By Hubert Walker for CoinWeek ….
A hoard of almost 70,000 coins dating back to pre-Roman Britain has entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest discovery of such coins in the United Kingdom. A rough estimate places its value at 10 million British pounds – which, at the time of writing, is over $12.8 million USD.
Now proclaimed by the famous reference book as the “Largest Collection of Iron Age Coins Discovered in the British Isles”, the site of the hoard–on the island of Jersey in the English Channel–was originally discovered in January 2012 by metal detectorists Reg Mead and Richard Miles.
Amazingly, the pair first became aware of the site back in the 1980s, when a friend of Mead’s told him a story about how, when she was a young girl, her father had found a clay pot full of silver coins while pulling a tree out of the ground close to a nearby hedgerow.
After almost 40 years of searching, Miles and Mead finally located the site.
Using their regular equipment, the duo recovered 120 silver coins from the ground. When that find ran dry, Mead and Miles brought in professional-grade equipment and got another signal. The two continued to dig until, three feet below the hedgerow, their shovel hit something metallic. They immediately stopped digging to call the proper local authorities, according to the dictates of the Treasure Act 1996, which seems to have struck a balance between cultural heritage and property rights that has nurtured the recent boom in discoveries by metal detectorists in the United Kingdom in the 21st century.
Once local archaeologists arrived to supervise, the excavation of a clay mound with dimensions of 55″ x 31″ x 8″ began. The mass, which Mead described as weighing “just short of a ton”, contained a grand total of 69,347 silver coins. A smattering of other artifacts, including gold torques, fine silver wire, glass beads, bracelets, and sheets of gold. The find has since been designated as treasure according to the Treasure Act.
A portion of the coins are currently being exhibited at La Hougue Bie Museum, Jersey. They are believed by local experts to have been buried by members of the Curiosolitae tribe while fleeing from the army of famed Roman general Gaius Julius Caesar around 50 BCE as he advanced from Gaul into Britain.
Mead estimates that the least valuable coin type in the hoard is worth about 100 pounds per specimen; extrapolation produces the estimate of 10 million pounds mentioned above.
Asked now about the new world record, Miles simply described it as “lovely.”
The previous record for Iron Age coins in the UK was the hoard of of 54,951 coins recovered in Wiltshire in 1978. The still-reigning record holder for largest coin hoard ever discovered in the world is a stash of 150,000 silver pennies dating to the 13th century discovered in Brussels, Belgium in 1908.
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