1,300-Year-Old Saxon Coin Found by Treasure Hunter Rewrites English History
An English metal detectorist has found a rare coin proving old London did not fall to the West Saxons until later than currently thought.
Buried about four inches deep, Andy Hall, 55, found the 1,300-year-old coin in January of 2016 on Wiltshire farmland at Coombe Bisset, to the southwest of Salisbury in England. While the artifact’s authenticity had been doubted, with even the finder suspecting that it may have been a contemporary forgery, or what he calls a “19th century fantasy piece,” scientific tests on the silver coin have confirmed it is “95% per cent silver,” which is consistent with coins of the time.
1,300-year-old coin with face of obscure Saxon king may sell for £15k https://t.co/nOw1QrUNsT
— Daily Mail U.K. (@DailyMailUK) February 1, 2020
Dating of The Fall Of London Challenged
The controversy arises because the rare silver piece depicts the face of the Saxon king Ludica of Mercia who ruled for just one year from 826–827 AD. This little known Saxon king, Ludica, who ruled the kingdom that included London, or 'Lundenwic' as it was called at the time, challenges the mainstream historical theory that London had fallen to the Wessex King Ecgberht after the Battle of Ellendun in 825 AD.
Mr. Hall's treasure determines Mercia still retained London in 826 AD and the city didn’t fall to the West Saxons until 827 AD. It is for this reason Dix Noonan Webb auctioneers predict they may sell the silver penny for £15,000 at auction.
According to the historical record, London fell to the Wessex King Ecgberht (pictured) as a result of the outcome of the Battle of Ellendun in 825 AD. However, Mr Hall's Saxon coin proves that Mercia still retained London in 826 AD. (Public domain)
Featuring the bust of Ludica facing right, with the legend LUDICA REX MER, the reverse side of the coin has the inscription LUN/DONIA/CIVIT across three lines. Mr. Hall told the Daily Mail that after finding the coin he took it home and gently washed off the mud with distilled water. Subsequently, he had to Google Ludica to find out who the monarch was, and he sent photos to specialists at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, where newly discovered early medieval coins are registered.
However, the following summer when Mr. Hall attempted to auction the coin, a leading historian and expert in Anglo-Saxon coins told him that there were “concerns” about the penny's authenticity.
Andy Hall, 55, who found it with his metal detector in a field at Coombe Bisset in Wiltshire, spent three years and £300 trying to convince experts that it was authentic https://t.co/Toj60GLsD6
— The Times (@thetimes) January 31, 2020
Historians Question Saxon Coin’s Authenticity
Fighting the academic community, the metal detectorist spent three years having his coin examined by other experts to prove its authenticity and according to a report in the Daily Mail, Mr. Hall even paid £300 for it to be “metallurgically analyzed,” which finally confirmed that the coin was 95 per cent silver and “completely consistent” with coinage in the period 810–840 AD.
The detectorist said it was his “love for history and numismatics” that inspired him make sure the historical importance of this Saxon coin was appropriately recorded. He claims to have been over the moon when he received the test results and said he had to “re-read them about five times,” feeling enormous relief once confirmed. The treasure finder added that it was “satisfying to have made a very tiny contribution to our knowledge of the period.”
The coin shows that Mercia still retained London in 826 AD and that it did not fall under Ecgberht's control until after Ludica was killed in 827 AD. This tiny piece of evidence, which demands a rewrite on a section of European history, is scheduled to be sold on March 10, 2020. Mr. Hall told the Daily Mail that he will be splitting the sales value with the owner of the land on which the ancient coin was discovered.
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The True Value Of Old Cash
When it comes to the ‘true’ value of an ancient coin that depends greatly who knows about it and who attends the auction on the sale day. Perhaps the biggest shock in the world of ancient coins happened in 2013, when a US coin dating back to either 1794 or 1795 surfaced that had been minted from an alloy consisting of 90% percent silver and 10% copper.
‘Flowing Hair’ dollar coin from 1794. (Public.Resource.Org / Public domain)
You might be wondering what makes this ‘Flowing Hair Silver/ Copper Dollar’ very special compared all the other dollars wheeling around. The reason is not because it depicts Liberty with her flowing tresses, but because it was the first dollar ever issued by the United States Federal Government after the Federal Mint was founded On April 2, 1792. And this is why in 2013 the coin sold for a cool $10 million, making the art world stand still, with jaws dislocated.
Top image: A metal detectorist finds coins (representational image). Credit: sablin / Adobe Stock
By Ashley Cowie