Some very interesting notes from Peter Reavill [the Finds Liaison Officer (FLO) for Shropshire and Herefordshire] regarding pierced or modified coins, and their treasure status. The subject will likely be discussed at the next NCMD regional meeting.
Peter kindly provides the guidance issued to all FLOs [and published in the metal detecting press] with regards the most common type of altered or pierced coins which are considered to be treasure – you can find the relevant links below.
Such finds are relatively rare, but the links provide plenty of food for thought.
Turned into treasure
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 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 Advisor, 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.
Think it’s treasure? Report it…
This is most likely to be the case in the Early Medieval period, up to the date of 1180 AD. 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 three examples from the Iron Age and four from the Roman period are of precious metal and would have been eligible for Treasure as objects.
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 under 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.
Alter 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.
A silver penny of William I (1066-1087) which has been modified into a brooch or badge.
A Medieval silver coin brooch, made from a silver penny of William I.
A silver penny of the Short Cross coinage which has been converted into a brooch.
An Anglo-Saxon silver penny of the Short Cross type of Cnut (1016-35), turned into a brooch.