Uncovering Ancient Coin Hoards
The South Petherton Ancient Hoard –An Amazing find from Somerset, England 2013
The South Petherton coin hoard is one of the more significant Ancient Coin Hoard finds of the last few years. The coins were found my metal detectorist George Hughes in the town of South Petherton in Somerset, England in 2013. The hoard consisted of roughly 7,500 coins that were buried sometime after 274 AD. In England, a hotbed for recent Ancient Coin finds, local Antiquities laws require that any “hoard find” be unearthed with the aid of the local museum and resident archaeologist. These officials then take custody of the find, catalogue it, take any items of significance for the local museum to note the find and then release the coins for collectors. The South Petherton hoard was reported to the British Museum and processed according to the UK Treasure Act with items remaining at the Somerset Museum.
The South Petherton coins we are offering feature Central Roman Emperor Gallienus, and Gallic Roman Emperors Postumus and Victorinus. These men ruled during a turbulent time that featured kidnapping, revolts and the fracturing of the Roman Empire. This turbulence might explain why the coins were hoarded in the first place! The condition of the coins on offer ranges from Extremely Fine (XF) to Choice About Uncirculated (Choice AU). This means that design details will be apparent on all of the coins on offer.
What is a coin hoard?
A coin hoard is a mass of coins that typically was buried or hidden. The intent of the owner is to return to recover the hoard, perhaps after a battle or after pillagers have passed. Sometimes these hoards were meant as offerings to the gods and they were never intended to be recovered. No doubt, some of this wealth was hidden to avoid taxation. Often these hoards were buried in clay jars, wooden boxes or leather bags. Hoards will often also include other items of value like jewelry or ornate items made of precious metals. From our perspective, these stashes of wealth are really buried treasure and they can give us insight to the times during which they were buried. Not all coins from hoards are struck from precious metals, but those that are, tend to inspire the general public and coin collectors the most.
In order for a coin to bear the name of a famous or important coins hoard, there must be a clear record of custodianship from the time it was unearthed to the time it was certified by a reputable and recognized third party grading firm.
Are there other coins hoards out there?
Undoubtedly there are many more coin and treasure hoards out there waiting to be discovered. We can expect more finds anywhere in the ancient world that the Greeks and Romans habituated including Britain, Europe, especially around the Mediterranean Sea, the Middle East and Northern Africa. Sunken wealth-laden ships, buried treasure, and coin hoards hidden for millennia will always be with us. The pace of discovery has slowed in recent decades after an initial increase due to the advent of modern metal detectors in the late 20th Century. Hoards have been discovered by hobby treasure hunters, children playing in fields or caves and by municipal workers, tasked with improving or renovating infrastructure.
Other notable coin hoards
The Beau Street Hoard -- Bath, England 2008
Archaeologists working in the English city of Bath, near the famous lead-lined Roman hot spring baths discovered a mass of 17,577 Roman silver and alloy coins that had been corroded together. This is the largest and most sensational coin hoard ever found in a Roman town. Most ancient coin hoards are found away from settlements in more isolated areas. The hoard may have been hidden over time or at once. It contained denarii, high silver content radiates, and debased, low silver content radiates. The coins in the hoard were issued over a span reaching back 300 years--from 32 BC to 274 AD. The British Museum coin conservators have separated and cleaned the coins. The Roman Baths Museum has a display of the coins.
The Le Catillon II Hoard – Jersey, Channel Islands 2012
The Le Catillon II Hoard was discovered by Reg Mead and Richard Miles in 2012 on the Channel Island of Jersey. They had spent thirty years searching for what turned out to be the world's largest Celtic coin and jewelry hoard with over 70,000 1st century BC Roman and Celtic coins. The coins were removed from the site as a solid mass and are being excavated, catalogued and conserved in public view at the Jersey Museum.
The Seville Hoard – Sevilla, Andalucia Spain 2016
Construction workers digging a trench for pipes discovered 19 ceramic containers that held an estimated 50,000 Roman coins. The coins were likely intended as payroll for soldiers and civil servants or as a tax payment. The bronze folles are from the reigns of emperors Maximianus and Constantine I. The coins appeared to have little to no wear from circulation. It is assumed that the hoard will be displayed at the Seville Archaeological Museum in the future.
The Staffordshire Hoard – Hammerwich, Staffordshire England 2009
The Staffordshire Hoard consists of over 4000 pieces of Anglo-Saxon gold and jeweled weapons. The find was discovered by Terry Herbert, a local metal detectorist. The area was part of the Kingdom of Mercia in the 6th or 7th centuries when the treasure was buried.
The Hoxne Hoard – Hoxne, Suffolk England 1992
On November 16, 1992 amateur metal detectorist Eric Lawes found 579 gold, 14,191 silver and 24 bronze coins and some additional silver and gold items instead of the hammer that he was looking for. The hoard had been packed into a wooden box that had been consumed by the elements. The metal fittings and precious contents survived. The British Museum acquired the entire find and displays selected piece.
It isn’t all about Ancient coins
The Hackney Double Eagles – London, England 2007
Englishman Terence Castle found a hoard of 80 US $20 gold Double Eagle coins dating from 1854 to 1913 while he was digging in his suburban London backyard. The coins were buried in the Sulzbacher Family’s back yard in 1942, as a precaution in case of Nazi invasion. Family members with knowledge of the location of the coins were killed the bombings of the London Blitz. The Hackney Hoard remained in a glass jar in the ground for the next 65 years. Incredibly, four descendents of Max Sulzbacher survived in 2007 and claimed the hoard and sold it at Sotheby’s.
Collecting Hoard Coins
Many people find it interesting to research and own a coin that belonged to a documented coin hoard. It gives historical context to the coin and the collection. It can give a story to share with a child or a friend and it can ignite a passion for Numismatics. We love coins because of the history of the people who spent, saved and buried those magical coins.
Many ancient coins are, in fact, hoard coins. Many do not have the name of the hoard from which the coin comes. When you add a coin with the notation of the hoard on the label to your collection, you know the provenance of the coin and the history of the find. You also know that the coin was found, catalogued, authenticated and marketed in accordance with all applicable antiquities laws.
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