An ‘excessively rare’ silver penny found during a family metal detecting trip in Oxfordshire could sell for thousands at auction.
Issued by Henry of Anjou c. 1139-48, the almost 900-year-old penny was struck during the Anarchy, a brutal civil war which saw Henry and his mother, Empress Matilda, wrest control of South-Western England away from King Stephen. On December 19, 1154, in the wake of Stephen’s death, he was finally crowned Henry II of England.
The coin was discovered by 64-year-old landscaper John Denham in a farmer’s field in Wallingford while out metal detecting with his sons, Simon and Steven Denham. The town of Wallingford was once the easternmost stronghold of Henry’s supporters.
John, from South Oxfordshire, said: “It was September and we were out metal detecting as a family. We go out most weekends. We decided to revisit one of our favourite haunts and had been out for around five hours when my detector gave the signal. The coin was buried about four inches deep in the soil.
“We thought this penny might be something special but, once it had been identified and recorded, we were still surprised to learn how valuable it was."
The coin, lot 314A, is due to be sold on October 26 in Hansons Auctioneers’ Historica, Coins, Banknotes and Antiquities Auction with a guide price of £6,000-£7,000. It is one of the rarest items in the sale.
Adam Staples, Historica expert at Hansons, said: “The Corpus of Early Medieval Coin Finds at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge has recorded only nine other coins of Henry’s 'Round Cap' type - two cut halfpennies, five incomplete coins and two full pennies.
“John’s coin is the only complete example recorded where both the mint town and name of the moneyer can be read. The reverse of the penny tells us that it was made by Robertus at the Wallingford mint, a moneyer who was not previously known to have minted coins there. This makes it excessively rare.”
The coin shortly after it was found.
Simon Denham, 39, a landscaper, said: “Dad found the coin with a metal detector I gifted him! As a family, we’re passionate about metal detecting. We’re a team. We’re in it purely for the enjoyment of making the finds. It’s a reward seeing them come out of the ground. It’s not about money. This is the first thing we’ve ever decided to sell and we’re only doing that because the coin is so important.”
The family, all from South Oxfordshire, have made some fascinating finds over the years including a rare Saxon brooch, but say the coin discovery is extra special.
Simon said: “It’s an important part of Wallingford’s ancient history, it’s survived for nearly 1,000 years and it’s in remarkable condition.”
John, who started metal detecting in the early 1980s with a £99.99 detector and inspired his sons to follow in his footsteps, added: “The field where I found it had recently been ploughed and planted. Many ancient coins get damaged by farming machinery. We’re very excited to see what this penny achieves at auction.”
Any proceeds from the sale of the coin will be split 50/50 with the landowner.
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