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British Finds Determined to be Treasure
By Richard Giedroyc, World Coin News
June 13, 2013

This article was originally printed in World Coin News.
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Recent ancient coin discoveries in Great Britain demonstrate once more that constructive antiquities laws work. Since the finders in Great Britain followed the law they will be rewarded accordingly, while experts can draw further conclusions from the context in which the finds were discovered.

A person with a metal detector recently found what the British Broadcasting Corporation called a “lucky” find of primarily silver ancient Roman coins in a field near Norfolk. The hoard included a single gold solidus of about AD 410, a coin issued about the time Rome was abandoning Britain, being preoccupied fighting off the Visigoths that were sacking the capital of the empire itself.

Norwich Castle Museum spokesman Adrian Marsden said of the find, “We see very few Roman gold coins. It would have a spending power of about £1,000.”

The value of a find being properly reported is the find’s ability to be studied in its original context. Since this was done Marsden was able to add, “The mixture of gold and silver does happen, it’s very similar to the hoard found in Hoxne in terms of the mix, they just had many more. We see very few Roman gold coins, just two or three a year if we’re lucky. It could be a purse loss, or there’s always the chance they are part of a much bigger pot.”

The May 4 BBC report included comments from Norfolk Assistant Deputy Coroner David Osborne regarding other items also recently declared to be treasure. These finds included an Anglo-Saxon silver pin found in Scoulton, a Middle Bronze Age gold bead discovered in Salthouse, and 59 silver Roman denarii that date from the Roman Republic to the time of the Emperor Tiberius.

Osborne said of the coin find, “As this horde finishes with the coins of Tiberius, it could date to either the Roman invasion of Britain in AD 43, or possibly the Boudicca revolt in AD 61, it’s difficult to say either way.”

Osborne continued, “It’s likely it was buried to have come from a Roman soldier or perhaps settlers trying to hide their hoard from the Iceni invasion. We tend not to see many of this type of Roman silver coins, so to have 59 is really quite unusual.”

Osborne placed a contemporary value on the denarii, saying: “Coins this size have a spending power of about £30 to £40 in today’s money – it’d certain buy a solider a few jugs of wine.”

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Speaking about further recent finds that did not include coins Norfolk Historic Environment Services and Portable Antiquities Scheme spokesman Erica Darch said, “It’s important to record all archaeological finds, treasure or not, because when studied as an assemblage they add enormously to our understanding of Norfolk’s past.”

According to the Association of International Antiquities Dealers, the Coroners and Justice Bill 2009 amendment to the British antiquities laws of four years ago defines treasure as being an object or group of objects of at least 300 years of age containing more than 10 percent gold or silver. It is the legal duty of the finder to report such a find to proper authorities within 14 days of the discovery.

A coroner then conducts an inquest to determine if the find was lost or hidden on purpose with the intention of the person hiding it intending to recover the find at some later date. If the find was simply lost the find becomes the property of the crown. If the find was hidden on purpose an attempt is made to find the legal heirs of the person hiding the treasure. If none is found, then the treasure once again becomes the property of the crown.

Once a determination has been made regarding if the find will be transferred to a museum or not the Secretary of State determines if the finder, the person on whose land the find was discovered, or any other party with an interest in the find should receive a reward. Such a reward is based on a market value established by the Secretary of State along with the Treasure Valuation Committee.

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