Amateur metal detecting as a hobby never seems to have taken off in Australia the same way as it did in America or (apparently) Britain. Metal detectors have featured in the ads sections of geeky American science magazines for decades, but here, apart from the occasionally opportunistic aging coin hunter going over the beach sand in the evening, I’ve never noticed them much. Maybe it’s because there is so little history in this country waiting to be discovered. No pirate treasure from the Caribbean is likely to have found its way to the beaches of Coochiemudlo Island*, after all.
Anyhow, in England, the hobby can really pay off. At least for a museum:
The largest single hoard of Roman coins ever found in Britain has been unearthed on a farm near Frome in Somerset.
A total of 52,500 bronze and silver coins dating from the 3rd century AD – including the largest ever found set of coins minted by the self proclaimed emperor Carausius, who lasted seven years before he was murdered by his finance minister – were found by Dave Crisp, a hobby metal detectorist from Devizes, Wiltshire.
Crisp first dug up a fingernail-sized bronze coin only 30cm below the surface. Even though he had never found a hoard before, when he had turned up a dozen coins he stopped digging and called in the experts, who uncovered a pot bellied pottery jar stuffed with the extraordinary collection, all dating from 253 to 293 AD – the year of Carausius's death.
As I said it’s good for museums, not so much benefit for the discoverer:
The archaeologists praised Crisp for calling them in immediately, allowing the context of the find to be recorded meticulously. When a coroner's inquest is held later this month in Somerset, the coins are likely to be declared treasure, which must by law be reported. Somerset county museum hopes to acquire the hoard, which could be worth up to £1m, with the blessing of the British Museum.
* A quiet island in Moreton Bay, which makes for a pleasant enough day trip if your expectations are not high; actually, they should be somewhere between low and a touch below moderate. I thought I had previously posted this photo after a visit last October , but maybe not: