Armature treasure hunter finds 40 Roman gold coins
These late Roman gold coins were been found by a metal detectorist on private land north of St Albans in Hertfordshire. The find is believed to be one of the largest Roman gold coin hoards ever discovered in the UK
By LEON WATSON
A novice treasure hunter who bought a basic metal detector returned to the shop in shock weeks later, clutching part of the country's finest ever hoard of Late Roman gold coins.
The man stunned staff by showing them 40 gold Solidi, before asking them: 'What do I do with this?'
They contacted local experts and together got the permits they needed, headed back to the scene and pulled up another 119 gleaming pieces.
The hoard could be worth more £100,000.
David Sewell, the lucky shopkeeper who joined the second search party, said: 'It’s a staggering thing.
'We sold this guy an entry-level machine and he went off and pulled off one of the largest ever hoards of Late Roman gold coins. We believe it’s the second largest.
'He came up with approximately 40 coins to start with. He came to see us and we looked at it and thought: ‘Is this a stunt?’
'I’ve heard in the past that the general reaction with things like this is that people are terrified. They don’t know what they (the artifacts) mean.'
They advised the man to get in touch with the local finds liaison officer and armed with a JCB they went to the woodlands spot near St Albans, Hertfordshire, and continued the work.
Mr Sewell, who founded metal detecting shop Hidden History with Mark Becher in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, last year, said: 'We went with them and took with us a couple of slightly more potent machines and we pulled 119 more coins out of the ground.
'These are 22 carat gold, they haven’t got any damage and they came out of the ground looking like the day they were made. All I can say is I was there and my heart was going at 10 to the dozen.'
The man had bought a Garrett Ace 150, retailing at around £135 and described as being ideal for children to use for a hobby. Local heritage officials described the find as 'a nationally significant find.'
The coins are a rare example of the Solidus, dating from the last days of Roman rule in Britain. The last consignments of them reached these shores in 408AD.
Officials refused to identify the exact site of the discovery or the landowner to stop others from trying to cash in.
They also would not name the person who found them, who could profit from a share of the proceeds from the coins.
A spokesman for St Albans City and District Council said: 'A nationally significant find of 159 Late Roman gold coins has been found by a metal detectorist on private land in the north of the district of St Albans, in Hertfordshire.
'The find is believed to be one of the largest Roman gold coin hoards ever discovered in the UK.'
Local museum staff, together with Hidden History, travelled to the rural site to confirm the find.
'Evidence suggests that the hoard was disturbed in the last couple of hundred years due to quarrying activity or plough action,' said the spokesman.
Mr Sewell said the coins were found across about 15 meters of woodland.
It is believed that the area was used during the Second World War to cultivate crops and it may be then that the coins were shifted.
'The interesting thing is there were no other artifacts there at all, no brooches,' said Mr Sewell.
'Oddly there was no vessel at all to hold them. It is quite a significant stash and I’m surprised that it would have been in an organic holder.
The council has now referred the hoard to experts at the British Museum to investigate and prepare a report for the local coroner. They will also determine the value of the coins, which could fetch anything from £400 to £1,000 apiece.
The coroner will then determine whether the hoard counts as treasure.
David Thorold, curator of the prehistory to medieval section at the Verulamium Museum, in St Albans, said: 'Gold Solidi were extremely valuable coins and were not traded or exchanged on a regular basis.
'They would have been used for large transactions such as buying land, or goods by the shipload.
'The gold coins in the economy guaranteed the value of all the silver and especially the bronze coins in circulation. However, must people would not have had regular access to them.
'Typically, the wealthy Roman elite, merchants or soldiers receiving bulk pay were the recipients.'
Mr Sewell, who resumed detecting three years ago after a 36-year gap, has himself found a number of items, including a rare silver Tealby Penny.
He said: 'I’ve found bits and pieces but nothing like this. I’ve got immense satisfaction that the guy came to us and bought the machine from us but I would be lying if I said I didn’t wish it had been me.
'It beggars belief. Thanks to things like Time Team people’s interest in archaeology has really taken off. You do have the possibility to change history.'
Courtesy Daily Mail