The "Henry III gold coin", which was excavated on agricultural land in Devon, in the southwestern part of the country, was minted around 1257 and depicts the former English king sitting on an ornate throne holding a bullet and scepter. It is one of only eight such coins known to exist, many of which are in museums.
The finder, who wishes to remain anonymous, was not aware of how valuable the coin was until he posted a photograph of the penny on Facebook. It was here that Gregory Edmund, a numismatist at auctioneer Spink & Son, discovered it. "This was one of his first days of investigation in many, many years, so he obviously could not quite believe what he discovered," Edmund told CNN, referring to the detective.
The gold coin was discovered by a metal detector on a farm in Hemyock, Devon. Credit: courtesy Spink
"It was a random discovery while he was investigating completely legally in the area, and it's just that this particular finder does not fully understand how important the finding was before they sought expert opinion."
The discoverer said that the coin could very easily never have been found and that its value came next after the information it had offered about England's first gold coin.
"How it has survived three quarters of a millennium relatively unharmed is truly miraculous," he said in a statement. "Like any hobbyist who continues to dream, my wish came true that day and I happened to be the very lucky one."
A rare discovery
Edmund said the new gold coin could have been made of Byzantine coins and Islamic gold dinars, revealing trade routes between Europe and the Middle East at the time.
"If you drew a line across the planet at that time, you would see that continental Europe and England would be very much in the silver zone, and all their coins were silver. And then in the east, in the Middle East, so the spices -rich Middle East , it would be gold, "said Edmund.
"At this point, you see a huge crossover. So you're starting to get gold coins in the west and silver coins in the east at this point. And basically, it shows very clearly that the two sides are talking to each other and they are involved in each other."
Edmund added that the discovery of the coin, and what it offers for existing knowledge of Henry's ongoing coin production, was enormously significant: "It is very, very rare that a random discovery adds so much to an already existing known corpus or database of coins."