Just beneath the floorboards and concrete of their home in rustic Ellerby, North Yorkshire, one fortunate couple exhumed a small but precious cache of old, glistening English gold.
Found in situ under 6 or 8 inches of soil, during a kitchen reno reportedly, the find consisted of a small Staffordshire-ware container, no larger than a Coke can, filled to the brim with the hidden savings of one notable bygone couple. These were comprised of 260 gold coins, dating from as early as King James I to as late as the reign of King George.
The initial discovery was made on July 13, 2019.
Representing approximately 100,000 pounds in today’s purchasing power, the coins are expected to fetch at least 250,000 pounds (approx. $286,000) at auction, via Spink auctions in London, on Oct. 7, 2022.
Auctioneer Gregory Edmund remarked that the stash is unlike any other in British archaeology, or any coin auction in living memory for that matter.
The auction house called it “one of the largest hoards of 18th-century English gold coins ever found in Britain.”
The finders will be able to keep all of the coins—save one of peculiar rarity.
Among the fascinating, precious metal specimens is a singular Brazilian gold coin, which once circulated in England in the 1720s. Although the Crown disclaimed the rest, it wished to keep this one due to its exceptionally rare nature found in hoard context, the auction house stated.
This small but precious piggybank most certainly belonged to the Maister family, and was kept by Joseph and Sarah Maister, who married in 1694, perhaps the most influential mercantile family in Hull from the late 16th to 18th centuries, Spink stated.
The family line died out upon Sarah’s death in 1745, which presumably is why the stash was never collected.
Despite spanning the eras of the Commonwealth and Oliver Cromwell, no coins from these times were present, as they were outlawed after the English monarchy’s restoration with King Charles II in 1660.
Joseph and Sarah clearly distrusted the newly minted Bank of England, Spink stated, “because they choose to hold on to so many coins dating to the English Civil War and beforehand.”
Luckily for the owners today, per the 1996 Treasure Act, they can keep the lion’s share of it. Should two or more coins be of precious metal and 300 years old or older from the time of deposition, the act stipulates, the stash would constitute an “archaeological hoard” and be, thus, claimable by the Crown.
Per official adjudication by the coroner, the deposit ought be disclaimed; its newest coin dates to 1727, placing its burial date less than 300 years ago. Had it been exhumed in 2029, it would have been declared a treasure, Spink stated; indeed, “8 years has made all the difference!”
“The stars truly aligned for them that day and is the reason why only one coin is planned for museum accession,” Edmund said. “The rest are able to be sold on 7 October.”
The finders reached out to Edmund after the recent sale of a Henry III gold penny earlier this year, which sold at auction for 648,000 pounds (approx. $875,000). They learned that the unique history behind their “household discovery” carries tidy potential value.
The coins still bear the 50- and 100-pound representations of today’s exchange, but have been deemed “the stuff of dreams,” nevertheless. Such rich historic context counts and has a demand. How such treasure could sit just inches below the floorboards for 292 years remains a mystery.
“It is a wonderful and truly unexpected discovery from so unassuming a find location,” Edmund added. “It is an enormous privilege to share in this wonderful find and explore this hoard for the benefit of future generations, as well as wield the gavel for the many lucky bidders who will join me on Friday 7 October!”