A gold coin, one of the first ever minted by the kingdom of England, has sold for a world record £648,000 after being discovered by a metal detectorist in a field. 52-year-old Michael Leigh-Mallory had recently retaken up metal detecting, a lapsed hobby he hadn’t practised in almost 10 years, thanks to his two children’s enthusiasm to join him.
On one of their first trips last September, they were sweeping farmland near the small town of Hemyock, not far from their Devon home, when they found the coin. It turned out to be a King Henry III penny minted around 1257. The coin was identified by a specialist who got in touch after the father and sons posted their find on Facebook asking for help in identifying it.
The penny was one of the first issue of gold coins ever struck in England. Only eight are known to exist and most are on display in museums. The coins are also considered to show the first authentic portrait found of a King of England on his throne since William the Conqueror. The coin was struck by William of Gloucester from gold sourced from north Africa.
Henry III was king of England from 1216 until his death in 1272. In the 1240s and 50s he required that all payments start to be made in gold to build up treasures for major overseas projects. From the dark ages until that point, coinage in circulation in England had been struck from silver.
The coin’s hammer price was £540,000 with additional fees taking the final figure to £648,000 – a world record for any Medieval English coin sold at auction. The winning bid was made by a British collector who doesn’t wish to be named and who said he would loan it to a museum.
The proceeds of the sale will be divided between Mr Leigh-Mallory and the landowner. Mr Leigh-Mallory said the money would be put towards the future education of his history-loving children Emily, 13, and Harry, 10.
“I’m just a normal guy who lives in Devon with his family so this really is a life changing sum of money which will go towards their futures.”
“But its not all about the money – for me it’s about the history. It’s an honour to be connected to this find and I will remember this day for the rest of my life.”
“I have just been to Westminster Abbey to say thank you to Henry – if he had never minted this coin then I would never have found it.”
“One day my wife said to me, ‘you realise you promised you’d take the kids metal detecting’.”
“So, I said, ‘right kids – we’re going detecting’.
“The day after it arrived I went out into this field. It was a bright, sunny day and within 15 minutes I found the coin. I knew it was gold but I had no idea how important it was.”
Gregory Edmund, a specialist at the auction house Spink & Son, which sold the coin, remarked:
“Not only does this now stand as the most valuable single coin find in British history, but also the most valuable Medieval English coin ever sold at auction.”