In Alabama, metal-detecting enthusiast James Garigues, who was searching near a middle school for old coins, found a live .75 millimeter tank shell, which officials believed may have been a World War II souvenir. The shell was successfully removed by a military demolition crew.
- 1984—Battle Wounds: An archaeology volunteer wielding a metal detector found a finger bone wearing a ring at Little Bighorn, where Lt. Col. George Custer’s troops were wiped out by the Sioux in 1876.
- 1997—Confederate Shell: In Virginia, two young boys using a metal detector unearthed a live Confederate Army artillery shell in their grandfather’s backyard.
- 2008—Golden Chalice: Mike DeMar, diving off Key West, got a hit on his metal detector that turned out to be a gold chalice from a Spanish treasure ship that sank in 1622.
Obviously Coleman is very glad he decided to go treasure hunting that fateful day since he stumbled across such a valuable coin collection dating back to the reign of Ethelred the Unready in the 990s. Besides almost deciding not to go metal detecting that day, Coleman nearly decided against digging when his metal detector sounded off. “When the detector started beeping, it felt like the size of a manhole cover and that caused me to nearly not dig it up,” Coleman said.
As in most countries, the spoils of metal detecting too often go to respective governments, particularly when a find involves government minted coins. In this case, Coleman’s spectacular find was ruled a national treasure, meaning that it goes to the Crown. Like the Queen needs the money, right? Nevertheless, Buckinghamshire County Museum in Aylesbury is set to bid for the coins after which Mr Coleman and the landowner can expect to receive hefty rewards.
In a similar case in 2009, Terry Herbert dug up 3,500 silver and gold items in Staffordshire and he and farmer Fred Johnson shared £3.3million after Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery bought the collection.