A metal detectorist discovered a “extremely rare” Edward III gold coin that had been lost in the aftermath of the Black Death.
Near Reepham, Norfolk, a 23-carat leopard was unearthed with another gold coin known as a nobility.
The leopard was withdrawn from circulation just months after it was minted in 1344, according to Finds liaison officer Helen Geake, and “just a few have survived.”
She estimated that the coins were worth £12,000 today and that they belonged to someone “in the top of society.”
The leopard was discovered with a “rare” 1351-52 Edward III noble, which had never been found with another coin.
The only coinage in circulation after the Norman Conquest were silver pennies.
“The royal treasury spoke in pounds, shillings, and pence, but the practical reality was bags of silver pennies,” Dr. Geake explained.
“Then, for reasons unknown, Edward III chose to reintroduce the first gold coins in England since the Anglo-Saxon era.”
The florin, leopard, and helm coins were produced in early 1344, but were quickly withdrawn.
“For whatever reason, they didn’t catch on,” Dr. Geake explained, “but when one or two cents was equivalent to a day’s salary at today’s minimum wage rate, possibly very few people used them.”
The noble, valued six shillings and eight pence, took their position.
The leopard, which was valued three shillings, was in circulation for considerably longer than previously imagined, according to the Reepham find.
Dr. Geake explained: “We wondered why and discovered that the Black Death had arrived in England in 1348.
“A third of the population was dying, and it was immensely apocalyptic.
“Normally, authorities would want to get a withdrawn coin out of circulation as soon as possible.”
The coins were discovered in October of this year. A coroner’s inquest will determine their status as treasure.