Birdwatcher discovers $1M worth of ancient Celtic gold coins

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Christmas came in September for one British birder who stumbled upon a million-dollar cache of ancient Celtic coins while tracking a “dogfight” in the English countryside.

The gold medallions — almost mistaken for an old machinery part — date back over 2,000 years to the age when the fierce Celtic queen Boudicca was at war with Rome, according to appraisers, who estimate the prize to be worth £845,000, or about $1,144,000.

It’s a “life-changing” sum for the lucky finder, reportedly in his 50s, who chose to remain anonymous in a recent interview with Treasure Hunting magazine.

“That evening I was doing a bit of bird-watching,” he said. “After watching a dogfight between a buzzard and a pair of magpies, I stared down and spotted something lying in a bit of the deep ploughed soil which ran around the edge of the field.”

He nearly passed it, thinking the metal chip was an old washer. Then he “rubbed it and felt its thickness.”

“I saw the glint of gold and realized it was a beautiful Celtic gold stater, which made me sit down in sheer shock,” he said. “I then spotted the second coin two feet away and rushed home to get my [metal detector].” It gave him a “really strong” signal that more was just below the surface.

After about 18 inches of digging, he unearthed a copper bangle — likely the handle of a pitcher of gold coins. “Gently,” he lifted the vessel and out came a “cascade” of gold — “a vision which will remain with me for the rest of my life,” he recalled. “I had to sit down to get my breath back. I had only come out for a walk and found a Celtic hoard.”

As if written for a film, a nearby dog walker passed the man and yelled, jokingly, “You found gold yet?” he claimed. “If only you knew,” he thought.

The man said he prayed his two shopping bags stuffed with 1,300 gold coins — each worth up to $880 — would hold up on the walk home. He then notified the local coroner’s office, which oversees protocol in accordance with the UK’s Treasure Act of 1996, including the decision of who gets to keep the coinage: the finder, the landowner or a local museum.

Treasure Hunting’s editor Julian Evans-Hart said in a statement, “The coins form a substantial if not enormous contribution to our academic numismatic knowledge and will undoubtedly be subject to much assessment over the coming year.”

“It is possible that they may form a deposit as a ‘war chest’ for Boudicca’s eastern campaigns,” continued.

“The previous record was 850 and that was the Wickham Market Hoard found in 2008. At this stage it seems highly likely that the discovery might well knock that find off top spot.”

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