A metal detector brought this U.K. amateur historian good fortune when he passed over a patch of ground in a farmer’s field. He unearthed hundreds of extremely rare, Roman silver coins worth an estimated £200,000 (US$267,000).
Thirty-five-year-old Mike Smale, from Plymouth, southwest U.K., was treasure hunting on a farm along with a couple of friends when his detector started beeping rapidly. That’s when he first uncovered a couple of coins.
Smale then called officials, who came and sectioned off the area. A pile of around 600 coins was eventually excavated. “It’s impossible to say what it’s worth, it all depends on too many factors. How rare they are, what condition they are in, things like that,” said Smale.
Experts believe the find had been a pot filled with coins that had been hit by a plow, scattering them. “It’s a great find, my biggest one, but I shan’t be giving it up. It’s great fun and I’m sticking with it,” said Smale. “I had a good idea about what it was—I had already found one or two Roman denarii that morning.”
Smale was quite astonished to find the hoard of silver currency, which dates back to around 32 B.C., in mint condition. A single coin could fetch as much as £900 (US$12,000).
The annual event where the coins were discovered was organized by the Detectorists Club’s Sean MacDonald, 47, who admits he would have paid “good money” just to have been present for the discovery, adding that he had been “shaking” with excitement on learning of the find.
“The archaeologists excavating it couldn’t believe what they were seeing because these coins are so rare,” said MacDonald.
Smale said: “Bridport is a cracking area anyway, it’s very rich in history, but a find like this is unprecedented.”
The coins will be delivered to the coroner for valuation before possibly being sold to a museum. Profits from the sale of the rare coins will be split between the farmer who owns the land, Mr. Anthony Butler, and Smale, the finder of them.
An expert who examined photos of the coins said some feature Roman Gods and that some of them were minted during the era of Mark Antony and Cleopatra, centuries before the birth of Christ.
“Republican coins and those of Antony were issued before the Roman Invasion of Britain in A.D. 43, and would have drifted over in the pockets of Roman soldiers and citizens alike,” said coin dealer Dominic Chorney of A.H. Baldwin & Sons.