There are millions of dollars worth of history under our feet. The unfortunate part is that it is nearly impossible to find. Metal detecting is one way to discover hidden artifacts lost to time, but it can be a very infuriating process. Yet, for those lucky enough to find a little piece of history, the reward can be substantial.
Some collections, such as the Galloway Hoard, can reward the finder with thousands of dollars, while other discoveries can go up into the millions. You won’t believe what some amateur metal detector enthusiasts have been able to find throughout the years, or how much they were paid for their historical contributions!
Wickham Market Hoard – $381,749
In 2008, Michael Dark and his friend Keith Lewis stumbled upon the find of a lifetime. Using a metal detector, they located a hoard of 840 Iron Age gold coins in a field near Wickham Market, Suffolk, England. Ian Leins, a curator of Iron Age Coins, says, “it is the largest hoard of British Iron Age gold coins to be studied in its entirety.”
After a campaign to keep the coins in Suffolk, in 2011, the Ipswitch Museum raised $381,749 to pay the landowner as well as Dark and Lewis for the hoard. The coins are now on permanent display in the museum.
Santa Margarita Gold Chalice – $413k
In 1622, the Santa Margarita wrecked off the coast of the Florida Keys. While searching for the wreck, diver Michael DeMar’s metal detector beeped, and what he thought was an empty can was actually a golden chalice from the wreck. Dan Porter, captain of the Blue Water Ventures ship DeMar, who was on board, said, “It’s almost five inches tall, and it’s large enough to set a softball inside.”
In August 2010, the two-handled Santa Margarita Gold Chalice was auctioned off in New York for $413,000. Divers hope that this finding will help them locate the rest of the sunken ship.
The Crosby Garrett Helmet – $2.79 Million
An anonymous metal detectorist found the Crosby Garrett Helmet in 2010. It is speculated that the cavalry helmet dates back to the late second or third century AD and is Roman. Surprisingly, experts believe that the helmet wasn’t used in battle but rather for ceremonies. They also think at the time of the helmet’s burial that it may have been an antique in the eyes of the people.
The artifact was found in 67 fragmented pieces, being restored before going up for auction that the same year. The Crosby Garrett Helmet sold for $2.79 million and has only been on public display four times.
Mojave Nugget – $400k
The Mojave Nugget is a large chunk of gold that was found in 1977 by Ty Paulson in California. It weighs 156 troy ounces, the measurement used to weigh precious metals and is said to be one of the largest known gold nuggets ever to be found in California. At least, one that wasn’t melted down!
In 2014, Margie and Robert Peterson bought the Mojave Nugget for $400,000. They later donated the piece of gold to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
Leekfrith Torcs – $393,868
In 2016, two metal detector hobbyists, Joe Kania and Mark Hambleton discovered the Leekfrith Torcs in Leekrith, England. The torcs are believed to be the oldest jewelry from the Iron Age to be discovered in Britain. Leekfrith Torcs are comprised of three neck torcs and one small bracelet.
Julia Farley, a curator of the British Museum, says, “Piecing together how these objects came to be carefully buried in a Staffordshire field will give us an invaluable insight into life in Iron Age Britain.” After raising the $393,868, the torcs were put on permanent display at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery.
Newark Torc – $602k
Maurice Richardson discovered the Newark Torc in 2005 while metal detecting in a field in Newark-on-Tent, England. The gold Iron Age torc weighs one and a half pounds and is highly detailed, showing the craftsmanship of the time. Jeremy Hill, a researcher at the British Museum, says, “[it] shows an incredibly high level of technical skill in working the metal and a really high level of artistry. It is an extraordinary object.”
In 2006, the Newark Torc was purchased for Newark’s Millgate museum at a value that is estimated to be around $602,000. The torc was displayed in the British Museum in 2008.
Frome Hoard – $388,110
Metal detector enthusiast Dave Crisp discovered the Frome Hoard in 2010 in Somerset, England. The find consists of 52,503 bronze and silver coins with 67 different types, all dating back to 253-305 AD. A vast majority were identified as being minted under either the Roman Empire or Gallic Empire, with five percent issued under the rule of Marcus Carausius!
The British Museum displayed the coins throughout 2010, but in 2011, the Museum of Somerset acquired the coins, paying Crisp $388,110 for the hoard. The Frome Hoard and its pot are now on permanent display at the museum.
Black Swan Project – $617.7 Million
The Black Swan project was an American ocean expedition that discovered and extracted an estimated $617.7 million worth of silver and gold coins. It’s been proven that the coins were being carried by the Nuestra Senora de la Mercedes, a Spanish frigate that sank off the coast of Portugal in 1804.
Legally, the treasure belonged to Spain. So, in 2012, all contents of the black Swan Project were flown back to Spain. All of the artifacts and coins are being displayed in various public museums.
Ringlemere Cup – $522,900
Metal detectorist Cliff Bradshaw discovered the Ringlemere Cup in 2001. It is a Bronze Age cup, one of seven “unstable handled cups” to be found in Europe. The discovery is thought to be a votive offering, a way for the people of the time to get in the good graces with supernatural forces.
The British Museum purchased the cup for $522, 900, and from 2004 to 2006, the Ringlemere Cup could be found in their “Buried Treasure” exhibit. After moving around to a few other museums, the Ringlemere Cup is back in the British Museum in prehistory galleries.
Shapwick Hoard – $530,500
Cousins Martin and Kevin Elliot discovered the Shapwick Hoard in 1998. The amateur metal detectorists even dug up two rare coins in the hoard that had never been identified in Britain. Other notable finds include coins from the reign of Mark Antony as well as Septimius Severus.
This particular hoard consists of 9,262 Roman coins that date back to 31-30 BC up until 224 AD. The Shapwick Hoard was acquired by the Somerset Count Museum Servies, later being placed in the Museum of Somerset. Today, the entire hoard is worth around $530,500.
Galloway Hoard – $2.6 Million
In 2014, while metal detecting on land owned by the Church of Scotland, Derek McLennan discovered the Galloway Hoard. The Viking Age hoard consists of over 100 gold and silver artifacts. Experts describe the finding as “one of the most significant Viking hoards ever found in Scotland.” Some of the items in the hoard included a Christian cross, a large Carolingian pot, armbands, brooches, and ingots (blocks of silver or gold).
Lucky for McLennan, Scottish law dictates that the finder gets to keep the full value of their treasure. The value is priced around $2.6 million! The Galloway Hoard is displayed at the National Museum of Scotland.
Milton Keynes Hoard – $581,110
Dating back to 1150-800 BC, the Milton Keynes Hoard consists of three bracelets, two torcs, and a bronze rod in a type of brown ceramic bowl. The Bronze Age gold pieces were found in 2000 by metal detector enthusiasts Michael Rutland and Gordon Heritage. The landowner claimed they didn’t have permission to search the area, trying to win complete ownership of the Milton Keynes Hoard.
His claim was found to be untrue, and authorities increased Rutland and Heritage’s share to 60 percent of the value of the items. Today, the value would be around $581,110. Milton Keynes Hoard is displayed at the British Museum, with replicas at the Milton Keynes Museum.
Hand Of Faith – $2.82 Million
In 1980, Kevin and Bep Hillier discovered the biggest gold nugget ever to be found with a metal detector, The Hand of Faith. Found near Wedderburn, Victoria, Australia, the nugget was lying in a vertical position only several inches below the surface. The Hand of Faith weighs 875 troy ounces, or 61 pounds and 11 ounces.
The Hand of Faith was eventually sold to the Golden Nugget Casino Chain for $2.82 million. It is currently on public display at one of the chain’s properties, the Golden Nugget Casino hotel.
Winchester Hoard – $689,136
The collection of Iron age gold known as the Winchester Hoard was found in 2000 by amateur metal detectorist Kevan Halls. The hoard consists of two sets of jewelry, each including a bracelet, torc, a pair of brooches, and a chain link. Each piece of jewelry is said to be at least between 91 and 99 percent pure gold.
It is speculated that the 75-25 BCE Winchester Hoard was an expensive ‘diplomatic gift,’ at that time. Today the value of the hoard would be around $689,136. The Winchester Hoard is now on permanent display at the British Museum.
Stirling Torcs – $737,760
On September 28, 2009, rookie metal detectorist David Booth discovered four Iron Age torcs, known as the Stirling Torcs. The necklaces date back to between 300 and 100 BC and are said to be one of the most important Iron Age metalwork discoveries in Scotland.
Each of the four torcs varies in style and is in fantastic condition, adding to the importance of the discovery. The necklaces were made known to the public a few months after the discovery, eventually finding a home in the National Museum of Scotland in 2011. Today, the piece would be valued at around $737,760.
Gold Coins From A Spanish Fleet – $4.5 Million
In 2015, William Bartlett, along with the company 1715 Fleet – Queens Jewels’ salvage crew, discovered coins belonging to a Spanish fleet that sunk off the coast of Florida over 300 years ago. In an email to USA Today, Bartlett said, “For a treasure diver such as myself, a find like this is the equivalent of winning an Olympic gold medal.”
The divers found nearly 300 coins, nine of which are called “Royals,” extremely rare coins that are worth up to $300,000 apiece. The gold coins are valued up to $4.5 million. Bartlett is donating 20 percent to state museums.
Lenborough Hoard – $1.64 Million
The Lenborough Hoard was found in 2014 by Paul Coleman while he was out with the Weekend Wanderers Detecting Club. The hoard consists of 5,252 Anglo-Saxon silver coins that date back to the 11th century. Out of every coin found, one had been cut clean in half. Even with the imperfection, they are all in excellent condition.
The Lenborough Hoard is valued at around $1.64 million and was split between Coleman and the landowner. The coins have found a permanent home at the Buckingham Shire County Museum in Aylesbury, England. They even have their own private display room!
Grouville Hoard – $3 Million
In 2012, Red Mead and Richard Miles discovered 70,000 Iron Age and Roman coins with nothing more than their metal detectors. Now known as the Grouville Hoard, the collection is believed to belong to a Curiosolitae tribe who were attempting to flee Julius Ceasar. Aside from the coins, the hoard also consists of sheet gold, various glass beads, silver bracelets, gold torcs, and fine silver wire.
Mead, Miles, and the landowner agreed to split the proceeds, of which were valued at $3 million. The Grouville Hoard has been on display at the La Hougue Bie Museum since 2015.
Staffordshire Hoard – $5.2 Million
The Staffordshire Hoard, found by Terry Herbert in 2009, is said to be the largest collection of gold and silver Anglo-Saxon artifacts discovered to date. The hoard consists of over 3,500 varying items, ranging from weaponry to crosses, with 11 pounds of gold and 3 pounds of silver.
According to the project’s lead academic, Chris Fern, the discovery is “without a doubt one of the greatest finds of British archaeology.” The hoard has been displayed at many museums since its discovery but has a permanent home at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery. Today, the Staffordshire Hoard is valued at around $5.2 million.
Hoxne Hoard – $4.24 Million
Eric Lawes discovered the Hoxne Hoard in 1992. It is known to be the largest hoard found in Britain, consisting of over 14,865 items that date back to the 407 AD. The Roman silver and gold objects varied, ranging from coins to jewelry and even some kitchenware such as cochlearia – Roman spoons. There are also some rare items, such as a gold body-chain and an Emperess pepper pot.
The hoard, in its entirety, is valued at $4.24 million, was acquired by the British Museum with the help of donors in 1994. Only the most important pieces of the Hoxne Horde are on permanent display at the museum.