Rare English coin unearthed at N.L. historic site

Archaeologists at the Cupids Cove Plantation Provincial Historic Site have discovered a rare English silver coin during this season’s excavations.

Paul Berry, the former chief curator of the Bank of Canada Museum (“Bank of Canada Museum curator Paul Berry to retire,” CCN Vol. 56 #15), believes the coin is a Henry VII “half groat” – a two-penny piece – minted in Canterbury, England, sometime between 1493 and 1499.

It’s likely the oldest English coin to be found in Canada and possibly all of North America, according to the historic site’s supervisor and head archaeologist, William Gilbert, who discovered the former English colony in 1995. He continues to lead the excavation endeavours at the site, where six early 17th-century structures and about 150,000 artifacts have been unearthed for research.

The two-penny piece is likely the oldest English coin to be found in Canada and possibly all of North America, according to site supervisor and head archaeologist William Gilbert.

“Some artifacts are important for what they tell us about a site while others are important because they spark the imagination,” said Gilbert. “This coin is definitely one of the latter. One can’t help but wonder at the journey it made and how many hands it must have passed through from the time it was minted in Canterbury until it was lost in Cupids sometime early in the 17th century. This is a major find, and I am proud of my team for all their hard work. We look forward to the next great discovery.”

In 2001, researchers unearthed an Elizabethan coin dated 1560-61 at the same site. At the time, the coin was considered the oldest English coin to be found in Canada.

The newly discovered half groat is about 60 years older than the Elizabethan coin and would have been in circulation for at least 111 years before it was lost at Cupids.

“The historical significance of the Cupids Cove Plantation Provincial Historic Site has long been known, and its value to the local tourism industry is proven,” said Steve Crocker, the province’s tourism, culture arts and recreation minister “It is incredible to imagine that this coin was minted in England and was lost in Cupids over a hundred years later. It links the story of the early European exploration in the province and the start of English settlement.”

Research on the coin is ongoing, and researchers expect it will be displayed at the provincial historic site by the opening of next year’s tourist season in May.

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