Two metal detector enthusiasts from Jersey uncovered what could be Europe’s largest hoard of Iron Age coins – after a painstaking search spanning 30 years.
Reg Mead and Richard Miles began their hunt after a woman told them her father had found coins in a field some years before.
But the woman could only give the pair a rough location for the discovery.
And to complicate things further, the field’s owner would only allow them to look for a short time each year after the crop was harvested.
It meant that the two spent up to 15 hours at a time scouring the field – before they had to stop and wait again until the same time next year.
However, their perseverance has paid off after they found the huge stash of Roman and Celtic coins, which could be worth £10m.
Mr Mead said the woman told him her father was a farmer and he had discovered silver coins while ploughing a hedgerow.
He said: “She told me that in the bottom was an earthenware pot and it shattered all over the field on a very muddy winter’s day and there were silver coins everywhere.
“They filled a small potato sack up and the rest of the stuff they just ploughed into the ground.
“When she described them we knew they were Iron Age. I told Richard and we have been searching hard all that time but have only just got to that spot.”
Mr Miles said that the first few coins they found confirmed the story they had been searching for for so long.
He said: “We then looked deeper into the ground to see if there was anything further. We came down on a solid object and when Reg dug up a chunk of earth there was immediately five or six discs.
“We always said if we found anything significant it must remain in situ, it had to remain in its archaeological context so it could be studied.”
The exact number of coins found has not been established, but archaeologists said the hoard weighed about three quarters of a tonne and could contain about 50,000 coins.
Mr Mead said it had taken them 30 years to find the coins as they could only search for about 10 hours every time the crop comes out. He said it worked out at about 10-15 hours per year.
He said: “We have declared this hoard as the trove, treasure trove, which was an ancient law that gave you, if within a reasonable amount of time you declared them, the full monetary value.
“We are testing that case because the powers that be have said the practice of trove doesn’t exist in Jersey any more.”
Mr Mead said it was the first important find with metal detectors ever in Jersey.
He said: “There are two laws, in Jersey anyone who wants to follow the law can use the English or the old French. If they don’t like the practice of trove then the old French law is finders keepers.
“Richard, myself and the land owner have an agreement between us, we are entitled to that hoard.”