Big Find = Big Spat

July 4, 2009 at 8:57 am | Posted in Finds | 3 Comments

darkeIf you’re going to find a priceless cache of nearly a thousand ancient gold coins, maybe it’s best to go it alone.

According to yesterday’s Daily Mail, “a huge hoard of more than 800 gold coins dating back to the time of Boadicea” — that’s circa 61 CE — “has so far brought only bitterness for metal detecting enthusiast Michael Darke [depicted at left] and his former friend Keith Lewis [depicted at right].lewis

“Lorry driver Mr Darke was alone when he found the first few coins in a Suffolk field,” but instantly alerted his buddy, Lewis, who said he would ” be more than happy to join the search if he could find just one gold coin to add to his collection. Within an hour of arriving in the field, the pair had unearthed the remains of an Iron Age cooking pot containing another 773 gold coins — the largest such haul found in Britain since 1849. Yet more were found later.coins

“They are thought to have been buried by the Iceni tribe, whose Queen Boadicea led a revolt against the occupying Romans in AD 61. Mr Darke had permission from farmer Clifford Green, 66, to use his metal detector on the 200-acre farm in return for splitting the value of any find.”

And that’s the right and ethical way to go about treasure-hunting on private property, by the way.

“But Mr Lewis … who has known Mr Darke for 15 years … is suggesting that farmer Green and his family keep 50 per cent of the proceeds while he and Mr Darke share the other half equally.”

Darke was the initial finder, but the question remains as to whether Lewis — who quickly joined the search, but was not the initial finder — deserves half of the half. An inquest on the matter has failed to reach a decision. Nonetheless, the pair’s scavenging efforts have paid off bigtime for the property owners.

“The find was revealed in January, a few days before Mr Green retired following a lifetime on the farm. He said at the time: ‘I thought it was a joke at first because it was close to April 1 last year.’ His wife Val added: ‘When my husband had the coins laid out on the table that night my first reaction was to cry. They are so beautiful. To think that they were in the ground all that time is amazing.’

“A British Museum valuation committee will have to consider how much the coins are worth.

“Mr Lewis said that his initial research had indicated a value of between £300,000 and £500,000.

“He said he had been interested in metal detecting since 1982 and devoted much of his spare time to his hobby. His previous finds include a George III sovereign, Roman coins and a 14th century gold ring worth which sold at Sotheby’s for £4,300. Mr Lewis said Mr Darke had invited him to help with the search because he recognised him as a more experienced metal-detecting enthusiast. Mr Darke said after the [inquest] that he had not reached any agreement with Mr Lewis.

“‘I am not discussing that. I have come to no arrangements with anybody. We are not here to talk about money. I don’t go metal detecting for money. I do it out of historical interest — but if somebody is going to stand up and throw money at me, I am not going to not take it.’

“Asked if he had any advice to other would-be treasure hunters, he said: ‘Check the rules. Make sure you get permission and be careful who you tell and don’t tell. Tell the landowner first and be careful who you go with because it can backfire.'”

Be careful who you tell. So, so true.

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