Gold coin stash from time of Henry VIII found in English garden

A newfound stash of 63 gold and one silver coin dates from the time of Edward IV to Henry VIII.
(Image: © © The Trustees of the British Museum)

A family in England was weeding their garden when they unearthed a valuable treasure — a buried hoard of gold coins dating back to the 1400s, depicting English monarchs from Edward IV to Henry VIII.

The hoard — a stash of 63 gold coins and one silver coin — contains money minted over a period of nearly 100 years, from the late 15th to the 16th centuries. Four of the coins feature Henry VIII and, curiously, one of the initials of three of his wives: Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour.

Upon finding the cache, the family, in the New Forest district of Hampshire, a county in southeastern England, notified the British Museum, which runs the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS). This program partners with local people who find historical artifacts in the United Kingdom, so the findings can be documented and studied, the British Museum said in a statement Thursday (Dec. 10).

The coins were likely buried in about 1540, while King Henry VIII was still alive, but it’s unknown whether this burial spot was like a piggy bank, where someone regularly deposited coins, or whether the hoard was buried all at once, according to the British Museum. Whoever saved the coins, however, was a person of means: The collection was worth about £24 at the time, the equivalent of $18,600 (£14,000) today, Barrie Cook, a curator of medieval and early modern coins at the British Museum, told The Guardian. That’s much more than the average annual wage during Tudor times.

In all likelihood, a wealthy merchant or clergy member buried the hoard, John Naylor, a coin expert from the Ashmolean Museum at the University of Oxford, told The Guardian. “You have this period in the late 1530s and 1540s where you have the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and we do know that some churches did try to hide their wealth, hoping they would be able to keep it in the long-term,” he said.

The newfound coins are “an important hoard,” Naylor added. “You don’t get these big gold hoards very often from this period.”

As for the coins themselves, it’s a mystery why the initials of Henry’s wives were present. In 1526, Henry and Thomas Wolsey, an English archbishop, statesman and cardinal of the Catholic Church, redid the monetary system, changing coins’ weights and beginning new denominations, such as the five-shilling gold coin, The Guardian reported.

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