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Medieval Gold Coins Unearthed in Eastern England

Thursday, June 24, 2021

REEPHAM, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that a metal detectorist found two gold coins minted during the reign of Edward III in eastern England in 2019. The king re-introduced gold coins to England at a time when only silver pennies were in circulation. “The royal treasury might talk in terms of pounds, shillings and pence, but the physical reality was sacks of silver pennies,” said Helen Geake of the British Museum. One of the coins, known as a leopard for the two leopards’ heads depicted on the obverse, was minted in 1344 and worth three shillings. This coin was withdrawn from circulation within months. “For some reason they didn’t catch on, but when one or two pennies were the equivalent of a day’s wages at today’s minimum wage rate, perhaps very few people used them,” Geake said. The so-called leopard was replaced with the other coin, known as a noble, which was minted between 1351 and 1352 and worth six shillings and eight pence. Finding the coins together suggests that the leopard was in use for much longer than previously thought. The Black Death, which reached England in 1348, probably slowed down its removal from circulation, Geake explained. To read about a cache of eleventh-century silver pennies unearthed in southwestern England, go to "Norman Conquest Coin Hoard," one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2019.

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