While searching Devon farmland in southwest England, an amateur metal detectorist unearthed one of the country’s oldest gold coins, a discovery that could be worth more than $550,000 when it heads to auction Sunday.
The “Henry III gold penny” was minted in about 1257 and depicts the former English king sitting on an ornate throne, holding an orb and scepter. It is one of only eight such coins known to exist, many of which are in museums.
What makes the discovery even more fun is the finder, who wishes to remain anonymous, didn’t know what he found during his September 2021 excursion until he posted a picture of the coin on Facebook. That’s where Gregory Edmund, a numismatist with London auctioneer Spink & Son, spotted it.
“This was one of his first prospecting days in many, many years, so he obviously couldn't quite believe what he discovered," Edmund told CNN, referring to the detectorist.
The rare coin could bring as much as $550,000, according to a pre-auction estimate, when it goes under the hammer Sunday.
“How it has survived three-quarters of a millennium relatively unscathed is truly miraculous,” the unnamed coin discoverer said in a statement. “Like every hobbyist who continues to dream, my wish that day came true, and I just happened to be the very fortunate one.”
King Henry III ruled England from 1216 until his death in 1272 – one of the longest reigns in the country's history. In 1257, he used treasure he had personally accumulated to mint his gold coinage, according to David Carpenter, professor of medieval history at King’s College London, who wrote the foreword to Spink & Son's auction catalog. Henry’s coinage was the first to be cast in gold since the Norman Conquest, with the economy relying on silver coins since then.