Norman Coins Hoard by Hubert Walker for CoinWeek ….
After seven months of processing the find, the British Museum in London announced on Tuesday, August 27 the discovery of a large norman coins hoard of silver pennies in the Chew Valley dating to the Norman Invasion of England. Discovered by metal detectorists in January, the Chew Valley Hoard consists of over 2,500 coins and coin fragments, making it the largest discovery of Norman coins on British soil since 1833.
It is also one of the most historically significant. According to Gareth Williams, Curator of Medieval Coins at the British Museum, the find will “change how we understand what the Norman Conquest meant for Britain.”
A little less than half of the norman coins hoard were struck under Harold II, the last Saxon king, who reigned from January 5, 1066 until his death at the Battle of Hastings on October 14 of that same year. These 1,236 coins account for more than two times the entire population of Harold II coins that were known before January’s discovery. The remaining 1,310 norman coins hoard were struck under the new Norman king, William the Conqueror, who reigned from 1066 through 1087.
The norman coins hoard was buried by someone of apparent status and wealth sometime after the events of 1066 but probably before 1072, and it includes examples from mints and moneyers that were previously unknown for the types. In addition, there are mistakes in some of the inscriptions on the newer coins as Francophone Norman officials had relatively little experience with Old English.
Interestingly, three of the coins are mules, with both kings one on each side. Williams explains that these coins would have been illegal at the time–essentially a form of “tax evasion”, since by using the older Harold II die the coiner avoided paying the royally mandated fee to receive new dies with which to work.
A Detectorist’s Dream Come True
Back in January, longtime detectorists Adam Staples and his girlfriend Lisa Grace, both 42, took five of their friends to a field somewhere in the Chew Valley in North Somerset to train them how to detect. After one of the trainees got a hit on a silver penny of William I (a spectacular find in and of itself), the rest of the immense number of norman coins hoard were quickly detected. Staples and Grace then dug up the majority of the hoard, refusing to leave the site until all the coins were recovered despite heavy rains and thunder.
Staples, an auction consultant, told authorities of the find per the UK’s Treasure Act 1996. As far as coins go, the Treasure Act requires detectorists and others to notify the local coroner, within two weeks of its discovery, of any find of two or more coins if they are more than 300 years old. The coroner then heads an inquest that determines whether or not the find qualifies as treasure. If the norman coins hoard is declared a treasure, then the finder or finders must offer it to a museum at a price established by the antiquities specialists on the UK’s Treasure Valuation Committee. If no museum is interested or able to purchase the find, then rights to the treasure fall to the finder.
In both cases, the finder must give half of the proceeds resulting from the sale of the treasure to the landowner upon whose property it was discovered.
The Roman Baths in the city of Bath have already stated an interest in acquiring the coins for display once they are declared treasure, but they may have some trouble financing this acquisition. The Chew Valley Hoard is estimated to be worth about £5 million (over $6.2 million USD at the time of writing). Nigel Mills of London-based numismatic firm Dix Noonan Webb gave the British Museum an estimated base value of £1,000 to £1,500 each to the coins minted under William II and £2,000 to £4,000 each to the much-rarer Harold II pieces. Suffice it to say, some of the norman coins hoard (like the mules, for example) are rarer for one reason or another and therefore more valuable than this.
All, however, are in good to excellent condition and “very well preserved”, according to British Museum Senior Conservator Pippa Pearce.
Once declared, the norman coins hoard will be the second-largest treasure find in the history of the United Kingdom. The largest is the Staffordshire Hoard, discovered in 2009, which consisted of over 3,500 objects of gold and silver Anglo-Saxon jewelry and metalwork. Nevertheless, the Chew Valley Hoard is the most valuable, with the Staffordshire Hoard valued at £3.285 million (about $4.105 million USD).
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