Treasure Hunter Finds 1,800-Year Old Roman Signet Ring In Somerset

Treasure Hunter Finds 1,800-Year Old Roman Signet Ring In Somerset

It’s every amateur treasure hunter’s dream – to find something of historical significance while swinging your metal detector from left to right in a country field. Usually, nothing of importance or worth turns up, but every now and then you might find something worth a few quid.

But 45-year-old pest control officer Jason Massey went one – well, maybe a thousand – better, when he was searching for buried treasure in a field near Crewkerne in Somerset and happened upon an 1,800-year-old gold Roman signet ring.

Treasure Hunter Finds 1,800-Year Old Roman Signet Ring In Somerset

Treasure Hunter Finds 1,800-Year Old Roman Signet Ring In Somerset

While the monetary value of the ancient ring is still being appraised, the piece of jewellery is believed to have belonged to a ‘high status’ figure, which potentially makes it one of the most significant finds in Somerset’s history.

“The Somerset Archaeological team think we have found a very high status villa complex, but more investigative work is needed,” Jason told the Mail Online.

Of course, it’s very likely that the ring is worth a substantial amount of money – which is why finding something like this is every treasure hunter’s dream. They’re doing it for fun, yes, but also on the off-chance it’ll make their fortune.

However, once researchers at the British Museum have valued the ring, Mr Massey will have to share 50 per cent of any profits he makes from it with the landowner.

Currently, that could be anything. “We have no idea how much [the ring] is worth,” he said. “There is nothing like it in the UK.”

Mr Massey served in the British armed forces between 1989 and 1992, and made the find as part of a charitable dig with the Detecting For Veterans group.

The site they were searching is west of Yeovil and is believed to have once been a high-status Roman villa, and Detecting for Veterans unearthed 60 other Roman coins on Sunday.

It’s the ring that’s getting all the attention, however. It features an engraving of Victoria, the Roman god of Victory, riding a chariot pulled by two horses.

Who knows what other treasures are hidden in the earth at the site, but the ring could indicate that are more exciting things just waiting to be found.

Nothing gets the general public more worked up about coins than saying they are sunken treasure.

The fact that Dwight Manley and his marketing group have got a new $40 million batch to sell is great news for organized numismatics. (Click here for full story.)

Anything that Manley offers will gain the immediate attention of millions of noncollectors. The news might just push some of them into actually wanting to own some of the coins that were recovered from the 1857 shipwreck of the S.S. Central America.

I even saw a mention of the story online in a British newspaper.

Lest you think coin collectors are immune to the appeal of sunken treasure, just wait until the coins go on sale. They will be housed in special Professional Coin Grading Service holders. Being properly graded is important. Preserving these coins for years to come is also key. But the special label identifies the pieces as having come from the wreck. This will distinguish them from all others and make a collectible subset of each date and mintmark involved.

Coins from the wreck will be put on display at the Long Beach Expo Feb. 22-24. This public debut will help build interest in the treasure.

The last time Manley was marketing coins recovered from the ship, they commanded premium prices. That is a reason why, as this issue is prepared, our poll question is: “Are you willing to pay more for coins that were once sunken treasure?”

 Whether the answer given by those who vote is yes or no, the fact is collectors are definitely inclined to pay more to own coins made of California gold struck at the San Francisco Mint and lost in a hurricane off North Carolina in 1857.

I think every collector knows that emotion is involved in making coin purchase decisions. I am attached to some coins more than others. That I am attached in this way might not be perfectly rational, but it is the case nevertheless. I think it is fair to say this is a characteristic of all collectors. Coin marketers can count on it.

Sunken treasure captures the imagination. Had you been a survivor of the 1857 wreck, can you image what you would have been thinking? You would have been lucky to be alive, yet you lost a fortune in gold to the bottom of the sea.

Modern collectors are the beneficiaries of the loss of 161 years ago. We are the lucky ones. What we make of this luck remains to be seen. It is early days. Manley is an expert marketer. We can be sure the Long Beach display is just the beginning of a sophisticated marketing campaign.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News Express.

THE Bayeux Tapestry which depicts the monumental Battle of Hastings 1066 is set to be loaned to Britain and leave French shores for the first time in 950 years.

But what about the looted and foreign treasures worth potentially billions of pounds that are held by Britain and which other countries are demanding we hand back?

During the period of the Empire, Britain claimed some priceless artefacts under controverstial circumstances and countries have fought up until the present day for the historic items to be returned.

These include some of the finest examples of Greek and African art.

Here’s a list of some of the leading artefacts held in the British Museum

Rosetta Stone
Chief among the leading treasures is the 2,200-year-old Rosetta Stone tablet, which Egypt wants back.

This incredible written decree on a rock similar to granite dates back to 196 BC during the Ptolemaic Dynasty. It has been a key to deciphering ancient Egyptian texts.

The British took possession of the stone after defeating the French in Egypt in 1801 during the Napoleonic Wars.

Tom Tugendhat, the Conservative chairman of the foreign affairs select committee, said Britain should return the Egyptian masterpiece after the Bayeux Tapestry announcement.

He told BBC Radio 4: “I think that this is an opportunity for us to cement the relationship and actually one of the interesting items that we might perhaps think about lending – we would have to get the British Museum’s permission for it – is the Rosetta Stone which was discovered in Egypt by a French researcher, a French archaeologist, in the late 1700s.”

A spokeswoman from the British Museum said: “The trustees of the British Museum consider (subject to the usual considerations of condition and fitness to travel) any request for any part of the collection to be borrowed.

“The Rosetta Stone remains on public display where it is free to be viewed by over six million visitors to the Museum each year.

“We also engage widely with audiences across the world via our website.

“The British Museum has long-standing positive relationships with colleagues across the museum and archaeology sectors in Egypt.

“Each year sees collaboration on a number of fieldwork, training and research projects

Elgin Marbles
The British Museum also keeps the Elgin Marbles which were stripped from the Parthenon temple on the world-famous Acropolis site in Athens, Greece, under the orders of the 7th Earl of Elgin in 1801.

These stunning marble sculptures were created at the height of Ancient Greece’s power between 447-438 BC, and the Parthenon was dedicated to the goddess Athena.

A statement from the British Museum defended its decision to keep the Elgin Marbles.

“Lord Elgin, the British diplomat who transported the sculptures to England, acted with the full knowledge and permission of the legal authorities of the day in both Athens and London,” part of the statement read.

“Lord Elgin’s activities were thoroughly investigated by a Parliamentary Select Committee in 1816 and found to be entirely legal.

“The trustees have never been asked for a loan of the Parthenon sculptures by Greece, only for the permanent removal of all of the sculptures in its care to Athens.

“The trustees will consider (subject to the usual considerations of condition and fitness to travel) any request for any part of the collection to be borrowed and then returned.

“Though partially reconstructed, the Parthenon is a ruin.

“It is universally recognised that the sculptures that still exist could never be safely returned to the building: they are best seen and conserved in museums.”

The Summer Palace
The Chinese want the handover of items looted from the Summer Palace in Beijing during the Second Opium War by British and French troops in the 19th century.

Famously, the goods stolen before soldiers burned down the palace included a Pekinese dog which was handed to the Queen and called “Lotty”, and lived in Windsor Castle for another 11 years.

China, now the most powerful country in the world alongside the US, has never forgotten.

Benin Bronzes
Nigeria is demanding that the royal treasures of Benin are returned, claiming they were seized by British Empire troops in 1897.

These stunning metal plaques decorated the royal palace of the Benin Kingdom in the African country, and some are also held in private collections in Germany and the United States.

A THREE thousand year old hoard of Broze Age gold discovered last year in Urswick has been declared treasure.

At a treasure inquest held today (24) at Barrow Town Hall the story behind the discovery of the precious collection unfolded. In April 2017 metal detectorists John Rigg and Darren Fine unearthed an extraordinary piece of ancient Furness history. A gold bracelet, three golden lock rings and a piece of a copper cauldron dating back three thousand years have shed like on what life was like in south Cumbria for those living almost three millennia ago.

Presiding over the inquest, assistant coroner Paul O’Donnell, said: “Clearly the find of such an item in Urswick opens up a new line of in inquiry into Bronze Age settlements this far north west. This is of significant interest to archaeologists and historians alike.”

The items found were a pennacular bracelet 68mm in diameter, and three golden lock rings, which are only 34mm in diameter. Experts believe they date from between 1000BC to 800BC. Historians believe lock rings may have been used as earrings or to decorate strands of hair. Their use has also been associated with wealthy and important members of Bronze Age communities.

Cauldron fragment. The length is 27mm, the width is 31mm thickness 15mm and the weight 31.33g.
Photo: Portable Antiques Scheme

Under the Treasure Act 1996 any item of gold or silver or groups of coins more than 300 years old have to be reported to authorities within 14 days of their discovery. An inquest will then be held to determine if they are treasure, and if so, they can be acquired by the British Museum for its collection. Pieces are valued with their amount being split 50/50 between the land owner and those who found it.

  • Some of the coins were minted during the era of Roman general Mark Antony
  • Experts said the find is very rare and each coin could sell for £900 ($12,000)
  • Coins would have circulated widely during Roman times – some dating to 32BC
  • Mike Smale, 35, found the hoard of rare ancient coins in a farmer’s field

An amateur historian using a metal detector in a farmer’s field has told how he found a once-in-a -lifetime hoard of 2,000-year-old silver Roman coins – worth up to £200,000 ($267,000).

Some of the metal disks were minted during the era Roman general Mark Antony was allied with his lover Cleopatra in Egypt and experts said a find of this size and variety is very rare.

A single coin can sell for up to £900 ($12,000) so fisherman Mike Smale, 35, was astonished when he uncovered one pristine coin after another dating back to 32BC.

The coins will be handed over to the coroner for valuation and then likely sold to a museum, with the profits split between the farmer and Mr Smale.

Mr Smale, 35, found the hoard of 600 rare ancient coins in a farmer’s field in Bridport while hunting with friends from the Southern Detectorists club.

Father-of-one Mr Smale, a fisherman from Plymouth, Devon, said: ‘It was incredible, a true once-in-a-lifetime find.

‘I had a good idea about what it was – I had already found one or two Roman denarii that morning.

‘It’s a great find, my biggest one, but I shan’t be giving it up. It’s great fun and I’m sticking with it’, he said.

The astonishing find was made at an undisclosed farmland location in Bridport at the detectorists annual event, attended by 300 people.

‘When I found it everyone came over to have a look and find out what it was’, said Mr Smale.

‘It’s impossible to say what it’s worth, it all depends on too many factors.. How rare they are, what condition they are in, things like that.

‘But it is a substantial find, and whatever I do get I’m going to split with the guys I went up there with.’


An expert who has examined photos of the coins said some feature Gods, and were issued by the Roman Republic in the centuries before the birth of Christ.

Some of the metal disks were minted during the era Roman general Mark Antony was allied with his lover Cleopatra in Egypt and experts said a find of this size and variety is very rare.

They would have circulated widely in the Roman Empire and travelled a long way.

Republican coins and those of Antony were issued before the Roman Invasion of Britain in AD 43, and would have drifted over in the pockets of Roman soldiers and citizens alike, according to an expert.

Other coins were issued by emperors who ruled during the first century AD.

One of the coins celebrated the ill-fated emperor Otho, who only ruled for three months in (January to April AD 69), during the civil wars which followed the assassination of the notorious emperor Nero.

Just a few hours in, Mr Smale’s detector started beeping manically and he quickly discovered a few coins, before he called over the officials who sectioned off the area.

They believe it was a pot of coins which had been hit by a plough and spread across the area.

The event was organised by Sean MacDonald, 47, who admits he would have paid ‘good money’ just to witness the find.

He added: ‘Bridport is a cracking area anyway, it’s very rich in history, but a find like this is unprecedented.

‘I’ve never seen a hoard of this size before. We found one in Somerset last year but there were just 180, and they weren’t of the same calibre.’

Mr MacDonald said he was elated he was shaking when he saw the find.

‘The archaeologists excavating it couldn’t believe what they were seeing because these coins are so rare’, said Mr MacDonald.

‘I personally think a find of this size and variety will never be found again.’

An expert who has examined photos of the coins said some feature Gods, and were issued by the Roman Republic in the centuries before the birth of Christ.

‘Others, which feature a distinctive galley – a type of Roman vessel – were minted by Mark Antony while he was allied with his lover Cleopatra in Egypt, between the Autumn of 32 BC to the Spring of 31’, said Dominic Chorney of A.H. Baldwin & Sons.

These coins each celebrated the various legions under his command, Mr Chorney explained.