King Ethelred the Unready
King Ethelred the Unready

By Nick HuxstedArrowfile …….

One of the largest ever UK discoveries of Anglo Saxon coins has been unearthed by a metal detector enthusiast in a field in Buckinghamshire. Paul Coleman is a member of the Weekend Wanderers Detecting Club and was out with his club and son when he made the discovery on the 21st Dec 2014.

The coins were found buried beneath two feet of dirt in a farmers field in Aylesbury. Uncovered in a lead box the coins are in a remarkable condition. A local archeologist suggested that it looks as if only two people has ever touched them, the person who made them and the person who buried the. They have no scratches and have been remarkably well preserved.

Initial estimates are that each coin could fetch around £250, giving the total value of the collection at around £1.3m.

 Bayeux Tapestry depicting the Battle of Hastings
Bayeux Tapestry depicting the Battle of Hastings

Local experts have suggested that the coins may have been buried after the Battle of Hastings to protect them from Norman Invaders. The excellent condition of the coins could also be due to their close proximity to the historic Buckingham Mint, only a days walk away from the find.

Currently being examined by the British Museum who may eventually purchase the coin, any deal in accordance with British law will split the proceeds 50-50 between the finder and the landowner.

So far only half of the coins have been cleaned but the initial signs are that many of the coins contain the head of King Ethelred the Unready (978-1016).

Given the nickname ‘Un-raed’ or ‘Unready’ (meaning ‘no counsel’, or that he was unwise), Ethelred failed to win or retain the allegiance of many of his subjects.

In 1013, Ethelred fled to Normandy when the powerful Viking Sweyn of Denmark dispossessed him. Ethelred returned to rule after Sweyn’s death in 1014, but died in 1016.

The coins reflect a remarkable period of English history when the Vikings were invading the country. A time that pioneered the mass production of the solid silver currency.

BATTLE OF HASTINGS 1066 1OZ SILVER PROOF COIN - Perth Mint
BATTLE OF HASTINGS 1066 1OZ SILVER PROOF COIN – Perth Mint

Silver had replaced Roman gold and early Anglo Saxon copper in the 8th century, and by the time Ethelred took the throne England had more than 70 mints including in London, Winchester, Lincoln, York and of course Buckingham, near the recent discovery.

The early ‘pennies’ weighed around one and a half grams each and were struck with a die at royal mints by skilled workmen who could stamp more than 2,000 blanks a day.

This post was written by Arrowfile. A collectable storage specialist helping coin collectors look after and protect their valuable collections.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. “Silver had replaced Roman gold and early Anglo Saxon copper in the 8th century”. Roman coins ceased to circulate soon after the Roman pull-out in the early 5th century. Between c. 450 and c. 600, coined money fell out of use entirely in Britain. About AD 600, Merovingian gold from the continent began to appear in Britain and in the early 7th C nascent English mints began producing gold “thrymsas” on the Merovingian model. By 675, through gradual debasement, the gold thrymsas developed into the first silver pennies (“sceats”). In Northumbria, the sceats were further debased into billon “stycas”. The first broad fabric silver pennies appeared at the end of the 8th century. No copper (the stycas were at least theoretically “silver”) was minted in Britain between the closure of the Roman mint at London in AD 325 until the reign of James I.

  2. Whatever happens I think the more collectors benefit, the better. Kind of in line with utilitarianism. Why does a museum need to have a whole collection? Can’t it just own a few dozen if not several? Museums are great and all, but they are located in just one place. There are collectors everywhere who can share with more people overall.

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