It's the 'Most Valuable Single Coin Find in British History'

Metal detectorist dad Michael Leigh-Mallory credits his kids
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 25, 2022 9:30 AM CST
Updated Jan 29, 2022 7:00 AM CST
Dad's 'Life-Changing' Find: England's Oldest Gold Coin
England's oldest gold coin, a King Henry III gold penny, struck around 1257.   (Spink & Son)

An Englishman whose children returned him to his love of metal detecting now plans to fund their educations with the proceeds from his most valuable find to date: England's oldest gold coin. "I used to be a keen metal detectorist but once I had a family the detector ended up getting buried in a cupboard," Michael Leigh-Mallory, 52, tells the Guardian. "One day my wife said to me: 'You realize you promised you'd take the kids metal detecting.'" That day, Emily, 13, and Harry, 10, helped him uncover an Elizabethan coin. "It really ignited my passion so I invested in a new detector," says Leigh-Mallory. On Sept. 26, a day after his new purchase arrived, he was searching a farmer's field in Hemyock, 150 miles southwest of London, when he saw a glimmer of gold.

It was only after posting a photo of the coin on social media that he realized it was one of about 52,000 gold pennies struck around 1257 by William of Gloucester, the goldsmith of King Henry III, who is shown on his throne on one side of the coin—and the first to be found in 260 years, per the BBC. Most of the pennies, made from gold imported from north Africa, were later melted down. Indeed, Leigh-Mallory's coin—which may have once belonged to the former lord of the manor, John de Hyden—was just the eighth example known to exist and one of four held in private hands, according to Spink & Son auctions. It sold Sunday to a private collector for the equivalent of about $873,000 including fees, a record-breaking sum, per the Guardian.

"Not only does this stand as the most valuable single coin find in British history, but also the most valuable medieval English coin ever sold at auction," says Gregory Edmund of Spink & Son. Leigh-Mallory says he'll split the proceeds with the landowner. "This really is a life-changing sum of money," he tells the Guardian, noting his plans to send his children to university. "Had it not been for a promise I made to my children to go out searching, I do not believe this gold coin would ever have been found," he adds. "I really owe it to them … as they were my inspiration to go out prospecting." History-loving Emily has already joined a local archaeology society and hopes to study archaeology at university down the road. (More discoveries stories.)

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