Massive 22,000-Coin Find Of Roman Currency Unearthed With Just A Metal Detector

Some people just get lucky, it appears. A British treasure hunter, armed only with his amateur metal detecting kit, is one of those people. He unearthed a massive hoard of 4th Century Roman coins that have been buried for centuries, and he went to great lengths to guard them once he did.

The story comes by way of The Telegraph, which carried the story of Laurence Egerton, a builder who was out scanning the ground in Seaton, East Devon. Egerton was out scanning a field close to an already-discovered Roman villa, when his metal detector began sounding.

The detector said that there iron in the ground. Typically, detectors are set to ignore iron, as it tends to be relatively worthless, but Egerton trusted his gut and set to digging.

What he unearthed was one of the biggest finds of currency in recorded history.

“The next shovel was full of coins,” Egerton told The Telegraph, “they just spilled out over the field.”

Egerton had unearthed a hoard of more than 22,000 coins dating back to the time of Constantinople in 332 A.D. Stamped on a number of the coins is the profile of Emperor Constantine the Great.

Egerton immediately called the authorities and his wife to report the find. His wife came down to film his digging, and both were surprised by how massive the find was. The treasure hunter guarded his find by sleeping in his car for three days while archaeologists unearthed more of the site.

Other finds have been more valuable, such as a trove of Roman-era gold coins unearthed in 2012. That trove was believed at the time to be worth around $160,000. Egerton’s, though, is definitely among the largest, if not the largest outright.

With more than 22,000 coins in the haul, the coins have been officially declared as treasure. A museum can now acquire Egerton’s find, now known as the Seaton Down Hoard. Egerton will likely split the proceeds from any sale evenly with the owner of the land on which he found the Roman coins. The Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter is already launching a public fundraising campaign to buy Egerton’s find.

How much might Egerton net off of the discovery? The coins weren’t terribly valuable in their day, but their age means that they will probably net tens of thousands of pounds at sale.

And just how did the hoard come to be where Egerton’s metal detector would find it? Experts believe that, since there were no banks in the area at the time, the original owner of the hoard likely buried them underground as a means of keeping them safe.

“Whoever made this particular deposit,” the county archaeologist for Devon said, “never came back to retrieve it.”

As for Egerton, he says he just wants to hold on to one of the coins from the hoard, as a memento of the find.

“I may ask if there is a possibility of having one,” he told The Telegraph.

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