Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Coin Hoards

Edward I penny from the Colchester Hoard
Among the treasures found accidentally by digging or deliberately by people wielding metal detectors are hoards of old coins, jewelry, and other ornamentation.

Why were these hoards hidden in the first place? Valuables get stashed away for several reasons. In times of political or economic uncertainty, it might be prudent to hide wealth to avoid confiscation. One might also bury a hoard due to the lack of a banking system (see below re: the Colchester Hoard). In any case, the owner presumably intended to recover his wealth but was prevented by death or an inability to return to his land due to occupation by hostile forces.

Some of the notable finds are:

The Abergavenny Hoard, consisting of 199 silver pennies from the 11th century reigns of Edward the Confessor and William the Conqueror. It was found in 2002 and currently is owned by the National Museum in Cardiff.

In 2000, 448 pennies and 27 half pennies were found in Beverley, East Yorkshire. The Beverley Hoard dates from the mid 13th century and sits in the British Museum.

The British Museum is also home to the Colchester Hoard, dug up from the High Street in Colchester during routine public maintenance work in 1902. Workers found a lead canister holding about 12,000 silver pennies from the time of Edward III. That area was the Colchester Jewry, where Jews congregated to live. One theory is that the lead canister was intended as a safe, built into the floor.

The largest hoard ever discovered in England was found in 1831, long before there were any laws governing the disposition of such things. It was found in Tutbury, Staffordshire, and the 360,000 silver coins were widely dispersed. The discovery of so much value in one place caused the nearest thing England ever experienced to a "gold rush."

I think it's worthwhile to go into detail on the Tutbury Hoard. Stay tuned.

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