Altered Coins as Treasure

A pierced coin, declared not Treasure but consideredPierced Coins -Under the Treasure Act, single precious metal coins are not considered to be Treasure, but single precious metal coins that have been modified into objects - that is, altered in some way as to make it likely that they were taken out of circulation - can, if older than 300 years old, qualify as Treasure.

This is usually seen in the form of a conversion of the coin into a brooch or pendant, or some other form of jewellery or dress accessory, evidence of which can include the addition of a suspension loop to the top, a pin (or the remains of one) at the back, or gilding. Additionally, piercings can be present.

We have in the past taken the line that a single piercing of a coin is not normally sufficient evidence to argue that the coin has definitely been modified. However, in discussions with the relevant curators at the British Museum, as well as the Finds Advisors, and with reference to records on the database for pierced coins, it came to light that in some cases, depending on the age and type of coin and the position of the piercing, a piercing by itself could constitute sufficient evidence.

This is most likely to be the case in the Early Medieval period, up to the date of 1180AD. Most known examples of pierced coins from this period are believed to have been removed from circulation. Consequently, if you are shown a pierced precious metal coin of this period, please report it as potential Treasure.

In the past, examples of pierced Iron Age and Roman coins have not been put through as Treasure, but a look at the database shows that only 3 examples from the Iron Age and 4 from the Roman period are of precious metal and would have been eligible for Treasure as objects. So, given this low number, it is advisable that if you are presented with a gold or silver pierced coin from either of these periods, please advise the finder that it may constitute Treasure and may need to be reported; send a photograph to the Treasure Department, who can liaise with the appropriate curator/finds advisor and provide further guidance.

After 1180AD, examples of pierced coins appearing amongst other coins in hoards are known, and it is in this period where we are likely to need other features on the coin to convincingly argue that it was modified into an object. However, piercings along the edge, at the top or bottom of the coin (with respect to either obverse or reverse, or in such a way that any cross on the reverse would be upright) may indicate modification and removal from circulation. So, if you are shown a precious metal coin of this date pierced in the manner described above, advise the finder that it may constitute Treasure and may need to be reported; send a photograph to the Treasure Department, who can liaise with the appropriate curator/finds advisor and provide further guidance.


Other Alterations to coins

Bent coins or 'Love tokens' - Precious metal coins from the reign of Queen Mary (1553 - 1558) through to that of King George III (1760 - 1820) are occasionally found bent in a S- shape (when viewed from the side). These are commonly called 'love tokens' and the practice of gifting one to a romantic interest appears to have been at its height during the time of William III (1689 - 1702). However it is difficult to be certain that a coins demonstrating some bending has indeed been modified for the purpose of being given as a 'love token', and indeed, bent coins from the Post-Medieval period have appeared in hoards of other non-bent coins. It would be impossible to say with any confidence whether a single bent coin found on its own had been removed from circulation and transformed into an object, and therefore such coins should only be considered potential Treasure if they meet the standard criteria for coins detailed in paragraph 1.(1) of the Treasure Act 1996.

Coin clippings - The removal of slivers of metal from the outside of coins - coin clipping - occurs throughout history and was a standard abuse and currency crime from the medieval through the early modern period. Clippings were generally melted down for their precious metal content but sometimes they were lost or buried before this could be done. Hoards of clippings have been found to be Treasure - see for example 2012 T858; DENO-789371 - because they represent two or more precious metal coins more than 300 years old that are part of the same find. A single coin clipping found on its own would, until melted down, still be considered a coin, and therefore not potential Treasure. It should however be shown to a Finds Liaison Officer.