Finders of Killingholme Treasure Hoard Make a Mint
Old bottle caps and rusty nails aren’t the only things metal detectorists can find. Sometimes amateur treasure hunters make a big haul. Such was the case with the Killingholme Treasure, a collection of over 4000 Roman coins minted by the Roman Empire almost 1700 years ago.
The finders were lucky enough to land upon the hoard before the enactment of the Treasure Act, meaning they could sell their coins at auction and make themselves a decent profit.
The Killingholme Hoard was discovered in Killingholme, a village located in the English county of Lincolnshire, in 1993. The coins were recorded by the British Museum, after which the bulk of the coins were sold in an auction by Spink. A small number of them can still be found circulating private auctions houses today.
A coin from the Killingholme Treasure Hoard depicting Constantine II. (Beast Coins )
Discovery of the Killingholme Treasure
In the autumn of 1993, a pair of metal detectorists discovered the Killingholme Treasure Hoard. This hoard was found in a large field between Killingholme and Habrough, though its exact location has not been disclosed. According to an account written by one of the finders, the initial coins of the hoard were surface finds, and many of them were found before the treasure was unearthed.
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In total, there were 1504 coins found in the topsoil, and another 2753 found buried in a pot. The finder reported that the top of the pot had been cut off by a plow, which caused a great number of the coins to be scattered around the field. Nevertheless, the remains of the pot were found when the load of coins packed in it was detected by the metal detector. The vessel had a diameter of about 20 cm (7.87 inches), and within it were thousands of coins.
The finder also noticed that the coins were carefully arranged inside the pot, which seemed to produce a spiraling pattern. Unfortunately, the coins were then emptied into a bath for cleaning, thus causing this image to be lost forever.
A Roman coin hoard. (The Portable Antiquities Scheme/ The Trustees of the British Museum/ CC BY SA 2.0 )
Constantine Bronze Coins
With regards to the coins that constituted the Killingholme Treasure Hoard, these were bronze reduced folles, most of which were struck between the 320s and the early 330s, i.e. during the time of the Constantinian Dynasty. The coins were minted in several mints in the Western part of the Roman Empire, though most them were from the London mint. As for the deposition of the hoard, it has been speculated that this occurred around 333/334 AD.
A coin of Constantine I from the Killingholme hoard. ( Beast Coins )
Following the discovery of the Killingholme Treasure Hoard, the coins were to be auctioned off by Spink. Fortunately, the auctioneers allowed Jonathan Williams, who was the curator of Iron Age and Roman coins at the British Museum, to record the coins in batches. After the recordings were completed, most of the coins were sold in auctions, though the finders kept some representative samples. It has been rumored that many of the coins were sold to the Italian jewelry and luxury goods producer, Bulgari, and were used in the jewelry trade.
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It Could Have Been Different
Such a process would not have been possible following the enactment of the Treasure Act 1996. According to this Act of Parliament, those who find ‘treasure’ are legally required to report their finds to the local coroner within 14 days. The Killingholme Treasure Hoard would have been considered a ‘treasure’, as it fulfills the criteria as outlined by the Treasure Act 1996:
“In the case of finds consisting of coins that contain less than 10 per cent of gold or silver there must be at least ten such coins; they will also need to be at least 300 years old.”
A coin of Crispus from the Killingholme treasure. ( Beast Coins )
Once declared a ‘treasure’, the coroner would inform the relevant parties, e.g. the national and local museums, the finder, the landowner, etc. The Treasure Valuation Committee may be called in to determine the value of the find, should a museum desire to purchase it. It is only when a museum is not interested in purchasing the ‘treasure’, or unable to do so, that the finder may retain it, and do with it as he / she pleases.