A unique penny dating from the reign of King Stephen over 850 years ago has been found by a Sheffield metal detecting enthusiast.
The silver penny - which is expected to fetch up to £10,000 at auction, and rewrite the history of early English coinage - was found in a field.
The coin, which dates from a chaotic period of civil war, will be sold at auction in London on April 2.
“This is an extraordinary discovery,” said Christopher Webb, head of the coins department at specialist auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb. “It is tremendously exciting.”
The man who found the coin - a joiner from Sheffield who wants to remain anonymous - was searching a field near Nottingham, with the farmer’s permission, last November.
He had already found a few low-value coins and buttons when his detector bleeped again.
“I dug it out and immediately I knew it wasn’t the run of the mill stuff I usually get,” he said.
“When I got it home I ran it under the tap. I didn’t dare do anything else with it.”
The man recorded his find with the authorities and got in touch with experts who revealed the coin was issued by Robert de Ferrers, second Earl of Derby, in the early 1140s.
At the time Royal control in England had all but broken down and King Stephen - who reigned from 1135 to 1154 - was fighting a bitter civil war, later known as The Anarchy, with his cousin Matilda over who should have the throne.
As the central authorities were not producing sufficient coinage, barons such as the Earl of Derby stepped in to provide currency.
The penny was struck at Tutbury Castle, near Burton upon Trent, the home of the Earl, by a moneyer called Walchelin, who was probably a member of his family.
Not only is it unique, but it was not previously known that Tutbury Castle - now largely ruined but still used for events - had been a mint.
The metal detecting enthusiast, who has enjoyed his hobby for only four years, added: “It still hasn’t sunk in – it’s the find of a lifetime.
“It’s going to change the history of coinage because the experts thought everything that could be found had already been discovered.”
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