Volunteers find 2,500-year-old coin collection in drawer at English castle
LONDON — A vast collection of old coins from far-flung locations across the globe, including Syria and China, has been discovered tucked away in a drawer in a castle in the United Kingdom.
The unique set, comprising 186 coins in total, spans 25 centuries of history, the National Trust, custodians of Scotney Castle said on Saturday, as the collection went on show to the public for the first time.
Other coins in the collection, discovered at the castle, located in the English county of Kent, came from closer to home, including a late 18th century Welsh bronze token.
The National Trust said the coins were found by volunteers at the castle as they searched for photographs in a study drawer.
Research into family diaries in the archive suggests the coins were amassed during the 19th century by avid collector Edward Hussey III and his son Edwy, who lived at the castle.
The coin collection reaches as far back as Archaic Greece, with a seventh century BC piece. This silver token is one of the earliest struck in Europe, and comes from the tiny island of Aegina. It features a clear depiction of a sea turtle, a creature sacred to Aphrodite.
The bulk of the collection is made up of Roman coins, ranging from the late second century BC to the late fourth century AD.
The National Trust said it was possible that the Husseys, like many collectors, were trying to gather a “complete set” of Roman rulers. Despite the difficulty of this — Roman succession was complex and many coins of the shorter reigns very rare — they were close to achieving it.
National Trust archaeologist Nathalie Cohen said: “We know that Edward and Edwy Hussey had a great interest in collecting, but this considerable cache of fascinating coins shows just how much their interest grew into a collection of exceptional importance. What is a mystery, though, is why a collection of this caliber ended up at the back of a drawer.”
Experts from Museum of London Archaeology have been consulted by the National Trust and consider eighteen of the coins to be “rare” examples.
The Museum’s Julian Bowsher said: “It was a delight, as a coins specialist, to examine such a significant and diverse collection.
“A particular highlight was seeing Roman coins that rarely appear in Britain, such as those of the third century emperors Balbinus, Pupienus and Aemilian, none of whom ruled for more than a year.”