Hoard of American gold Double-Eagles dug up in Hackney

Published: Monday 18th October 2010 Author:

Today at St Pancras Coroner's Court, an inquest was opened into the discovery of a hoard of American gold dollar coins found in Hackney, which are currently being examined in the Museum of London. The inquest will determine whether the hoard qualifies as Treasure. This is an interesting case, because the coins are less than 300 years old, so for them to qualify as Treasure they need to meet the following criteria:

  1. Made of gold or silver
  2. Deliberately concealed by the owner with a view to later recovery
  3. The owner, or his or her present heirs or successors, must be unknown

The inquest has been adjourned and is due to be at the Poplar Coroner's Court on the 8th of February 2011.

The hoard of gold double eaglesThe public will be able to view these coins in the British Museum from Tuesday 19th October, in gallery 41. Anyone with any information about the original owners of the coins, their heirs or successors, should provide this to the Treasure Registrar, the British Museum. The Museum will require evidence about how, when, where and why the coins were concealed and evidence upon which they can be sure of the ownership by any potential claimant.

There is no penalty for mistaken claims made in good faith but any false claims may be reported to the police for consideration of charges of perverting the course of justice, or other offences of dishonesty.

More about the hoard

The hoard contains 80 coins, minted in the United States between 1854 and 1913. They are all $20 denominations of the type known as 'Double-Eagle'. The find is totally unprecedented in the United Kingdom.

The coins were reported to Kate Sumnall, Finds Liaison Officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme, and are currently on show in the Museum of London. The coins will qualify as 'Treasure' under the terms of the Treasure Act 1996 and thus the property of the Crown, if the coroner finds that they have been buried with the intent of future recovery. However if the original owner or his or her heirs are able to establish their title to the coins, this will override the Crown's claim.

Hackney Museum has expressed an interest in acquiring the coins, which would then be valued by the Treasure Valuation Committee at their full market value. Hackney Museum would then have up to four months to raise the money to pay for the hoard, and this sum would be divided between the owner of the land and the finder.

Dr Barrie Cook of the British Museum (Department of Coins and Medals) reports:

The 80 coins are all gold 20-dollar pieces of the United States, issued between 1854 and 1913. The coins are thus all the same denomination, introduced in this form in 1850, and were struck to the same standard, 90% gold, used from 1837 until the end of US gold coinage in 1933. The catalogue shows that the coins gradually increase in number across the decades from 1870 to 1909 (13 coins from 1870-9; 14 from 1880-89; 18 from 1890-99; and 25 from 1900-9). Over a quarter of the total were issued in the last 6 six years represented. Together these factors suggest that the material began to be put aside during this later period, rather than being built up systematically across a range of time represented. The main element among this latest material are the 17 coins dating to 1908, which suggests that a single batch of coins from that year might have formed the core for the group.

Date Mint Total
1854 San Francisco 1
1867 San Francisco 1
1870 San Francisco 1
1875 Carson City 1
1875 San Francisco 1
1876 San Francisco 5
1876 Philadelphia 2
1877 San Francisco 2
1877 Philadelphia 1
1881 San Francisco 1
1882 San Francisco 2
1883 San Francisco 3
1884 San Francisco 2
1885 San Francisco 1
1888 San Francisco 4
1889 San Francisco 1
1890 Philadelphia 1
1891 San Francisco 1
1893 San Francisco 1
1894 San Francisco 4
1896 San Francisco 3
1898 San Francisco 4
1899 San Francisco 4
1900 San Francisco 2
1901 San Francisco 3
1902 San Francisco 2
1905 San Francisco 2
1907 Philadelphia 1
1908 Philadelphia 17
1909 Philadelphia 1
1910 Philadelphia 1
1913 Philadelphia 3
1913 Denver 1

Contact: Roger Bland 0207 3238611

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