A remarkable hoard of medieval silver coins found near Chester, England has been declared treasure by experts at the British Museum.
Its status as treasure was also confirmed by the assistant coroner for Cheshire. The coins were discovered in late January by a metal detectorist, Malcolm Shepherd, who hails from Wales.
The U.K. is probably the biggest treasure-hunting “hot spot” known to mankind. On a nearly weekly basis, some noteworthy gold or silver item, or some other artifact, is found in Great Britain. This is partly due to the long history of habitation and occupation of the British Isles throughout antiquity, as well as the proliferation of coins struck by mints around the country during medieval times.
Beyond this wealth of historical artifacts that would be regarded as treasure, the U.K. also boasts among the most favorable treasure trove laws in the world. In most countries, the state or one of its ministries will seize such items as “cultural property” important to the national heritage.
While the logic of protecting cultural artifacts from grave robbers is understandable, such policies encourage treasure finders to turn to the black market. Parliament came up with a compromise in 1996, codified under the Treasure Act. So long as a find is reported within two weeks (so that the site can be properly studied by archaeologists and historians), the finder and land owner will split the value of the find 50-50 (provided that it is indeed “treasure,” which the Act defines as items over 300 years old and containing at least 10% precious metals). This system tends to produce much better outcomes, both for the finders and the academic community.
The hoard includes:
- 24 silver groats dating between 1464 and 1502 (spanning the reigns of Edward IV and Henry VII)
- one Edward IV penny dating to 1471-72
- and one Edward II farthing dating to 1310-14
Groats were traditionally struck from .925 fine silver, also known as sterling silver. Both the farthing and penny are also made of silver. A find of this size and age is always exciting news.
It remains unclear how much the hoard will ultimately be worth, or whether or not the British Museum (or any other museum) will choose to purchase the coins. Yet, simply by following protocol and reporting the find within two weeks, Mr. Shepherd has secured a claim to half of the hoard’s value if it is purchased or auctioned off.
The opinions and forecasts herein are provided solely for informational purposes, and should not be used or construed as an offer, solicitation, or recommendation to buy or sell any product.