Henry III Gold Coin Sells for $729,000!
An amateur metal detectorist prospecting on farmland in Hemyock, Devon, in the southwest of England, made a staggering windfall find of what is believed to be one of England’s first gold coins. The Henry III gold coin dates back to the 13th century and is one of only eight known to exist. The coin sold on Saturday (22nd of January) for a cool $729,000 (540,000GBP) at London auctioneers Spink & Son.
Given that it was his first metal detector hunt in over ten years , the amateur metal detectorist must be thinking himself enormously lucky. “Like every hobbyist who continues to dream, my wish that day came true, and I just happened to be the very fortunate one,” expressed the unnamed man to the BBC, aware of his good fortune. “I feel I have to apologise to all those other detectorists who search and dream.”
The other side of the Henry III gold coin shows a long cross, roses and pellets. (Spink & Son)
The Ultra Valuable Henry III Gold Coin
A freshly minted penny equals one-hundredth of a pound, so what’s so special about this particular penny? For one it is made of gold. It also happens to be 765 years old and is believed to have been minted in 1257 in the reign of Henry III. It is thought to be one of the first coins to be cast in gold following the Norman Conquest, with the economy relying on silver coins in that period. Only eight of these Henry III gold coins still exist and they are all currently housed in museums.
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The Henry III gold coin is just under an inch (2.5 cm) wide and is the first of its kind to be found in 260 years. One side of the coin shows the portrait of a bearded and crowned Henry III sitting upon his ornate throne on the Great Pavement in Westminster Abbey, an orb in one hand a sceptre in the other.
There is a long cross, roses and pellets on the other side of the Henry III gold coin. The Great Pavement or Cosmati Pavement in front of the High Altar in Westminster Abbey is a thing of unique and exquisite workmanship. The inlaid stone pavement was laid down at the order of Henry III in 1268.
Other Henry III gold coins discovered to date. (Spink & Son)
Henry III and the Power of Parliament
Henry III ruled England from 1216 until his death in 1272. Although he had a long reign, it wasn’t always smooth. He was only nine when his father died and he became king. But he took over the reins of government only in 1234 and by 1237 he had run into serious conflict with his barons, who had rights from the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 to ‘advise’ the king on government.
The dispute between his barons and Henry III led to a series of major reforms in 1258, known as the Provisions of Oxford. With these, Henry effectively lost control over governance, which passed into the hands of a council of 15-member privy council selected by the barons. This council was meant to advise the king on the administration of the kingdom. In effect, it had seized control.
In 1261, however, Henry revoked these provisions when the barons fought among themselves. In 1264 the baron of Montfort, Henry’s main opponent, rebelled against him and captured the king and his eldest son Edward. Montfort then ruled in Henry’s name until he was himself defeated and killed by Edward in the Battle of Evesham in August 1265. Although Henry remained king in name, Edward was now in control. At Henry’s death in 1271, Edward succeeded to the throne as King Edward I.
In 1257, before Henry III lost control to the Privy Council, he used the treasure he had personally collected to mint his gold coinage, explained David Carpenter, professor of medieval history at King’s College London, in CNN.
View of both sides of the Henry III gold coin discovered in Devon. (Spink & Son)
Finder Literally Strikes Gold with Henry III Gold Coin Discovery
The finder of this extraordinarily rare Henry III gold coin, who wishes to remain anonymous, wasn’t immediately aware of just how valuable it was when he came across it in September 2021. Nevertheless Gregory Edmund, a numismatist with Spink & Son, a UK-based auction house spotted it and instantly recognized it for what it was.
“This was one of his first prospecting days in many, many years, so he obviously couldn't quite believe what he discovered,” Edmund told CNN, referring to the finder. “It was a happenstance discovery while prospecting perfectly legally within the remit, and it's just the case that this particular finder didn't quite appreciate how important the find was until they sought expert opinion.”
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Edmund added that the new gold coinage could have been made from Byzantine coins and Islamic gold dinars, showing that Europe and the Middle East were trading with each other at the time. The discoverer, meanwhile, is thrilled not just by the market value of the coin but by the historical information it has revealed and will continue to reveal.
The finder penned a message about his Henry III gold coin find. “The coin was found in an unprepossessing field and could quite easily have never been recovered,” he explained on the Spink Live website. “Now it is protected for future generations to enjoy and it is truly humbling that I was its finder.”
Top image: The Henry III gold coin was found in a Devon field. Source: Spink & Son
By Sahir Pandey