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THE £2,000 PENNY

Metal detectorist finds 1200 year old coin in ploughed field

Cynethryth PennyAfter six years of looking, the penny finally dropped for metal detectorist Clive Nobbs.

It was like finding a needle in a haystack, but uncovering the coin in the middle of a 20-acre ploughed field was considerably more rewarding for the 47-year-old amateur archaeologist and historian.

This is no ordinary penny. More than 1200 years old, it is an exceptionally rare silver penny of Queen Cynethryth, valued at around £2,000. Cynethryth was the wife of King Offa of Mercia (AD 757-796).

“This is easily the most important thing I’ve ever found,” said Clive, an Assistant Quality Assurance Manager for an aircraft parts supplier. “It didn’t look like much when I found it. It was about four or five inches down and black with age but it turns out to be incredibly rare.”

The coin will be sold by specialist London auctioneers Morton & Eden on June 9. Specialist Tom Eden said: “This is an exciting discovery. All Cynethryth pennies are rare, but this example is very rare because it bears her portrait. Very little is known of Cynethryth herself, but she must have been held in high esteem for coins to have been issued in her name. Much more is known about her husband, King Offa, one of the great Anglo-Saxon rulers, famous for the dyke he built between Mercia and Wales.

“Cynethryth’s coins are the only examples struck in the name of a queen throughout the Dark Ages, both in England and Europe. In fact, no other women appear on English coins until the 12th century, when very rare pennies depicting Matilda were struck during the civil war in the reign of King Stephen. So Cynethryth’s coins are the first to depict an English woman and as such are of significant importance from an iconographic point of view.”

Finding the coin came as a great surprise because there was no record of artifacts dating from the Saxon period on the site, an area near Worthing, West Sussex. The finder chose not to reveal the exact location.

Mr Nobbs said: “The monetary value of the coin is second to its historical significance,” he said. “The whole ethos of my metal detecting is to try to bring history alive and see it shared. I would love to see the coin purchased by a museum, placed in public ownership and displayed for all to see. The sale itself will bring closure to an amicable shared ownership arrangement with the land owner.”

Mr Nobbs recorded the find with the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) and the penny has also been shown to specialists at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. They confirmed the coin is the 16th recorded example of Cynethryth and one of only a handful with portraits. It was minted at Canterbury by the moneyer Eoba using dies which have not previously been recorded, and it is boldly inscribed “Cynethryth Regina” on its reverse. An old scuff mark on part of the portrait was probably caused by a plough many centuries ago; otherwise it is in good, legible condition.

Mr Nobbs said he thought the coin was simply a casual loss found in the field, rather than deliberately concealed there. “As a metal detectorist, I feel deeply humbled by the variety of artifacts I have found, but because of its sheer rarity, this wonderful Saxon penny is one of the most exciting things ever and most importantly I have recorded it with PAS.”

Mr Nobbs’ other notable find was a complete Bronze Age gold penannular ring, which is now in Hertford Museum

For further information, please contact Tom Eden at Morton & Eden Ltd on 0207 493 5344.

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