A metal detector who gave up his hobby when he started a family, only to return to it when his children were old enough to scold him into taking them to detect with him, has been rewarded with one of the most extraordinary finds: a fine example. . of England’s oldest gold coin, which sold for a record £648,000 at auction.
Michael Leigh-Mallory, 52, found Henry III’s gold penny buried 10cm deep in farmland in the Devon village of Hemyock, shortly after taking up his old hobby. Not realizing what it was, he posted a photo of the coin on social media, where it was seen by the spink auctioneers in london.
He will split the proceeds from the find with the landowner and plans to use his windfall to help finance the future education of his children, 13-year-old Emily, a history lover, who has ambitions to study archeology at university, and Harry, from 10. .
On Monday, Leigh-Mallory made a pilgrimage to The tomb of Henry III in Westminster Abbey to pay their respects and give thanks for their good fortune.
“It’s pretty surreal actually,” he said. “I’m a normal boy living in Devon with his family so this is a life changing sum of money that will go towards their future.
“Emily and Harry are a very important part of this story. I used to be a metal detector enthusiast, but once I had a family, the detector ended up being buried in a closet. One day my wife said to me, ‘You realize you promised you’d take the kids metal detecting.’ So, I said, ‘Okay, kids, let’s go detect.’ We found an Elizabethan coin, which they were so excited about. It really ignited my passion so I invested in a new detector.
“The day after he arrived I went out to this field. It was a bright sunny day and within 15 minutes I found the coin. I knew it was gold, but I had no idea how important it was.”
Leigh-Mallory, a retired environmentalist from Cullompton, added: “Both of my children are passionate about history. Emily has joined a local archeology society and is able to study it at university, so the money could go towards that.
“If it hadn’t been for a promise I made to my children to go out looking, I don’t think this gold coin would have been found. The fine margin between discovery and loss makes this result even more remarkable. I really owe it to them for finding the coin in the first place, as they were my inspiration to go looking.”
Describing the moment she found the treasure, Leigh-Mallory said: “My paddle exposed the coin. The sun was shining on my shoulder and shining. My heart jumped; I thought: ‘This is gold.’ When I picked it up, the sun shone on the king and my heart seemed to stop.”
Leigh-Mallory said she would continue metal detecting, though she didn’t expect to find anything this valuable again. “But it’s not about money. It’s about finding connections to our past.”
The penny found by Leigh-Mallory was minted around 1257 by the king’s goldsmith, William of Gloucester, from a precious metal imported from North Africa.
Featuring a portrait of the bearded and crowned Henry III on his throne, around 52,000 of the coins were minted. It became clear that they were financially unviable because the value of the coin was less than its weight in gold and almost all of it was melted down. Leigh-Mallory’s is only the eighth known example.
The coin he found is believed to have belonged to John de Hyden, a former lord of the manor. Six months before the coinage was introduced, De Hyden paid 120 grams of gold to the king to avoid jury duty and public office. He later served on a military campaign in Wales, for which he may have received some of the gold pennies.
Gregory Edmund, Senior Numismatist at Spink, said: “It stands not only as the most valuable single coin find in British history, but also as the most valuable medieval English coin ever sold at auction.”
It achieved a hammer price of £540,000, with additional fees taking the final figure to £648,000. Edmund said: “It was purchased by an anonymous private collector in the UK who intends to place the coin on loan to a public institution or museum.
“The sale itself was very unusual because the buyer was there to bid in person. He was delighted that this fascinating story had been unraveled from a serendipitous discovery by a metal detector.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism