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Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Morton & Eden to Auction Hoard of Silver Groats

In the summer of 1465, as the Wars of the Roses raged, an unknown person hid his worldly wealth in a secret location in a Northamptonshire field and went into hiding. He never returned to claim his money.

In 2005 – 540 years later – a metal detectorist stumbled across the hoard of 324 silver coins and alerted the authorities. The British Museum, where the coins were researched and identified as silver groats, purchased 14 of them to be put on show to the public, while the remainder were returned to the metal detectorist who unearthed them and the land-owner on whose land they were found.

The two men have decided to keep 10 coins apiece as mementos, while the remainder will be sold by specialist London auctioneers Morton & Eden on Wednesday, December 2. The 290 coins, which were found in the Brackley area of Northamptonshire, are expected to raise a total of around £30,000, the money to be split equally between them.

After asking permission from the landowner to search the field, the detectorist was thrilled to find five coins on his very first attempt. “I was amazed,” the man said. “They were lying there about a foot below the surface. I couldn’t believe my eyes but I was convinced there were more, so I went back the next day and discovered the rest. There was no sign of a container, so I assume the coins were hidden originally in a cloth bag which obviously had rotted away over the centuries.”

The coins date mostly from the reigns of Henry V (1413-22) and Henry VI (1422-60). They are all silver groats (fourpenny pieces) and are relatively free from corrosion, although clearly, they had been in circulation for some time before they were hidden and had thus received some wear.

Said auctioneer Jeremy Cheek: “When they were in circulation, a silver groat would have been enough to buy a sheep. Thus, the hoard represents the value of a flock of a sheep, perhaps a man’s main asset. As there are no gold coins in the hoard, it does not appear to have been the property of a particularly wealthy person. The gold coin of the time, known as a noble, was worth 6s 8d (1/3 of a pound) which would have represented a lot of wealth for a poor person to hold in one coin. A new type of gold coin, the ‘ryal’ or ‘rose noble’ valued at 10s (1/2 of a pound), was introduced the same year the hoard was deposited. The hoard included two contemporary Scottish groats.”

The groat was the largest silver coin of the time and might be equated to something like a modern £20 note. The hoard, with a face value of £5 7s 4d, is roughly equivalent to £6,500 today. None of the smaller silver coins current at the time was included. “The hoard was clearly a deliberate attempt to conceal a sizeable stash of money,” Jeremy Cheek added.

The exact location of the hoard is being kept secret to protect the site. However it is understood to be very near to the site of a medieval village which has since disappeared. This was common in medieval times – there are around 3,000 deserted medieval villages (DMVs) in England, including around 100 in Northants, abandoned for various reasons such as the Great Plague, flooding, the Enclosure Act and rivers changing their course. This accounts for the sight of some substantial churches standing alone in a field far apart from any other habitation.

The hoard, which is expected to arouse a great deal of excitement among coin collectors and dealers, will be offered as part of a sale of Ancient, Islamic, British and World Coins, to be held at Sotheby’s, with whom Morton & Eden have an association. For further information, please contact Jeremy Cheek on 020 7493 5344 or [email protected].