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Detectorist finds gold coin that rewrites history

All detectorists dream of finding a gold coin. Imagine if that coin was minted for a previously unknown king and it then sells for a record amount for a coin of its type.

Lewis Fudge with the quarter stater. © Spink

That’s what has happened to detectorist Lewis Fudge when he found the quarter stater of Esunertos in a field in Hampshire in March this year.

Finding Esunertos

On Lewis’s find, the letters VNIRTOS are visible, starting at 1 o’clock. To try to identify the full inscription, a search was made for similar coins. A silver unit from similar dies was found in Spink’s archives; it had been found in Ashley Wood Camp, Hampshire but lain unrecognised for years.

PAS record HAMP-9E612E

Another quarter stater, from a third set of dies, had been recorded at the PAS in 2014 as HAMP-9E612E. As so little of the lettering was visible, this had previously been considered to be an uninscribed issue. It was only with this further inspection of the coin that that it became clear that the upper parts of several letters were visible.

Combining the three coins allowed the reconstruction of the full name, which appears to have been engraved as IISVNIIRTOS with E shown as II, as on some staters of Dubnovellaunos in Essex. Esunertos is interpreted as meaning “mighty as Esos”, a contemporary Celtic god.

Dr John Sills of the Celtic Coin Index at the Ashmolean Museum, who helped identify the coin, said: ‘It is one of the outstanding discoveries of recent decades in Celtic numismatics.

The three coins of Esunertos come from Hampshire sites north-west of Winchester, around the upper reaches of the river Test. Within this triangle is the famous Iron Age hillfort of Danebury. It has been suggested that this is where Esunertos ruled from.

Spink Auction

The quarter starter was Lot 26 in Spink’s auction of 28th September 2023. The estimate had been £4,000 but after “frenzied” bidding the hammer finally went down at £17,000. The previous best price for a quarter stater was £10,800.

Lewis said “I am over the moon, if it were not for people in the auction room I would have jumped around. The collectors I spoke to are gobsmacked. I’m so glad I did not take them up on their private offers before the auction.

Gregory Edmund, Iron Age Coin Specialist at auctioneers Spink said “This is the reason I come to work; to document the discoveries of national importance and share that knowledge directly with museums and amongst academics, collectors and the public at large.” He added “Esunertos was once forgotten, but now his name looms large in the historic record“.

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