An important hoard of 122 Anglo-Saxon pennies that were found by two metal detectorists in February 2019 near Braintree in Essex will be offered for sale at Noonans Mayfair on February 21, with expectations they would fetch up to £180,000.
The two detectorists who have been searching together for twenty years had only found copper coins and crotal bells previously on the field, but on this day a signal from the Minelab CTX 3030 revealed at a depth of only four inches a silver penny that was not recognisable. Half a dozen more turned up in a 30-metre radius and that evening they realised they were rare pennies of Harold II. Over the next few days around 70 more were found by slow and methodical use of the detectors. This was repeated in 2020 with another 70 coins uncovered.
The detectorists found 144 coins in total that date from the last two Anglo-Saxon kings of England – Edward the Confessor and Harold II Godwinsson – that had been minted in various towns and cities ranging from London to Cambridge and Canterbury to Ipswich, Chichester, Guildford, Worcester, Hastings, Lincoln, Huntingdon and Maldon in Essex as well as rare mints such as Sudbury in Suffolk and Bridport in Dorset.
They have been processed under the terms of the 1996 Treasure Act, and Colchester Museum and the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge decided to buy 16 coins between them from the hoard, including two 11th century Byzantine coins. In late 2023 the rest of the coins were disclaimed and returned to the finders.
It is thought that the hoard was buried during the course of the year 1066 – within five years of all bar two of the coins being minted. “While the deposition of the Braintree Hoard might not relate directly to the events of 1066, the fact that it was never recovered surely did,” said Noonans Coin specialist Bradley Hopper. “Twelve shillings was a considerable sum of money, and its retrieval must have been prevented by some great personal misfortune; we cannot say with any certainty whether or not the Braintree hoard’s owner died fighting at Hastings, but it is a tantalising possibility.”
Included in the sale will be an excessively rare Harold II Penny from the Guildford moneyer Leofwold which is estimated at £5,000-6,000 (above), and a single specimen from the Hastings mint, that is estimated at £5,000-6,000 and whose surviving output for the period is extremely rare. The Hastings coin offered here is only the second to appear at public auction in the last 40 years with the other being sold by Noonans in September 2023 for a hammer price of £20,000.
Very few coins from the Bridport mint are known to exist from the reign of Harold II. A penny is estimated at £3,000-4,000 (above), while coins from the Sudbury Mint dating from this period were not known to exist until this hoard was discovered and three pennies are each estimated at £3,000-4,000.
“We are particularly fortunate that the auction catalogue contains not only the rarest and most academically interesting English coins from the Braintree Hoard, but also those pieces in the finest state of preservation,” said Bradley Hopper. The proceeds of the hoard will be shared between the two finders and the landowner.