Incredibly Rare Coin Found On A Delaware Beach
Not your typical rare coin find on coin beach.
Everyone wants to find buried treasure at the beach. It is a fantasy of every breach comber when they hunt the beaches for “treasures”. Who wouldn’t want to find a bit of pirate loot? Even if it was just a copper coin for the common folk.
My buddy Joey “Baga Donuts” and his dad were here during the last nor’easter a few weeks ago. When they went surf fishing that morning … “The beaches were flooded and closed to drive on. So I went back to our place and parked. Dad and I and walked on to fish. He wanted to do some metal detecting. He was in the only dry area of the beach between the swales and the dune base. I was fishing the wash with no luck. Dad found what looked like a really old coin. I reached out to you to see who we could get to identify it.”
I could tell in the picture it was really old, Definitely not your typical old coin find on our beaches, such as coin beach known for rare finds. They told me it was heavy, about the size of a quarter and made of copper. Also the area they found it is not known for rare coin finds, that location will remain anonymous as well. It was a legal area to metal detect is all I am saying.
I sent the coin pictures to a metal detector enthusiast I know. He and a few others identified it as a possible Byzantine Anonymous Follis. These coins were minted in Roman times from 498 to 1081 AD. There are a few series or classes of these coins. The follis design and weight would be changed as rulers changed. Follis was the word used to describe a large bronze roman coin.
So how does a Byzantine Follis wind up on a Delaware beach? Good question. Joe and his dad asked me who could verify what they found. I sent them to the one guy that would know right away. Dale Clifton owner of the DiscoverSea shipwreck museum in Fenwick Island.
Back in the days of antiquities, Roman Times, the elite had the silver and gold coins. The common folk used copper coins, the humblest of metals. These were used on the daily for trade, payment, and the town markets. These coins were not struck well, ugly and of little value. They were for daily common trade and use. The sizes and weight would change with each ruler.
Coin Week … “For over 120 years, the single denomination of copper coinage issued by the Eastern Roman (“Byzantine”) Empire was “Anonymous”. The Anonymous follis did not bear the name or portrait of the ruler but instead bore an image of Jesus and a religious motto. Fifteen different types are known, though only about six are common, with affordable and collectible examples. These coins are often carelessly overstruck. “
“We were finally able to get back down and visit the Museum” … Joey … “After seeing the coin in person Dale is 99% sure it is a Byzantine Anonymous Follis”.
It is also a head scratcher how it wound up on a Delaware beach.
There are a lot of Byzantine Follis for sale on eBay from a few dollars to a thousand.
That still doesn’t explain how one wound up on a Delaware Beach. It could be from a necklace setting lost at one point, or a captain’s personal coin collection from a shipwreck. Possibly picked up by a beach replenishment project and deposited by pumping sand would explain the location it was found. It may have been washed up during that nor’easter that flooded to the dune base for two days. It wasn’t found at coin beach which is kind of amusing.
A cache of these were found in the Chesapeake years ago. It is believed large amounts of the old coins were shipped to the new world to be restruck to make new currency.
Whatever the case this is a once in a lifetime find.