Antique coin found with metal detector

LONDON — There are few things more romanticized and glorified throughout human history than the discovery of a forgotten and buried treasure, and a recent auction conducted by the London auction house Spink has shown just how valuable a long-forgotten relic can be to one who finds it. In their June 29 sale, Spink offered an Edward III double-florin coin that had been found by a man prospecting with a metal detector on private land in South London. It garnered an astonishing $841,800 (inclusive of 15 percent buyer’s premium and 17.5 percent value-added tax) – a record price at auction for a British coin.

“We knew that there would be a huge interest, but this surpassed all of our expectations,” Jeremy Cheek, head of Spink Coin Auctions, told BBC News in London. When minted in 1343-44, the coin – known as a “double leopard” because of leopard images embossed on both its obverse and reverse sides – had a face value of six shillings. It was the first large gold coin to be minted in England after centuries of silver coins.

Purchased by dealer Ian Goldbart, who is managing director of a global coin fund, the Medieval coin depicting a full-length portrait of Edward III, seated on a throne and holding a sword and scepter, is one of only three known examples. The other two were found in 1857 by schoolchildren, in the River Tyne in northern England. Both are on display in the British Museum in London. “The last two coins were found 150 years ago, so I doubt I will live long enough to buy the next one,” Goldbart said of his purchase.

The double leopard sold by Spink easily beat the former record for a British coin sold at auction: $425,000. That price was paid for an example of England’s first gold penny, minted for the Anglo-Saxon king Coenwulf of Mercia (796-821).

Eric Krszjzaniek, Catherine
Saunders-Watson contributed