March 18th, 2013

New discovery lends hope to coin hunters

By MintState

The discovery of an ancient Chinese coin not only gives historians reason to remap the way currencies worked their way around the world, but should also give hope to coin enthusiasts on the hunt for new and exotic finds.

Last week, it was announced that scientists working in conjunction with the Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois, uncovered an ancient Chinese coin dating back to the 15th century on an island off the coast of Kenya. With the unearthing of that piece, scientists say the coin – which is more than 600 years old and has a square hole in the  middle so it could be attached to a belt – proves that trade existed between China and Africa centuries earlier than previously believed and long before European explorers ventured to the Dark Continent.

While the discovery will have little impact on the realm of collectible coins – the piece, which is likely a one-of-a-kind find, will clearly end up in a museum rather than the secondary market – it does give hope to treasure hunters still searching for rare and historic coins. And it’s a story that isn’t entirely uncommon.

In addition to the finding of this 15th century Chinese piece, an amateur treasure hunter in England happened upon a trove of 159 ancient Roman gold coins in late 2012. In all, those coins are estimated to hold a value of roughly $160,000 American dollars. Though the recent find in Africa was dug up by a group of professionals, the discovery of the Roman gold came via a novice walking through a farm field using a basic metal detector.  And news of those types of lucky strikes seems to make headlines on a semi-regular basis.

For example, a woman scanning a frozen potato field in New York back in the 1990s came upon one of the rarest colonial coins around when she unearthed a 1652 sixpence coin. The piece, which could be traced back to the earliest days of Massachusetts, was auctioned off late last year for $430,000. Add that to other tales of Roman gold coins found in Britain – including the largest stash ever uncovered when more than 9,000 coins were found in August 2009 – and it should certainly inspire coin lovers to continue searching for the seemingly impossible. Based on recent history, it’s clear that you never know where the next treasure of a coin will turn up.

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