Sunday 16 June 2019

UK Metal detectorist 'had no idea' [UPDATED]

A UK metal detectorist kept a Roman coin in a farmer's field in Berkshire for nearly 30 years before realising it was worth £10,000, on learning which he decided he was more interested in the money than finding out about history (BBC 'Metal detectorist 'had no idea coin was worth £10k' 10th June 2019).
Retired police officer Tom Thomas, from Reading, made the rare discovery in the 1990s and kept the coin in his small collection. The hobbyist only realised it was a one-of-a-kind coin when a fellow detectorist pointed out its rarity at a family barbecue [...] Mr Thomas, who has been metal detecting for more than 30 years [said] [...]"I didn't know what it was as such. I put it with my small collection and thought nothing more of it".
The coin is in fact the only known example of a Carausius denarius coin that features the Roman goddess Salus feeding a snake rising from an altar. And how many other unrecognized and unrecorded Roman finds has Mr Thomas got hidden away in his 'small personal collection'? How many did he throw away not being able to work out what they are, and not responsible enough to take them along to the PAS for identification and recording?  The coin will be auctioned at Hansons Auctioneers on 27 August, and has an estimate of £10,000. The digger reckons he is forced to shift it because (he says):  "The only reason I'm selling it now is because it's so unique and valuable it has to be locked away in a bank vault". Using that line of argument, he'd better sell his car too - because that's presumably worth about the same amount or more and the paranoid ex-cop presumably would therefore regard it as in equal danger of being stolen too. Anyway, the family of that landowner in Berkshire will be delighted, I am sure, to receive their 50:50 share of the proceeds of the sale (unless, that is, Mr Thomas has a copy of the protocol of assignment of full title to the coin in the event of such a sale signed by the original landowner). 

And for all those enthusiastic British coin fondlers fondly imaging that the pirate emperor Caruasius was doing "the first Brexit", let's have a look at the coin Mr Thomas found alongside a contemporary Salus issue of Maximianus - spot the difference in execution. That's what happens when you break away from civilised Europe... Meanwhile some on Twitter are less than forgiving towards the evidence-hoarding artefact hunter than the excited BBC:
W odpowiedzi do 
Can't help but think that Tom Thomas is a shit of the first water; made no attempt to register the coin with until ~2 years ago & thinks the coin should be in a bank vault rather than a museum. The man is basically a walking heritage crime.
I have corrected the denomination of the coin for accuracy (thanks Duncan Finch). Denarii were only rarely issued after Gordian III (AD 238–244) but this, apparently is one (the picture on the front is the clue, apparently - see comment below)


Duncan Finch said...

Do try to be accurate: this is NOT an antoninianus, it is a DENARIUS. It is easy to tell them apart: on denarii the emperor wears a laurel wreath, while on antoniniani he wears a radiate crown. Silver denarii of Carausius are massively rarer than copper/bronze antoniniani.
The fact that the find context of this coin is irretrievably lost is sad, but if it was only a casual loss its only interest would be the find spot itself. But we don't know, do we?
However, why not suggest that if some idiot finds an item and only reports it 10 YEARS LATER, he should be heavily fined for not promptly showing it to a finds officer. While you would argue that the British system is imperfect, it is considerably better than any other in Europe or elsewhere, and it is also VERY FAIR to honest and correct finders. No metal detector user should be allowed to claim ignorance of the law. By the way, are all metal detectors, whether new or used, required to be accompanied by a written, official explanation of the laws relating to their use, and the reporting requirements for anything found using them? If that was done anyone NOT reporting finds could - and should - be prosecuted for non-compliance. And so would anyone selling such a machine without the official notice.

Paul Barford said...

I think the above well illustrates the differing priorities here, Mr Finch sees the "important" thing as whether the bloke in the picture was wearing a leafy headdress or the spiky one, whereas the fact that the find context is lost probably means it "was not important" and therefore its not so much of an issue for him that we do not know it it because it was hoiked by a collector (who was not even interested enough in the picture to research it).
As for the suggestion of finders of hoiked artefacts being fined under the british system for not showing the picture to somebody else (the de rigeur claptrap about "the British system [...] is considerably better than any other in Europe or elsewhere, and it is also VERY FAIR to honest and correct finders"), I would suggest that Mr leafy-versus-spiky really has not grasped the essence of that "British system" (I use the latter term loosely - both parts). Mr Finch goes on "No metal detector user should be allowed to claim ignorance of the law", and what "law" is that? Maybe Mr Finch could explain what law he sees as being broken here? ("reporting's voluntry innit M8")

The rest about a leaflet is pie-in-the-sky. Perhaps Mr Finch is one of those individuals that obsessively reads the entire contents of the little wadges of tightly-folded paper that comes with every packet of pills he buys? That might explain why he believes in the efficacy of "explanatory leaflets" for metal detectorists - many of whom it seems to me from their forums seem to have trouble coping with texts longer than eight sentences.

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