Black Death-era coins declared to be 'treasure'

The gold noble of Edward III, fourth coinage, issued 1351-2.

The gold noble of Edward III, fourth coinage, issued 1351-2. It weighs 7.69g, and was also found in the Reepham area of Norfolk. - Credit: British Museum

Two rare coins which date from around the time of the Black Death have been declared treasure. 

An inquest was held at Norfolk Coroner's Court on Wednesday, July 23 into the 2019 discovery of a leopard coin and a noble coin in the Reepham area.

Yvonne Blake, area coroner for Norfolk, said she agreed with experts that the coins fulfilled the relevant criteria to have 'treasure' status. 

She said: "I, too, am of the opinion that these coins can safely be categorised as treasure, as they are over 300 years old and contain more than 10pc of precious metal."

Dr Helen Geake used to work at the Castle before working in Cambridge and joining Time Team. Photo :

Dr Helen Geake, archaeologist and Norfolk finds liaison officer. - Credit: Steve Adams

The leopard is considered extremely rare. Few surviving examples exist as the coins were recalled shortly after they were minted in 1344, during the reign of Edward III.

They were an attempt by the king to introduce a standard gold coin into England - the country had been without such currency for around 500 years beforehand. 


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Dr Helen Geake, archaeologist and Norfolk finds liaison officer, said: "Until then, if you wanted to buy something significant like a cow or a horse you would have to carry a great pack of silver pennies.

"But for some reason the leopards weren't popular, it seems they weren't worth what they said they were. It overvalued the gold against the silver."

Gold leopard (half-florin) of Edward III, third coinage period, issued January to July 1344. It was found 

Gold leopard (half-florin) of Edward III, third coinage period, issued January to July 1344. It was found folded in half in the Reepham area of Norfolk and weighs 3.51g. - Credit: British Museum

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The leopards were recalled and less than a year later the minting of their replacement, the nobles, took place in 1351-2. These coins were more widely adopted.  

Separating the issue date of the two coins was the arrival of the bubonic plague - also called the Black Death -  in 1348, which killed 30pc-40pc of England's population over the following few years. 

Dr Geake said why this leopard was not recalled along with the others was unknown, however, it could indicate that more leopards continued in circulation beyond the recall than had been previously thought. 

Ms Blake said it was unlikely the coins had been left separately, and there could have been more coins left at the same site. 



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