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British Coin Find Could Impact Market
By Richard Giedroyc, World Coin News
August 30, 2010

This article was originally printed in World Coin News.
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One of the risks we take in coin collecting is obtaining truly rare coins, only to learn at some later date a new hoard of the same coin or coins has been discovered and is now driving down the value of our coins. The US 1903-O Morgan silver dollar is a prime example of this, but formerly rare coins ranging from ancients to Spanish colonial American issues salvaged from the wreck of the treasure ship Atocha have appeared in quantities due to similar discoveries.

Third century coins of Roman Britain may soon be added to this list. The Staffordshire Hoard of Anglo-Saxon found in 2009 and the more recent hoard of a staggering 52,503 Roman coins found in a field near Frome, Somerset in Great Britain will likely impact the market for these coins in the future. Sources indicate some of the 766 coins of the Roman usurper Marcus Aurelius Carausius identified in the recently announced find may be silver, but nevertheless should the coins reach the collector markets the large quantities will likely make a difference in supply, demand, and price of both the common and of the scarcer issues in the hoard.

Ancient Coin Collecting II
Ancient Coin Collecting II

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Carausius ruled Roman Britain as emperor between AD 286 and 293 when he was assassinated. Carausius used his authority in Britain to ingratiate himself financially by using his fleet in the English Channel to capture pirate ships. Roman Emperor Maximian ordered Carausius’ execution for these activities, but was unable to have these orders carried out. Carausius, who had advanced knowledge of these orders, broke with the Roman Empire and declaring himself emperor of northern Gaul and Britain. Carausius then gave some legitimacy to his new position by striking silver as well as bronze coins, the silver coins being the first of this quality struck in the Roman Empire in more than a century. It appears this was deliberate, to ensure his coinage was more valued by merchants than was that of the Roman Empire.

To put the Frome find into perspective, this find is still smaller than the 1978 find of 54,912 coins of Roman Britain discovered in two pots near Marlborough, Wilts. Regardless, if so many coins enter the coin collecting market this will impact the price of similar coins already available to collectors.

The British Broadcasting Corporation said of the Frome find, “It is estimated the coins were worth about four years’ pay for a legionary soldier.”

What will happen to the Frome find was yet to be determined by the Portable Antiquities Scheme at the time this article was being written. (The Portable Antiquities Scheme is a department of the British Museum which deals with treasure finds.) In some circumstances the entire find could be awarded to the finder, while in other circumstances the finder may be rewarded for the find, but not allowed to take possession of the coins. Several sources indicated the upcoming coroners’ inquest would allow the Somerset County Council to acquire the coins from both the finder and the person on whose land the coins were discovered, each of whom would receive 50 percent of the value of the find.

Although logic would suggest coin hoards recovered either from an underwater or underground source would likely be environmentally damaged, this fact coupled with the large quantities often encountered in such discoveries does not always drive down the price of these coins when the coins are first offered to the public.

Reverse psychology emphasizing the word “treasure” to the non-collecting general public has in several past examples helped to increase rather than decrease the price marketers have been able to realize for some of these finds. Once the finds are disbursed and the coins eventually reach more sophisticated coin collector markets the prices tend to adjust to something more realistic to the supply, demand, and condition of the coins. This often results in a financial loss to the persons purchasing such treasure coin finds based on emotion rather than on logic.

It is only speculation right now regarding if some of the 52,503 Roman British coins recently encountered will be released for sale by the Somerset County Council, or on the condition of these coins, but while it is exciting to learn following the study of such finds it is also important to learn to use logic rather than emotion when such finds are released for sale.

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