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A hoard of coins, unearthed by a detectorist at South Petherton in November 2013, smashed expectations when it came up for sale at Lawrences in Crewkerne on May 19th.
The remarkable cache, discovered by Mr George Hughes of South Petherton, comprised over 7500 coins. Despite detectorists’ belief that something lay in the field, Mr Hughes decided to dig down a bit further down than others and, as he did so, the signal on his metal detector got stronger until he came across a couple of loose coins stuck together. This tempted him to think there was a chance that a hoard was nearby so he started back at the top of the field and methodically went through it all, square yard by square yard. He soon found a lot more and after about an hour he had found enough to convince himself that a professional archaeologist would be needed to help finish the dig. So Mr Hughes and the farmer covered over the area and the farmer stood guard throughout the night until the archaeologist arrived with specialist digging equipment. It took an arduous four days’ work to retrieve it all. The hoard was then taken to London for research and eventually it was released for sale three years later.
“To many people’s eyes, these coins may appear unimpressive at first glance,” says Lawrences’ specialist, Jeff Day. “They have lost their silver wash and were only made in base metal. However, they proved to be over 1700 years old and came from an era of great turbulence in England’s history.” Highlights included coins from the two-week reign of Emperor Marius (268AD). “Coins from such a short period of rule are of the utmost scarcity,” observes Jeff. “Marius is said to have died at the hands of an assassin wielding a sword made by the Emperor himself when he had been a humble metalworker.” This group made £9270. Another group from the reign of Leilianus in the same year made £10120. Many other lots, diligently sorted by Jeff into over 100 lots themed by Emperor, ranged from £35 to over £700. The hoard realised over £48,800 including premium. The vendor was in the room to witness the sale and was speechless and shaking as he telephoned the farmer with whom he will be sharing the proceeds.
Elsewhere in the sale, a hammered halfcrown piece from the reign of Charles I was bid to £4020 but even these strong results were eclipsed by a single lot that proved to be the day’s highlight. A rare and complete 1831 proof set of fourteen coins from the reign of King William IV comprised a double sovereign, proof sovereign, a half sovereign, a crown, a half crown, a shilling, a sixpenny, a copper penny, half penny and farthing with four pieces of Maundy Money. It was offered in its original case and was in impressively fine condition throughout. Against hopes of £18000-22000, the lot attracted keen bids before selling for just over £53000 including premium.
The remarkable variety of lots in Lawrences’ two-day Collectors’ auction in Crewkerne ensured interest from around the world and there were strong prices throughout the sale. On the second day, high prices for the following lots show the breadth of the market as well as collectors’ determination to focus upon the rare and the unusual in the finest condition: a 19th Century Noah’s Ark with a good complement of painted wooden animals made £1760; a Jumeau `Triste` doll was accompanied by her dome-topped trunk with extra outfits within (£3530); a Steiff teddy bear in a snug red jacket made £1460 but, more unusually, a Steiff polar bear found a warm reception at £2310 and a Steiff donkey on wheels made £480; a cased microscope by Powell & Lealand with a cabinet of slides made £2920; an oil painting by Alan Fearnley depicting David Coulthard’s victory in the Australian Grand Prix in 2003 raced to £1190; an impressive moose’s head with antlers spanning over a metre made £1580; a Qing dynasty silk Kesi weave Chinese robe from Trent Manor found an Asian buyer at £7320; and an exquisite book of antique embroidered flowers and birds worked by the widow of Captain Alexander Hood was bid to £4390.