Gussage All Saints Hoard

THE COINS known as the Gussage All Saints Hoard were found on March 21, 2010 on ploughed land in the parish of Gussage All Saints, Dorset in England. They were taken intact to the British Museum, where they were cleaned, identified and catalogued, in accordance with U.K. Treasure Laws. It was noted that Late Roman silver coins were of a high silver content (over 90%), well above the requirements of the Treasure Act. Thus, they constituted a prima facie case of treasure by being silver coins of an antiquity of greater than 300 years and of one find of more than 10 pieces.

The coins had been in circulation together before their deposition in the early 5th Century A.D. Thus, the hoard dates from the period when the Western Roman Empire, beset with the collapse of the Rhine frontier and invasions in Gaul and Italy, relinquished its authority over Roman Britain which was left to it own devices and increasingly vulnerable to Germanic and Irish raiding.

The British Museum purchased one coin. The rest of the coins were returned to the finder and thereafter brought to market in London and were ultimately acquired by Antiqua.

Antiqua is pleased to offer a selection of the finest siliquae from the Gussage All Saints Hoard. Coins of all the emperors represented in the hoard are offered in our collection, dating from 324 to 423 A.D.: Constantius II, Julian II, Jovian, Valentinian I, Valens, Gratian, Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Magnus Maximus, Flavius Victor, Eugenius, Arcadius and Honorius. Almost all the current mints are also represented, though the vast majority of coins were issued at Trier and Milan.

Late Roman Silver Coinage

The Late Roman Period was fraught with constant civil wars and barbarian invasions, resulting in economic decline. Silver coins were in short supply in the first half of the 4th Century. But in the Western Roman Empire, there were large issues of silver between c. 340 and 395 A.D., with the siliqua the only standard silver coin in circulation in the Roman Empire. From near contemporary historians we learn that a soldier was paid at the rate of two siliquae a day, around the year 400. The coin types, traditionally agents for imperial propaganda, proclaim stability, pride in military victory and hope for imperial prosperity.

But as the economy worsened, silver became rarer. From coin hoards dating to the second half of the 4th Century found in what were settlements in Roman Britain, clipping of the siliquae has been observed. This phenomenon was likely a deliberate attempt to maintain a stable ratio between silver and gold, and is especially noted in the coins of Arcadius and Honorius. The clipping was carried out from the perspective of the obverse side; that is, care was taken to leave the imperial portrait intact.

The most prominent coin type in the second half of the 4th Century is the siliqua with obverse portrait of the emperor diademed, draped and cuirassed, with a reverse of Roma. She is seated left on a throne, seated left upon a cuirass, or seated facing, holding Victory on globe and scepter or spear, bearing legends VRBS ROMA or VIRTVS ROMANORVM. Roma is a symbol of the eternal city, the emperor’s claim of restoration of Roman tradition and imperial protection.

Another prominent reverse type is the Vota coinage, depicted according to the emperor’s regnal years in multiples of five, within wreath. This type marked the sacred festival of the undertaking and payment of vows for the continuation of the emperor’s prosperous reign. The occasion was marked by the issuance of coin as bonus payments to the army.

A third reverse type is Victory advancing left, holding wreath and palm. This type presages not only Victory, but expresses hope for a long reign for the emperor.

Treasure Trove Laws for Coins
found in the United Kingdom

According to the Treasure Act 1996 Code of Practice (2nd Revision) for England and Wales, anyone finding an object which they suspect might be designated treasure must notify the district coroner within 14 days of the find. If the object in question was found in England, the coroner must notify the British Museum and must take reasonable steps to notify the persons involved with the find, the landowner on whose property the object was found, and the occupier of the land, as well as any others who might have interest in the land where the treasure was found. It is the responsibility of the courts to determine who has title to the treasure.

When treasure is to be transferred to a museum, the Secretary of State determines whether a reward should be paid. If it is determined that a reward should be paid, the market value of the treasure and the amount of the reward (which cannot exceed the market value) must also be determined, as well as to whom the reward should be paid. It is usual to have the treasure proceeds divided equally between the finder and the owner of the land.

Finders of objects that are not designated treasure or treasure trove are encouraged to report their finds to local finds officers at county councils. The finds officers record the finds and add information concerning dates, materials and locations into a data base in order to facilitate further study of the findspots. Non-treasure finds remain the property of their finders or landowners, who are free to dispose of them as they wish.

Since the initiation of these laws, the cases of reporting treasure trove have increased dramatically, thus, preserving the valuable data these finds can have for the archaeologist. Perhaps the U.K. Treasure Trove laws are the fairest of all the countries which have rich pasts. The objects and coins are preserved either in museums or in the hands of serious collectors. In a fully democratic society, rights of ownership are upheld and respected, and it is with this freedom that scholarship can flourish.