A metal detectorist in England has unearthed two rare gold coins that date to the mid-14th century, a time when Black Death was ravaging the country. Both medieval coins depict Edward III, who tried to introduce gold coinage to England starting in 1344. One of the newfound coins — a leopard coin (also called a half florin), issued from January to July 1344 — was considered "failed" because the mint charges were too high and the value assigned to the leopard coins overvalued gold against silver, according to a June 17 statement from the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS). Edward III tried to rectify these monetary problems by introducing new coins from July 1344 until 1351, when the other newfound coin was minted. This coin, called a gold noble, weighed nearly 0.3 ounces (7.7 grams), more than twice as much as the 0.12-ounce (3.5 g) leopard
The metal detectorist found both gold coins near the town of Reepham in Norfolk County in October 2019, but PAS archaeologists have only now finished their assessments of the coins. As for how the coins ended up in the ground, archaeologists have proposed two possibilities. "It seems likely that both coins went into the ground at the same time, either as part of a purse loss or as part of a concealed hoard," according to a statement from PAS, a project managed by the British Museum in England and Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales that analyzes and preserves valuable artifacts found in the U.K.
The coins were folded in half but were otherwise in good condition, with minor scuffing that was likely caused by agricultural activity. The leopard is 23 karats, meaning it's about 96% pure gold, PAS reported. If the local coroner, an independent legal official, holds an inquest to review coins, they may qualify as "treasure," a PAS term used to describe two or more silver or gold coins from the same find that are at least 300 years old.