A rare gold coin dating from the brief reign of Richard III found by a metal detectorist last September realized £40,800 (about $70,260 Cdn.) at a recent sale by the U.K.’s Dix Noonan Webb.
The coin, which was offered on Dec. 13, was discovered by Michelle Vall a few miles from Bosworth Field, where the king famously met his death in combat in 1485. It is possible the Half Angel coin may have belonged to one of Richard’s soldiers fleeing from the battle that changed the course of English history.
The Half Angel—one of only a handful surviving from Richard’s two-year reign—nearly tripled its pre-sale estimate of £15,000 in the recent auction.
“This is a very rare discovery that has miraculously survived in a Warwickshire field for more than five centuries,” said Christopher Webb, head of the coins department at Dix Noonan Webb. “Its importance as a coin is enhanced by the tantalizing possibility that it may have belonged to one of Richard’s army whose defeat at Bosworth ended the Wars of the Roses and ushered in the Tudor dynasty.”
Vall, a 51-year-old primary school teaching assistant from Blackpool, was taking part in a charity detecting rally at Monks Kirby, between Coventry and Leicester, in September of last year when she discovered the Half Angel.
“After detecting for two and a half hours in a farmer’s field, I got a signal,” she said. “The coin was deep down, about 16 inches below the surface, and the soil there is thick clay so it took a bit of digging out.”
“I spotted this glint of gold in the hole, although I obviously did not know exactly what it was at first. I put it in the palm of my hand and then I went back to the organizers’ tent. One of them identified it and people became very excited. That was when I realized that it was a Half Angel.”
“I have decided to sell it because it is too valuable to keep. I did not want to keep it in a locked cupboard. I feel very privileged that I have found something so precious and historic. The memory of that day, the excitement not just of myself but also of other detectorists, when I found that beautiful, tiny, piece of historic gold will live with me forever.”
ONLY A YEAR OF DETECTING
An antique collector and walker, Vall only began metal detecting last January, when she realized its popularity.
“So now I am able to find history myself out in the fields of our beautiful countryside,” she said. “I am absolutely hooked on it. I go detecting with my husband most weekends and I have researched many items that I have found on the internet. This has improved my historical knowledge which I pass down to the children in the school where I work.”
HALF ANGEL COIN
The Half Angel gold coin was introduced in 1472. Its name is derived from the image on one side of the archangel Michael slaying a dragon. It was half the value of the Angel coin, which was introduced in 1465 and became so iconic that many English pubs are named after it.
According to auctioneers, Richard III issues are rare because his reign was so brief.
“There has always been intense interest in Richard, a controversial figure, particularly since his remains were discovered in Leicester in 2012,” reads a statement issued by the auction house last year.
The Battle of Bosworth Field was fought on Aug. 22, 1485, and marked the end of the Wars of the Roses between the Lancastrians and Yorkists that raged across England in the latter half of the 15th century. The Lancastrian Henry Tudor defeated the last Yorkist king Richard III and began the Tudor dynasty.
“It was one of the most important days in English history.”