Cha-Ching! 30-Year Search Yields Enormous Cache of Ancient Celtic Gold & Silver Coins

By Sophie Bushwick | June 27, 2012 11:56 am

Iron Age coins
This might look like a lot of old coins, but they come from
a trove 35 times smaller than the most recent find.

Uncovering ancient buried treasure doesn’t require the skills to interpret a secret map or navigate a booby-trapped cave. All it took to turn up the largest hoard of Iron Age coins ever found in Europe were two metal detectors…and a lot of patience. After 30 years of searching, Reg Mead and Richard Miles discovered a cache of 30,000 to 50,000 gold and silver Celtic coins worth up to $15 million.

About three decades ago, Mead and Miles heard that a farmer had discovered some silver coins in a field on Jersey, a self-governing island in the English Channel. Although most people would dismiss the rumor, the two men were so intrigued that they started investigating with their metal detectors, a practice they continued through February of this year, when their long quest turned up 60 silver coins and one gold one. Still not satisfied, the men kept looking.

And their determination paid off when they unearthed a four-foot-long block of clay filled with silver and gold coins from about 50 BCE. Experts suggest the coins came from Armorica in today’s Brittany and Normandy, and may have been buried to preserve the wealth from Roman invaders. And that wealth is significant: the clay contains tens of thousands of coins worth $156 to $312 apiece. The treasure is currently hidden away while specialists from the Jersey Heritage Museum, who helped excavate the hoard, evaluate the find and the government of Jersey decides who is the coins’ rightful owner.

[via Gizmodo]

Image courtesy of portableantiquities / flickr

  • Jean Gogolin

    Wow. This is the sort of thing that never happens. Except when it does.

  • Knut

    X never ever marks the spot!

    X marks the spot!

  • Andrew

    The rightful owner isn’t just the person who found it? They did all the work!!

  • Paisley

    generally this sort of thing is a fair split between the land owner and the person who found it. Is Jersey trying to get a cut as well, or was it public land?

  • Kevin Hill

    Jersey’s unusual status as Crown Dependencies that are not part of the United Kingdom makes the legal analysis of ownership difficult. In England this find would be covered by the the Treasure Act 1996 in which the find would belong to the Crown and a suitable reward would be given the finder. However, the Channel Islands are not under Parliament’s rule so the Treasure Act would not apply. Perhaps, the English Common law rule of Treasure Trove applies. To be “treasure trove” To be treasure trove, an object had to be substantially gold or silver, had been hidden with the intent to recover it and the original owner could not be found or ascertained. Under this rule of law the treasure goes to the Crown with no obligation for a reward and it is a crime to not report the find to the local coroner.

  • Dave

    If I understand British law – the coins, because of their cultural & historic value, become property of the government, but the government is required to pay market value to the “owners” of the find – so that’s got to be settled first. It may take a while to sort out what they’re worth and who to pay. I’m sure it will all be worked out, though. I would love to see pictures of the actual find…


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