Anglo-Saxon coin found in Norfolk field sold for £5,000 at auction

Metal detectorist Barry Hutchinson. Picture Archant.

Metal detectorist Barry Hutchinson. Picture Archant. - Credit: Archant

Over a thousand years ago, a silver penny left the Norwich mint on Fishergate.

Barry's penny find

Barry's penny find - Credit: Archant

It wasn't seen again until Barry Hutchinson found it in near-perfect condition on a field of Norfolk pasture.

The coin, made of almost pure silver, is a rare find in any condition. To find one pretty much as struck is rarer still.

Coin specialists agreed and it recently sold at auction for £5,000, which will be split between Mr Hutchinson and the landowner.

'I've been metal detecting for a couple of years now,' said Mr Hutchinson, a freelance translator from South Norfolk who goes metal detecting in his spare time.

Barry Hutchinson out on the field

Barry Hutchinson out on the field - Credit: Archant

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'I'd found lots of early medieval and Roman coins, but nothing from the pre-Conquest Anglo-Saxons.

'Detecting is quite a painstaking business; once you've got your permission, you have to be very methodical – I'd spent around 40 hours on this field, and hadn't found anything. I'd almost given up when I found the Aethelstan penny.

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'Once I'd got it home and given it a gentle wash, I knew it was something very special - it's very beautifully worked and the silver is completely untarnished.'

It's the sort of find that makes it all worthwhile.

'It's thrilling to be the first person in over a thousand years to have handled this coin,' said Mr Hutchinson. 'When you find one of these bright, magical signals from the distant past, it's truly inspiring.'

King Aethelstan, grandson of Alfred the Great, reigned from 925-939 AD and was the first monarch to be styled king of all England. His coinage was produced at mints across the country, including Norwich, where pennies were hammered from sheets of beaten silver.

While the Anglo Saxons developed a sophisticated coinage system, producing tens of thousands of pennies of almost pure silver, compared with the output of Roman coinage there was not much of it.

It is not known precisely what the penny in an Anglo-Saxon's pocket would have bought, but it is likely that coinage co-existed with a barter economy; a silver penny was probably seen as a store of value rather than disposable money.

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