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A rare Roman solidus coin of the Emperor Constantine I that was dug up from a farmer’s field in Somerset.

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The solidus c. 313-5, in almost perfect condition, was offered at Dix Noonan & Webb’s Ancient Coins auction on September 17 with an estimate of £10,000-12,000 and sold to dealer Hadrien Rambach on behalf of a collector.

The coin had been dug up from the depth of about a foot in a farmer’s field at Wanstrow in Somerset close to a Roman road once used for transporting mined lead ore.

The detectorist gained permission from the farmer to search in the field which he saw had a “curious unnatural shape”. He focused on this area and found a Roman brooch, several pieces of lead ore, and then further down, the coin.

He recorded the finds with The Portable Antiquities Scheme's database (run by the British Museum’s department of portable antiquities and treasure).

New denomination

The local finds liaison officer from the PAS scheme said the solidus is the first one of this type to be found in Britain. It was returned to the finder following investigation by the PAS team and, with the agreement of the land-owner it was offered at auction. Both the finder and the landowner were present at the auction in London.

Nigel Mills, DNW’s antiquities specialist, said: “The coin was a magnificent example of a gold Solidus minted in 313-5 at Trier, the capital of Gaul. This was a new denomination introduced by Constantine in 310.” On the reverse of the coin is a rare portrayal of Constantine commemorating his great victory over Maxentius in 312.

Flavius Valerius Constantine was born in 272AD. He accompanied his father, the western Emperor Constantius I, to Britain in a hard-fought campaign against the Picts in northern Britain.

It was after the decisive victory over Maxentius at Milvian bridge that Constantine became supportive of the Christian religion with his edict of Milan in 313. Towards the end of his reign Constantine founded the new capital of Constantinople in 330. He was baptised on his deathbed on May 21, 337.