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Main: Roman Emperor (neurobite / Adobe Stock) Inset: Rare Roman gold discovered in Kent, England Credit: Dix Noonan Webb

Rare Roman Coin Found in a Field in England Sells for $700,000, Smashing New Records

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A rare 1700-year-old coin depicting Roman ruler Allectus found by an amateur metal detectorist in a field in Kent, England, has been sold for a staggering price in the UK. The gold coin is very rare, and this set off a bidding war that smashed the auctioneer's estimate for the piece and set new records, finally being sold for £552,000 (US$700,000). It is the most money ever paid for a coin depicting Allectus and the most valuable Roman coin minted in Britain to have been sold at auction.

The exact location of the find has not been stated, but it was near Dover, in the English County of Kent.

Dix Noonan Webb announced that the find was made by a 30-year-old amateur metal detectorist , who has followed the pursuit for seven years, while he was searching some tilled farmland with his brother.  The treasure hunter, who wishes to remain anonymous, had secured the owner's permission to investigate the land, which is near an old Roman Road .

The Antiques Gazette quotes the anonymous detectorist as stating that “at first we found bits of old tractors and shotgun cartridges, but after 45 minutes I found the coin”. Initially, he and his brother thought they had a gold sovereign, a coin from relatively modern times. He brought his find to the attention of the authorities as required by law. Then he had it appraised at the British Museum in nearby London.

Rare Roman gold discovered in Kent, England Credit: Dix Noonan Webb

Rare Roman gold discovered in Kent, England Credit: Dix Noonan Webb

Rare Roman Coin

What the experts revealed to the detectorist was beyond his wildest dreams. The British Museum identified that it was a 1700-year-old Roman aureus that shows the face of a Roman ruler Allectus. It is only one of only two dozen that are known to exist. Artnet reports that “the sole other example cast from the same dyes belongs to the British Museum”.  

The Museum was able to authenticate the coin by comparing it to the one in its own possession that was found in the 1800s near Silchester, in Hampshire. It is believed to be the first gold coin minted by Allectus to be found in over fifty years.  The obverse of the aureus has a portrait of Allectus and on the reverse side, there is a symbolic figure.

“There are only 24 aurei of Allectus known worldwide. Gold coins were initially produced to pay an accession donation in AD 293 but continued to be issued throughout his reign and were probably demonetized after his death in AD 296, as no coins of Carausius or Allectus are found in later hoards,” Christopher Webb, Director and Head of DNW’s Coin Department noted.

Another Allectus coin, this one with a ship on the back. THE PORTABLE ANTIQUITIES SCHEME/ THE TRUSTEES OF THE BRITISH MUSEUM/CC BY-SA 2.0

Another Allectus coin, this one with a ship on the back.  THE PORTABLE ANTIQUITIES SCHEME/ THE TRUSTEES OF THE BRITISH MUSEUM/CC BY-SA 2.0

Rebel Emperor Allectus

Historians know little about Allectus, but it appears that he was a Roman-British finance minister and that he assassinated a ruler by the name of Carausius.  He ruled Briton and Northern Gaul from 293 to 296 AD as a rebel ‘Emperor’.

Allectus used a fleet of galleys and mercenaries to stay in power. However, he was defeated and killed in battle by forces loyal to the Emperor Constantinus I, the father of Constantine the Great .

Roman soldier (wallpaperup.com)

Roman soldier ( wallpaperup.com)

It is rare to find an image of him on his coins because after his defeat, the gold pieces that he had minted, were simply melted down.

The gold aureus was auctioned by Dix Noonan Webb (DNW) in London.  They placed an estimate of between ‘$90,000 and $127,000’, on the gold piece according to Artnet. The metal detectorist was hopeful that the coin would exceed the estimate by a small margin. However, once the bidding started it was clear that several collectors were eager to purchase the coin.

According to Artnet ‘warring bidders skyrocketed the price’. Bids were made by collectors on the phone and on the internet. The winning bid was made by an anonymous bidder by telephone. It is believed that the coin will be held in a private collection.

“I cannot believe it, we are ecstatic!” the anonymous metal detectorist told DNW. “We expected it to sell for a little over estimate, but not five times the estimate! We are sharing the money with the farmer, who is also thrilled!”

New Records for Roman Coin

Mr Webb stated that it was the “most expensive coin that we have ever sold at Dix Noonan Webb’. It is now also one of the most expensive Roman coins sold in recent years. Artnet quotes Webb as stating, that the aureus found in a field “is now the most valuable Roman coin minted in Britain to have been sold at auction.”

The £552,000 is going to be split between the metal detectorist and the owner of the farmland. No doubt the vast sum of money received by the detectorist for his find will encourage many more, for better or for worse, to look for long-lost coins, in Kent and elsewhere.

Top image: Main: Roman Emperor ( neurobite / Adobe Stock) Inset: Rare Roman gold discovered in Kent, England Credit: Dix Noonan Webb

By Ed Whelan

Comments

“ £552,000”

This is not a sign of the value of the coin, but rather, a testament to the obscene amounts of money the wealthy hoard. In decadent times the value of objects like these soar and they crash when recessions come.

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