An extremely rare 1700-year-old Roman gold coin discovered by a metal detecting enthusiast in South Wiltshire is expected to fetch up to £30,000 at an auction in London.
The coin, one of only four known examples of
a gold one-and-a-half solidus from the reign of Emperor Licinius I,
is to be sold by coins and medals specialists Dix Noonan Webb on
Thursday, December 5.
"This is an incredibly exciting discovery
which was made in the most unpromising circumstances," said
Christopher Webb, head of the coins department at Dix Noonan Webb.
"The three other known examples of this type are all in some of
Britain's most famous museum collections".
The metal detecting enthusiast who
discovered it at first thought that it was the gold foil from a
packet of Rolos, the Rowntrees' chocolates.
"I had not had a single signal for about 15
minutes when I got a slight response, one that any detectorist will
tell you is not worth digging," he recalled. "However having had so
very few signals for a while, I decided to dig it up. Six inches
down I dug out a clod of earth and sticking out of the side was the
unmistakeable glint of gold.
"Having dug lots of sweet wrappers up over
the years, I thought it was the foil from a packet of Rolos, but on
pulling it out of the mud I saw it was a coin."
Further research revealed its rarity.
Licinius I was Emperor of the western half of the Roman Empire from
308-313AD and the eastern half from AD313-324. In 324 he was
deposed after losing a civil war with his brother-in-law
Constantine I, who ruled the western part of the empire, and the
following year was hanged.
After his death, all statues of Licinius
were pulled down, his laws abolished and many of his coins melted
The coin found in South Wiltshire - and
reported via the Portable Antiquities Scheme - was made at Trier in
Germany, then the site of the main mint of the western Roman
Empire, around 313AD. It is just 21mm (0.8in) in diameter and
weighs 5.32 grams (0.2oz).
Coins like this were struck for the emperor to distribute at
special occasions and so it began life as a gift. The only other
known examples are in the British Museum in London, the Hunterian
Museum in Glasgow and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.