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Why metal detecting finds rekindle boyhood excitement for Charles Hanson

Posted on 06/06/2019 in Press Coverage

Antiques are the love of my working life but did you know my passion for all things ancient and historical began in a Derbyshire field? - Writes Charles Hanson

When I was boy my hobby was metal detecting. I’d set off across farmland - hunting and hoping. One day when I was eight years old my big find came. The metal detector signalled to me that something needed to be investigated in the earth under my feet.

I dug and dug and there, glistening in the mud, was a find I shall never forget, a hammered Charles I Civil War Crown dating back to 1633. I can still remember the feeling I had when it emerged from the soil. Exhilarated, excited, you name it.

My imagination was triggered. ‘Who had held this? If this object could talk, what could it tell me?’ The rest, as they say, is history – and history and antiques have been my life ever since.

That boyhood experience has had a lasting impact. I still go metal detecting when time allows and, to celebrate the ancient treasures beneath our feet, I hold specialist Historica and Metal Detecting Auctions at Hansons, the next one being on August 27.

Finds are emerging and just consigned is an object that’s taken my breath away – a coin that’s supremely special. Why? Because there isn’t another one like it in the world. However, the finder has only discovered this fairly recently – after more than 25 years.


Metal detectorist Tom Thomas found the Roman silver coin nearly 30 years ago in the early 1990s but, having seen Roman coins before, thought it was nothing out of the ordinary.

Consequently, the 62-year-old retired policeman from Berkshire put it to one side with his other coin finds and thought nothing more of it. In his 30-plus years of metal detecting he’d found a fair few examples as well as other Roman artefacts.

Fast forward to a family barbecue two years ago and Mr Thomas was set for the surprise of his life – his 2,000-year-old denarius of Carausius Roman coin was spotted by fellow metal detectorist and friend Mark Becher. Mark, Hansons’ Historica consultant, thought it was unique and had to find out more.

As the barbecue feast sizzled away, Mark whizzed over a photo to a good friend and Roman coin guru, Chip Gruszczinski. As quick as a flash he came back confirming what Mark suspected - the coin was potentially unique.

Mark then contacted The British Museum. Soon it was confirmed that the coin appeared to be the only one of its kind in the world. And yet, but for that family barbecue and Mark’s eagle eyes, Tom may never have known.

The coin, which was dug up in Berkshire and dates back to AD 286-93, is now set to go into Hansons August 27 Historica and Metal Detecting Finds sale with a guide price of £10,000.

Registered with the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS), it features Roman goddess Salus feeding a snake rising from an altar.

Its PAS description says: “The coin is not published and is the only example of its type in Sam Moorhead’s [The British Museum’s finds advisor for Roman coins] corpus for a new edition of RIC [Roman Imperial Coinage catalogue].”

Just like my childhood discovery, Mr Thomas remembers with great clarity the moment the found it. He recalled getting a low signal from his metal detector – so low he considered not bothering to dig and walking on. But he thought better of it and began to delve down. Before long, his trowel had travelled a good eight inches into the ground, much deeper than usual for coin finds. But, finally, there it was, a 2,000-year-old coin.

Our Historica man Mark, who runs the Metal Detectives Group based in Aylesbury, Berkshire, as well as organising digs, was amazed by the coin. He’d been metal detecting for more than 25 years and had witnessed countless finds, but had never seen anything like it.

Soon collectors will have the chance to buy this ancient coin for the first time in 30 years. A unique 2,000-year-old piece of Roman history could be yours.

If you have any ancient wonders or metal detecting finds in need of assessment, on Saturday (June 15) we will be offering free Historica valuations, from 9am-11am, with Chris Wright at Hansons, Heage Lane, Etwall, Derbyshire, DE65 6LS. Entries invited for our August 27 Historica Auction. Free general valuations also available at Hansons on Wednesdays, 5-7pm, Fridays, 10am-4pm, and Saturday, 9am-noon, plus jewellery valuations on Tuesdays and Fridays, 9.30am-4.30pm.

Finally, if you love auction life do join us to preview our June Antiques and Collectors sale on Wednesday (June 12), 11am-7pm. The auction runs from June 13-19, followed by a Toys and Cameras Auction on June 20. Details at www.hansonsauctioneers.co.uk.