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Medieval Coin Hoard Offers Evidence of Early Tax Evasion
Shortly after the Battle of Hastings in 1066, a wealthy local buried a trove of 2,528 coins in what is now Somerset, England. Featuring the likenesses of both Harold II—the country’s last crowned Anglo-Saxon king—and his successor, William the Conqueror, the hoard is the largest collection of post-Norman Conquest coins found to date. But that’s not all: As the British Museum reports, the medieval money also represents an early example of the seemingly modern practice of tax evasion.
According to a press release from the museum, three of the silver pieces are “mules,” or illegally crafted coins boasting designs from mismatched dies on either side. Two boast Harold’s image on one side and William’s on the other, while the third depicts William and Harold’s predecessor, Edward the Confessor. By re-using an outdated die, the moneyer who made the coins avoided paying taxes on new dies. Per the Guardian’s Mark Brown, the two-faced coin would have been easy to present as legal currency, as most Anglo-Saxons were illiterate and unable to distinguish between the relatively generic royal portraits.
“One of the big debates amongst historians is the extent to which there was continuity or change, both in the years immediately after the Conquest and across a longer period,” Gareth Williams, the British Museum's curator of early medieval coinage, says in the statement. “Surviving historical sources tend to focus on the top level of society, and the coins are also symbols of authority and power. At the same time, they were used on a regular basis by both rich and poor, so the coins help us understand how changes under Norman rule impacted on society as a whole.”
A mule bearing Edward the Confessor's image (Pippa Pearce/© The Trustees of the British Museum)
Adam Staples, one of the metal detector enthusiasts who helped unearth the trove, tells Brown that he and partner Lisa Grace were teaching friends how to use the treasure-hunting tool when one member of their party happened upon a silver William coin. Staples calls it “an amazing find in its own right.” But then, there was another signal pointing to another coin. Suddenly, he says, “there were beeps everywhere, [and] it took four or five hours to dig them all up.”
The Telegraph’s Hannah Furness writes that the total value of the find could be upward of ٣ million (just over $6 million). However, considering the coins’ condition and potential flooding of the market if the hoard is offered for sale, that value may be overinflated.
For now, the hoard is under the care of the British Museum, which will determine whether it falls under the legal category of “ treasure.” (Under the Treasure Act of 1996, individuals in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are required to report finds to their local coroner, who then initiates an investigation.) If the pieces are classified as treasure, the Roman Baths and Pump Room, fittingly located in Bath, has expressed interest in acquiring them.The coins depict Edward the Confessor, Harold II and William the Conqueror (Pippa Pearce/© The Trustees of the British Museum)
According to the British Museum, the collection contains 1,236 coins bearing Harold’s likeness, 1,310 coins testifying to William’s takeover and various silver fragments. In total, the newly discovered Harold coins outnumber the collective amount known to exist previously by almost double. The William coins, meanwhile, represent more than five times the number of previously recovered pieces issued by the Norman king following his coronation in 1066.
Writing for the Conversation, Tom Licence of England’s University of East Anglia explains that the hoard—sizable enough to pay for an entire army or, alternatively, around 500 sheep—was likely hidden by a member of the nobility hoping to protect his wealth amid a volatile political environment. (Harold ascended to the throne after the death of his childless brother-in-law, Edward the Confessor, but William of Normandy, later William the Conqueror, disputed the king’s claim and soon seized power.)
It remains unclear which of these regimes the aristocrat in question supported, but as Gareth Williams, the British Museum’s curator of early medieval coinage, points out in an interview with the Guardian’s Brown, the key detail is that the person was burying the hoard during a period of instability. He adds, “It is the sort of circumstances in which anyone might choose to bury their money.”
Coins from Edward the Confessor and William the Conqueror found in Monmouth field
The hoard included coins of the Anglo-Saxon king Edward the Confessor (1042-66) and the Norman king William the Conqueror (1066-87). The hoard probably pre-dates the founding of Abergavenny near by in the 1080s.
The hoard was heavily encrusted with iron deposits, including traces of fabric, suggesting that the coins had originally been held in a cloth bag. It is not clear whether they had been deliberately hidden, or simply lost. Either way their owner was the poorer by a significant amount: sixteen shillings and seven pence (16s 7d, or £0.83p) would for most have represented several months' wages.
Anglo-Saxon and Norman coins form an unique historical source: each names its place of minting and the moneyer responsible. People had easy access to a network of mints across England (there were none in Wales) and every few years existing money was called in to be re-minted with a new design. The King, of course, took a cut on each occasion.
The Abergavenny hoard includes 36 identifiable mints, as well as some irregular issues which cannot at present be located. Coins from mints in the region, like Hereford (34 coins) and Bristol (24), are commonest, outweighing big mints such as London (19) and Winchester (20). At the other end of the scale there are single coins from small mints such as Bridport (Dorset), or distant ones such as Thetford (Norfolk) and Derby.
Hoards from western Britain are rare, so the Abergavenny Hoard has produced many previously unrecorded combinations of mint, moneyer, and issue.
We shall probably never know quite why these coins ended up in the corner of a field in Monmouthshire but, as well as expanding our knowledge of the coinage itself, they will cast new light on monetary conditions in the area after the Norman Conquest.
The coins were found covered in iron concretions and many of them were stuck to each other. This disfigured the coins and obscured vital details. Removing this concretion with mechanical methods, such as using a scalpel, would have damaged the silver, and chemicals failed to shift the iron.
The solution to the problem was found in an unexpected, but thoroughly modern tool - the laser. A laser is a source of light providing energy in the form of a very intense single wavelength, with a narrow beam which only spreads a few millimetres.
As laser radiation is of a single colour (infrared light was used in this case) the beam will interact intensely with some materials, but hardly at all with others. This infrared source was absorbed better by the darker overlying iron corrosion than by the light silver metal.
The laser was successful at removing much of the iron crust, but initially left a very thin oxide film on the surface. When this was removed, the detail revealed on the underlying coin was excellent it was possible to see rough out and polishing marks transferred to the coin from the original die, as well as the inscribed legend.
Conquest, Coexistence, and Change. Wales 1063-1415 by R. R. Davies. Published by Oxford University Press (1987).
The Norman Conquest and the English Coinage by Michael Dolley. Published by Spink and Son (1966).
Coin of William the Conqueror - History
'A Brief History of the Penny'
The name penny is derived from the Anglo-Saxon penig and has a root similar to the German pfennig. The penny was the unit of currency introduced into Britain probably in the reign of Offa (circa 757 AD). Although the present abbreviation for penny is p (introduced in 1971 to distinguish the new decimalised penny) the previous abbreviation was the symbol d possibly after the Roman denarius, which was the first coinage in regular use in England, or alternatively to indicate that it had 1/12th (duodecimal) of the value of a shilling.
When the penny coinage was introduced it consisted of flans of silver which were hammered between two dies. By law the value of the coin corresponded to the weight of silver but often pennies were not worth their face value either because of dishonest minting or the fraudulent practice of clipping small parts off the edge of the coins. As the value of silver rose over the years by the time William the Conqueror (William I, 1066-1087) ascended the throne there was a pressing need for smaller denomination coins and pennies were legally cut into halves and quarters (thus producing halfpennies and fourthpennies or farthings). The penny was the most important denomination coin in circulation in England up to the reign of Edward III (1327-1377) and has been produced in every reign up to the present day.
The penny appears in many every-day expressions such as 'penny dreadful', 'penny wise', 'pennyworth' etc. and in great literature, e.g. "My penny of observation" (Shakespeare, 'Love's Labour's Lost', iii,1) and "A penny for your thoughts" (Heywood, 'Dialogue', part II,4).
The silver twopence was introduced in the reign of Charles II (1660-1685). The silver pennies were by this time very small and were widely hoarded so that comparatively few were in general circulation. Charles II issued a royal Proclamation on 16th August 1672 legalising copper currency but copper pennies were not introduced until much later. Machine struck pennies were introduced about this time. Silver pennies continue to minted to this day as part of a set of four silver Maundy coins. The Maundy ceremony has its origin in the washing of the feet of the poor by eminent personages on the Thursday before Easter. In England it has survived since the 12th century in the form of the ceremonial presentation by the monarch of silver coins to selected 'poor'. The foot washing seems to have lapsed since the 15th century but the royal attendants still carry towels as part of their regalia. The number of recipients of the royal beneficence is related to the years of the sovereign's life and the ceremony takes place annually at one of the ancient cathedrals. Silver pennies are still minted for this purpose.
Sir Isaac Newton when he was in charge of the Royal Mint considered minting a copper penny in 1702 but the first were introduced in 1797, in the reign of George III (1760-1820), together with the copper twopence. To comply with the connection between the face value and the intrinsic value of the metal the twopence was exactly twice the weight of the penny. This is still the case today.
In the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) the copper penny was issued until 1860 and thereafter pennies were minted in bronze. In 1902 (at the beginning of the reign of Edward VII, 1902-1910) bronze pennies consisted of 9.4 grams of bronze composed of 95% copper, 4% tin, and 1% zinc. By the time the last bronze pennies were struck (in 1967) the composition had slightly altered to 9.4 grams of copper 97%, tin 0.5%, and zinc 2.5%.
The decimal penny and twopence coins were issued in 1968 and became legal tender on 15th February 1971. The equivalent value of the new penny was 2.4 old pence and the coins consisted of 3.6 grams of bronze. By 1992 the intrinsic value of the metal exceeded the face value and new coins were struck from mild steel electroplated with copper . It is these pennies that have magnetic properties and are included in the Magic Penny set. The coins show on the obverse the crowned profile portrait of Queen Elizabeth II with the abbreviated Latin inscription: ELIZABETH II D G REG F D ( Elizabeth II by the Grace of God Queen and Defender of the Faith) and the year of issue. The twopenny coins show on the reverse side the badge of the Prince of Wales consisting of three ostrich plumes within a coronet with a ribbon bearing the German motto: ICH DIEN (I serve). The reverse of the penny coins show a crowned portcullis. The portcullis motif was first used on coins issued in 1600 by Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) for international trade by the East India Company. The portcullis, a heavy grating suspended by chains to move up and down in vertical grooves as a fortified gateway, was the mint mark of the Tower Mint. The sign is probably based on the great portcullis of 'Traitor's Gate' at the Tower of London. PAR 20/4/97.
Images of William the Conqueror – by Oguejiofo Annu
Coin with contemporary image of William the Conqueror. The image itself is the only one endorsed and favoured by William the Conqueror.
Coin image of William the Conqueror circa 1072.
A whiten fake image of William the Conqueror made almost 600 years after his death, by George Vertue, a so-called white European in 1648.
William English School Renaissance period. Note he looks like a mixed blood here.
William Rennaissance style
This is how they gradually brought about the dissociation, displacement of the aboriginal Europeans from their history and replaced it with a fake fantasized history of the “western (so-called white) man”. These fantasized versions of William the Conqueror are the most pervasive images of this old king today.
Look again at the image of himself commissioned and endorsed by William the Conqueror in his lifetime, and look again at the deceptions created after 1648, by the present day Europeans. Ask yourself why?
Who was William the Conqueror:
William was born in around 1028, in Falaise, Normandy the illegitimate son of Robert I, Duke of Normandy. He was known as ‘William the Bastard’ to his contemporaries. On his father’s death in 1035, William was recognised as heir, with his great uncle serving as regent. In 1042, he began to take more personal control. From 1046 until 1055, he dealt with a series of baronial rebellions. William’s political and military successes helped him in negotiations to marry Matilda, daughter of Count Baldwin of Flanders in 1053.
Early in 1066, Edward, king of England died and Harold, Earl of Wessex was crowned king. William was furious, claiming that in 1051 Edward, a distant cousin, had promised him the throne and that Harold had later sworn to support that claim.
William landed in England on 28 September 1066, establishing a camp near Hastings. Harold had travelled north to fight another invader, Harold Hardrada, King of Norway and defeated him at Stamford Bridge near York. He marched south as quickly as he could and on 14 October, his army met William’s. It was a close-fought battle lasting all day, but Harold was killed and his army collapsed. William was victorious and on Christmas Day 1066, he was crowned king in Westminster Abbey. A Norman aristocracy became the new governing class and many members of the native English elite, including bishops, were replaced with Normans.
The first years of William’s reign were spent crushing resistance and securing his borders, which he did with ruthless efficiency. He invaded Scotland in 1072 and concluded a truce with the Scottish king. He marched into Wales in 1081 and created special defensive ‘marcher’ counties along the borders. The last serious rebellion against his rule, the Revolt of the Earls, took place in 1075. In 1086, William ordered a survey to be made of the kingdom. This became known as the Domesday Book and remains one of the oldest valid legal documents in Britain.
With the kingdom increasingly settled, William spent most of his last 15 years in Normandy, leaving the government of England to regents, usually clergymen. He spent the last months of his reign fighting Philip I, King of France. He died on 9 September 1087 from injuries received when he fell from his horse at the Siege of Mantes. He divided his lands between two of his sons, with Robert receiving Normandy and William Rufus, England.
Huge hoard of Norman coins reveals medieval tax scam
A millennium-old tax scam has been revealed with the discovery of thousands of coins in a muddy field that together make up the largest hoard to be unearthed from the immediate post-Norman conquest period.
The British Museum announced the discovery of the coins from a pivotal moment in English history on Wednesday. Some depict Harold II, the last crowned Anglo-Saxon king of England, and an almost equal amount show the man who replaced him after the Battle of Hastings in 1066, William the Conqueror, the first Norman king of England.
Gareth Williams, the museum’s curator of early medieval coinage, said the hoard of 2,528 coins was unusually large and “massively important” in shining light on the history of the period.
“One of the big debates amongst historians is the extent to which there was continuity or change, both in the years immediately after the conquest and across a longer period,” he said. “The coins help us understand how changes under Norman rule impacted on society as a whole.”
Three of the coins have been identified as “mules”, a combination of two types of coin – essentially an early form of tax-dodging by the moneyer, the person who made them.
Ian Richardson, treasure registrar at the British Museum, holding a rare example of a mule coin. Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA
These coins have designs and language that relate to both Harold and William, and would have been easy to pass off as legal tender as the average Anglo-Saxon was illiterate and the stylised images of the kings looked similar.
The find was made in January in a farmer’s field near the Chew Valley in Somerset by Lisa Grace and Adam Staples, a couple from Derbyshire who were teaching friends how to use their new metal detectors.
One of the friends came across a single William the Conqueror silver coin, “an amazing find in its own right”, said Staples, something a detectorist might only find once in 30 years. “Two steps later, there was another signal and it was another coin. Then there were beeps everywhere, it took four or five hours to dig them all up.”
They soon had a bucket containing a staggering number of coins, probably worth millions of pounds. The total hoard value would have been enough to buy a flock of 500 sheep in 1067-68, but its precise value today has yet to be revealed.
The legal process will involve a coroner’s examination to confirm whether it is treasure. If it is, it will then be valued by an independent treasure valuation committee and museums will have to raise money to acquire the hoard. Interest has already been expressed by the Roman Baths and Pump Room in Bath.
The reward would then be shared between the land owner and the metal detectorists who made the discovery.
One of the most tantalising questions is why someone would bury so much money. Williams said the south-west of England was a violent place in the aftermath of 1066, with raids by the Welsh and the return of Harold’s sons from Ireland.
“Imagine a period of instability with someone in charge of the country that not everybody actively supports and uncertainty in terms of the relationship with the continent,” he said.
“It is the sort of circumstances in which anyone might choose to bury their money.”
When William asked for the hand of Matilda of Flanders, a granddaughter of France’s King Robert II, she demurred, perhaps because of his illegitimacy or her entanglement with another man. According to legend, the snubbed duke tackled Matilda in the street, pulling her off her horse by her long braids. In any event, she consented to marry him and bore him 10 children before her death in 1083, which plunged William into a deep depression.
During William’s siege of Alençon, a disputed town on the border of Normandy, in the late 1040s or early 1050s, residents are said to have hung animal hides on their walls. They mocked him for being the grandson of a tanner, referring to the occupation of his mother’s father. To avenge her honor, he had their hands and feet cut off.
Death and Legacy
Fortunately for William, the Danish invasion never materialised. Canute IV of Denmark (r. 1080-1086 CE), who was planning the escapade, was murdered as part of a rebellion that was fuelled by the king’s imposition of taxes and fines to pay for his invasion fleet and army. Then, out of the blue, disaster struck while William was attacking the town of Mantes in retaliation for its raids on Normandy. On 9 September 1087 CE, William died from illness, perhaps from an injury riding his horse and exacerbated by the obesity that afflicted him in later life. He was buried in St. Stephen’s monastery in Caen, which he himself had built, although the funeral had its problems: a fire in neighbouring houses interrupted the procession, a man shouted out during the ceremony that the cathedral had been built on his father’s lands without any compensation, and the sarcophagus was so small that when they tried to push the corpulent corpse in the stomach burst and filled the cathedral with a noxious smell.
According to one medieval manuscript, the king’s epitaph went as follows:
A depiction of William the Conqueror, aka William I (r. 1066-1087 CE) from the 11th century CE Bayeux Tapestry. (Centre Guillaume le Conquérant, Bayeux, France) / Photo by Myrabella, Wikimedia Commons
Who governed the proud Normans, by his firm hand
constrained the Bretons vanquished by his arms
The warriors of Maine he curbed by valour,
Kept in obedience to his rule and right.
The great king lies here in this little urn,
So small a house serves for a mighty lord.
(De obitu Willelmi, Allen Brown, 49)
The anti-Norman Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (entry for 1087 CE) gives the following, perhaps more balanced summary of William’s reign:
This king William of whom we speak was a very wise man, and very powerful and more worshipful and stronger than any predecessor of his had been. He was gentle to the good men who loved God, and stern beyond all measure to those people who resisted his will.
(quoted in Allen Brown, 79)
After William’s death, his English kingdom was taken over by his son William II Rufus (r. 1087-1100 CE). Meanwhile, William’s other son, Robert Curthose, took over the family lands in Normandy. Both rulers would struggle to keep their respective domains from usurpers and ambitious nobles. England and Normandy would only be ruled again by a single monarch from 1106 CE, six years into the reign of Henry I of England (r. 1100-1135 CE), another son of William the Conqueror.
William the Conqueror, then, lived an eventful life of more or less non-stop warfare and travel between England and northern France. It is perhaps the subsequent interlocking history of these two countries where we see William’s greatest legacy, for good and bad. By joining the two together, mixing the ruling elites and greatly increasing trade, the political and cultural repercussions of William’s conquest of England would be felt for centuries to come.
The Final Humiliation of William the Conqueror’s Body During his Funeral
We have all heard stories about weddings or funerals gone wrong. Maybe we have experienced something ourselves, but odds are you’ve (thankfully) never experienced something as horrifying as what happened at the funeral service for one of the greatest kings in history.
William the Conqueror (c.1028-1087), sometimes known as “William the Bastard” (definitely not to his face), was the feudal lord of Normandy who conquered England in 1066, the last time the island nation was subjugated by a foreign foe.
William as depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry during the Battle of Hastings, lifting his helm to show that he is still alive.
William, the illegitimate son of Duke Robert I and a tanner’s daughter named Herleva, was descended on his father’s side from Rollo, the Norwegian Viking who was given Normandy by the King of France in return for defending France against his pagan brethren.
Rollo’s descendants, including William, may have converted to Christianity, but they were just as fierce and lusty as their Viking forefathers.
William, in particular, was reputed to have both a fierce temper and a fierce appetite. Both of these traits would leave him essentially without mourners when he died.
Château de Falaise in Falaise, Lower Normandy, France. William was born in an earlier building here.
Of course, William the Conqueror is hardly the nickname of a timid man or a man without enemies. Though he was “legitimized” by the Church and had become the sole ruler of Normandy by 1047, and had made it the strongest territory in France and essentially a nation unto itself, William’s ambitions came to include becoming King of England as well.
His claim to the English throne was a bit tenuous: he was a distant cousin to the English king, Edward the Confessor. Aside from the ties of blood, Edward had spent time in exile in Normandy as a young man, after having been run out of England by the Danish warrior king Canute, who briefly united the kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and England.
Edward returned to England upon the death of Canute and ascended the throne with a special place for Normandy in his heart.
Image from the Bayeux Tapestry showing William with his half-brothers. William is in the centre, Odo is on the left with empty hands, and Robert is on the right with a sword in his hand.
In 1051, the childless Edward invited young William to his court and reportedly promised William the throne when he died. William never forgot that promise – not for a second.
However, in the time between 1051 and 1066, Harold Godwinson, the scion of a noble and powerful family and accomplished warrior, had become Edward the Confessor’s brother in law, and was the Earl of Wessex, a powerful position.
Harold and his supporters claimed that he was promised the English throne by Edward on his deathbed. The king’s advisers, called the “Witan” or “Witanegemot,” gave Harold the necessary support and he was crowned in January 1066.
The signatures of William I and Matilda are the first two large crosses on the Accord of Winchester from 1072.
Another claimant to the throne was the legendary Viking warrior Harald Hardrada (or “Hard-ruler”). He claimed the throne of England through Canute the Great.
William dismissed both of these claims. The Norwegian claim was based on a line of kings that didn’t exist anymore. Harold’s claim? Well, that was a different story. In 1064, Harold shipwrecked on the Brittany coast of France, a neighboring and rival duchy of Normandy. Threatening Brittany’s lord Conan II with invasion, William demanded Harold be handed over – William knew he was a valuable hostage, and that his family would pay a huge ransom to set him free. That, or William could extract valuable oaths to do so.
The remains of Baile Hill, the second motte-and-bailey castle built by William in York.
By all accounts (including an illustrated chapter of the famed Bayeux Tapestry), William and Harold got along well – hostage-taking was a regular practice, and noble “guests” were mostly treated with respect and hospitality.
Harold even went on campaign with William and reportedly saved the life of two Norman knights stuck in quicksand. In the Tapestry, Harold can be seen pledging to William – that pledge was to honor William’s claim on the English throne. So, when Harold took that throne, William and his Norman knights took him for an oath-breaker, the worst kind of liar there was, and vowed vengeance.
Scene from the Bayeux Tapestry whose text indicates William supplying weapons to Harold during Harold’s trip to the continent in 1064.
Before William could assemble his fleet and army, Harald Hardrada invaded northern England in September. On September 25th, King Harold defeated the Vikings at Stamford Bridge.
It was there that Harold received word that the Normans had landed on England’s southern coast. Racing the length of England, Harold met William at Hastings, about 65 miles south of London. As history records, William was victorious and Harold lay on the field, dead from an arrow taken in the eye.
Modern day site of the Battle of Stamford Bridge. Photo by DS Pugh CC BY-SA 2.0
Over the course of the rest of his lifetime, William consolidated his hold over England. It was a long and brutal affair, marked by oppression, slaughter and the almost complete suppression of Anglo-Saxon culture.
Norman French blended with Anglo-Saxon Old English to begin to form the modern English language. Behind all of this was William, who met any opposition with utter ruthlessness.
English coin of William the Conqueror.
Along the way, William enjoyed the fruits of his conquest. And the meats. And the ales. He grew immensely fat, and his death was caused when the pommel of his saddle was literally driven into his intestines, puncturing them. The medical men of the time were not able to do anything to help him and he lingered in immense pain for six weeks.
He died in Normandy and his heirs left it to medical men (the term is relative) to deal with the body of the feared but unloved king. The corpse had lain in a surgical facility in Rouen for some days before a passing knight had him embalmed out of duty to his lord.
William’s grave at Abbaye-aux-Hommes, Caen. Photo by Supercarwaar CC BY-SA 4.0
However, decomposition had already set in and the embalming was hardly complete – and there was still an ad-hoc funeral to be held in Caen, the family seat, some seventy miles away.
Already in a decrepit state, William’s body suffered further indignities when a fire broke out in the city. Days more went by. Then, a man challenged the local church where his body lay, claiming it had been built on his land.
A page from Domesday Book for Warwickshire.
By the time this all was settled, weeks had gone by. Though William’s body was wrapped in funeral sheets, it still stank and had bloated up to many times its natural size, which was already large.
When the gravediggers went to lower the body, it would not fit in the hole. So they attempted to cram it in. That’s when William I, ruler of Normandy and King of England, exploded. His body rained down on what mourners there were, and a horrible stench filled the air.
People got sick, making a bad situation worse. Others passed out. Most ran away in terror. Finally, what remained of William was dumped in the hole and hastily covered up. That was the last resting place of one of history’s most famous figures.
Two British Teens Using Metal Detectors Discovered 1,000-Year-Old Coins
This summer, two British teenagers wielding metal detectors separately discovered a pair of rare, 1,000-year-old coins.
Per a statement from Hansons Auctioneers and Valuers, which is set to feature the coins in an upcoming sale, 17-year-old Reece Pickering unearthed a silver Saxon penny dated to 1066 while treasure hunting in Norfolk this August. The following month, 16-year-old Walter Taylor—who first started metal detecting when he was 4 years old—found an 1106 silver penny in a field in South Essex.
“I wasn’t expecting to come across such a scarce and remarkable coin,” says Pickering in the statement. “… I can’t imagine finding something as special as this again. You just never know what’s beneath your feet.”
Pickering’s Harold II silver penny is one of just three known to survive today, reports Daniel Hickey for the Eastern Daily Press. It’s expected to sell for around ٠,500 to ١,000 (roughly $3,290 to $4,000 USD).
Coins minted during Harold’s reign are scarce, as the Anglo-Saxon king only ruled for nine months. In 1066, William the Conqueror invaded England, defeating Harold at the Battle of Hastings and launching a century of Norman rule.
Demand for coins from Harold’s reign has increased since the Battle of Hastings’ 950th anniversary in 2016, according to Coin World’s Jeff Starck. To commemorate the occasion, the United Kingdom’s Royal Mint released a 50-pence coin based on the famed Bayeux Tapestry, which shows Harold dying of an arrow to the head. (The accuracy of this depiction remains a point of contention.)
Harold II coin (top left) and Henry I coin (bottom right) (Courtesy of Hansons)
Pickering isn’t the only metal detectorist to stumble onto a Harold coin in recent years. In January 2019, a group of friends searching a field in Somerset discovered a trove of 2,528 coins featuring the likenesses of both Harold and his successor, William.
According to the British Museum, which was tasked with assessing the collection, the 1,236 Harold coins found outnumbered the collective amount known to previously exist by almost double. Likely buried by a nobleman hoping to protect his wealth amid a volatile political environment, the money represented an early example of the seemingly modern practice of tax evasion.
Taylor, meanwhile, found a silver penny depicting Henry I—William’s youngest son—pointing at a comet, per James Rodger of Birmingham Live. Henry had the coin minted following his victory over his older brother, Robert Curthose, at Tinchebrai in 1106. The penny is expected to sell for around ١,000 to ١,500 (around $4,000 to $4,600 USD).
“I was constantly digging … but finding nothing,” says Taylor in the statement. “Then the register on my detector rose from 26 to 76. The coin was buried about four inches deep in the ground. I thought it was a silver penny but when I swiped the mud off it, I saw a face staring at me.”
Both coins—in addition to artifacts including an ancient Roman nail cleaner, a Viking brooch, and a gold half-crown coin minted toward the end of Henry VIII’s reign—will be on offer during an online auction hosted by Hansons on October 26 and 27. Proceeds from the coins’ sale will be split half and half with the landowners on whose property they were found.