TIP OF THE DAY

Ancient Gold Coins: Search Inland Near Old Mints
By Pat Hughes
From Page 29
May, 2003 issue of Lost Treasure
Copyright © 2003 Lost Treasure, Inc. All rights reserved.

Gold coins...ancient gold coins. The glint of that metal draws more to treasure seeking than any other metal.The chemical symbol for gold is AU and comes from the Latin word aurum, meaning shining dawn. The thrill of finding even one of these ancient coins is enough to make one grab the metal detector and just start walking down the street.These coins can be, and have been, found anywhere. Some of the coins found are very old and tend to bring more questions about how they got to the United States in the first place.Ancient coins were made out of precious metals, basically silver and gold. The oldest gold coin ever found was struck in Lydia, which is modern day western Turkey, in Anatolia around 550 BC by King Croesus. Gold was used to strike coins in ancient time for two reasons: The metal was rare enough to be valued as a token and gold is very malleable. It can be hammered cold into a mold. This assures the uniformity of size and weight in a low technological culture.One of the areas to search for coins is near old mints. The Spanish in Mexico City built the first mint in America in 1536. Mints in America were usually set up close to the mines. The reason for that is basically coins are the easiest way to get the valuable metal out into the market.One of the more common coins found in the western and southwestern part of the United States is the Spanish patterned milled dollar, otherwise known as a piece of eight. This is a large silver coin used in the United States as legal tender until 1857. Until recently, the New York Stock Exchange used the factor 8/8 made a whole, based on this coin.The Spanish used three steps to make coins. The first was making the flan, the second was making the dies, and the last was striking the coin. Coins made this way were similar, but no two coins were ever completely the same. The hot metal was poured into bars, hammered to a constant thickness and cut off to oversized rectangular pieces. They were trimmed to the proper weight by clipping off the corners. These were the irregularly shaped blanks (dies) hand struck into coins.The basis of Spanish money was a cob that weighed one Spanish ounce and was made of at least 90 percent pure silver. The word cob comes from the Spanish phrase cabo debarra, or made from the end of a bar.It is very difficult to say exactly where a coin may be buried. There are three main reasons why a coin would have been buried. Some were buried accidentally. They were either dropped, lost in natural disasters or perhaps on the battlefield. Secondly, the owner of a coin might have given it away through a donation, for religious rites or pleasure. Donated coins were used in funerary rites, temple donations and at wishing wells. Lastly, an owner might have buried a hoard on purpose.A hoard is considered found if two or more coins are buried in one place and in a container. They are found in areas that don’t or didn’t experience much traffic and are mostly made up of high grade and un-circulated gold or silver coins. It is known that at least 40 Old World coins have been found in America in the east or southeastern United States. Oddly enough, the coins aren’t usually found on the coast, but inland, along major waterways. No one really knows why.Sources have stated that the ancient coins found in America must be one of three things: Lost collector’s items, mistaken identities or hoaxes. Perhaps some are, but some of the coins that have been authenticated have been around much longer than collectors have been collecting coins.Before we explore where and how some of the coins were found, there are some interesting items to remember the next time an odd-shaped piece of metal is unearthed. One ancient text written by Diodorus of Sicily states, "In the deep of Africa is an island of considerable size, fruitful, much of mountainous, through it flows navigable rivers. The Phoenicians have discovered it by accident after having planted many colonies throughout Africa.”This is thought to perhaps be a reference to Cuba. If so, could Phoenicians have made it further north? It is also true that no late Phoenician coins have ever been found in America. Perhaps because losses during the Punic Wars (wars with Rome) brought about a collapse of trade with early America.Whether coins were left by ancient traders or lost by modern collectors, here is a partial ancient coin find list: The Saxons minted the first ancient silver penny. Its name origin isn’t known, but it is believed named after a Saxon King called Penda, or perhaps it came from the pans that the molten metal was poured into during the striking of the coins.In 1957, a Norse silver penny was found in Brooklin, Maine, on Naskeag Point. It is smaller than a dime and considered a genuine Norwegian penny, minted between 1606 and 1093 during King Olav Kyrres reign. In 1978, the coin was authenticated by Seaby’s of London and by the Chief Curator of Coin Studies at the University of Oslo.Vikings were known to have collected at least 55 million coins from the English in the form of Danegeld or Dane Debt/payment. The countries would pay the Vikings to leave them alone. In Nashville, Tennessee, a Norse penny was found in a burial site. The coin was minted between 990 and 1012 during Sven Forkbeard’s reign.In Fayetteville, Tennessee, in 1819, a Roman coin of Antoninum Pius (138 to 161 AD) was found just five inches below the surface. A Roman coin was found in New York in 1928-29 during a professional dig in Iroquois territory. The coin was found in the gravel in the Great Gully site in upper Cayuga Iroquois village. The brass coin commemorated Emperor Antonius Pius and was minted about 165 AD.Fredrick J. Gastonguay found a Phoenician coin in Waterbury, Connecticut. Believed to have been a pay coin for a soldier, it was found in a field near a river that flows into the Atlantic.Minna Arenowitch found a Roman coin of Antoninus Pius in a garden in Columbus, Georgia, in 1945.A Phoenician coin that has four dolphin swimming around a profile of a nymph who is wearing a pearl necklace is on one side and the other side has a horse head, as well as a date palm with five roots, was also found in Columbus, Georgia. John Carroll found the coin on Feb. 1, 1986, only 300 yards from the Chattahoochee River between Fifth and Sixth Streets. He was searching the area with a metal detector and found the coin 13 inches below the surface.Mrs. Curtis Robie found a Roman coin of Septimus Severus (1193-211 AD) in Grafton, Massachusetts.In 1787, Reverend Mason Harris was riding along the Cambridge-Malden Road (Route 16 today) when he came upon workmen who found a cache of coins (copper/silver alloy). They were found to be Kufic coins or ancient Arabic coins, medieval Islamic coins of North Africa. This was written in a letter that Harris wrote to John Quincy Adams.Two centuries later, in 1977, a Roman coin from the era of 337-383 AD was found in Beverly, Massachusetts, with a metal detector. Perhaps this coin originated from an offshore shipwreck.These are just a few of the ancient coins that have been found in America. Though it may seem unbelievable that ancient traders were once here, I’ll leave you with a statement taken from Christopher Columbus’ journal, dated Oct. 17, 1492, after he sent two men off to explore the new world, “Here they found a man who had on his nose a piece of gold, which might have been half the size of a castenanno, on which they saw letters. I was angry with them because they had not bargained for it and given whatever might be asked, in order that it might be examined and seen what money it was, and they replied to me they had not dared to bargain for it.”Sources:Fell, Barry. Saga America, Times Book, 1980.Epstein, Jeremiah F. Current Anthropology 21:1, page 1-20, "Pre-Columbian Old World Coins in America: An examination of Evidence."www.newworldtreasures.com www.ancienttimes.com




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