Reports of rare coin finds by metal detectorists in the U.K. are becoming more and more frequent. The main stream media delight in detailing them especially if a high-priced auction sale appears likely.
The latest to hit the headlines is a super-rare Roman denarius that lay unrecognized for what it actually was for over 30 years following its initial discovery.
The coin is the property of Tom Thomas, a retired policeman from Reading. He recovered it from a farmer’s field in Berkshire many moons ago after obtaining a very weak signal on his metal detector. The quality of the signal was so weak that at first he wasn’t going to bother to dig. However, something made him change his mind.
Most coins he had located up to this point were within eight inches of the surface but this one proved different. He had to persevere “really deep to reach it.” Eventually when it was unearthed he considered it nothing out of the ordinary. “I didn’t know what it was as such. I knew it to be a Roman coin as I had found others in the past. I put it with my small collection and thought nothing more of it.”
And there it sat for 30 years until a family barbecue two years back. The event was attended by Mark Becher who runs the Metal Detectives Group in Berkshire. When Thomas showed Becher his collection and he spotted the small coin the alarm bells went off.
Later Becher commented, “I was staggered when I saw the coin. I’ve been metal detecting for more than 25 years and I’ve witnessed countless finds, both my own and other peoples. I’d just never seen anything like it.” … “I quickly sent a picture of it to a good friend and Roman coin guru Chip Gruszczinski. He came back in a flash confirming what I’d assumed.”
“I then contacted an absolute expert in the field of Roman coins, Sam Moorhead at the British Museum. He agreed with the consensus of opinion [that] it’s the only one of its kind in the world. For keen collectors, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
The coin is a British-struck denarius of Carausius The Usurper. It dates back to CE 286-93. The obverse shows the laureate effigy of Carausius, Emperor of the North (Britain and northern Gaul). The reverse features the goddess Salus feeding a snake rising from an altar.
Predictably Thomas was stunned: “I was surprised and delighted when I heard how special the coin was. The only reason I’m selling it now is because it’s so unique and valuable it has to be locked away in a bank vault.”
The coin is now registered with the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS). Its description states, “The coin is not published and is the only example of its type in Sam Moorhead’s corpus for a new edition of RIC.”
Its sale is set for Aug. 27 by Hansons Auctioneers of Derbyshire in their “Historica and Metal Detecting Finds” sale. It will carry an estimate of £10,000.
And in case readers were wondering, Carausius was a military commander of the Roman Empire in the 3rd century. He usurped power in 286 CE declaring himself “Emperor of the North”. He and his assassin and successor Allectus were in effect the first Brexiteers. Several reports of their found coins and subsequent sales have appeared over the past couple of years.