Sometimes, there's no way to know how valuable something is until it goes on sale at auction. Last week, when novice treasure hunter George Hughes of South Petherton, England finally watched his hoard of ancient Roman coins hit the auction block, he found the results absolutely "shocking."
Hughes told reporters, "We were told they were low value coinage, but they went up steadily from the beginning and I just couldn't talk but I kept my cool. Everyone all gave me a clap at the end!"
Despite the mistaken recommendation that the coins were "low value," the cache of 7,500 coins sold for an impressive £48,800 ($71,355) at an auction hosted by Lawrences on May 19th.
Farm Full of Coins
The coins were actually first discovered almost three years ago, in November 2013. At the time, Mr. Hughes had virtually no experience with metal detectors. Mostly for recreational purposes, he asked a local farmer for permission to search his fields with the metal detector.
"I just love history," Hughes said. "I love learning about it and reading about it. I do it for the hobby really, I like finding old coins and stuff."
He was not the first to search the area, but he chose to dig slightly deeper than normal at the site. His initiative quickly paid off: the beeping signal of his metal detector grew strong and stronger until he happened upon a clump of coins stuck together. Encouraged by this initial find, Hughes surmised that a hoard of the relics from Ancient Rome could lay buried beneath the soil.
Hughes enlisted the help of the farmer himself to stand guard while combing across the entire plot of land methodically. Eventually, so many coins were being found that a professional archaeologist was also brought in for assistance in the dig. He brought specialized digging equipment and expertise, but the complete excavation, if you will, took the entirety of four days.
The massive cache of thousands of coins spanned some of the earliest years in England's history. A wide array of emperors are represented on the coins, the oldest of which dated to more than 1,700 years ago. For instance, one particular rarity within the collection was several coins featuring the Emperor Marius, who only ruled for two weeks during the year 268 C.E. Due to his short reign, these coins are of special historical interest.
Individual coins within the hoard sold for between £35 ($51.14) and £700 ($1,022.70) on the high end. They were arranged by emperor into over 100 lots, with some groups fetching £10,000 ($14,610) or more.
Although these coins had since lost their outer layer of silver wash and were not especially eye-appealing, they proved to be worth more than expected due to their age and the sheer number found in the hoard.
Mr. Hughes expressed optimism regarding whether or not he'd ever strike it so big again. "I've found Roman coins just lying on top the earth before. Hopefully I can find the same again."
You can check out the original report here.
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