A rare example of the 15th century Portuguese gold coin that Vasco da Gama took to India has been found in the UK by an amateur practitioner of “detectorism”, and will be sold at auction.
This is the first time that a “Portuguese”, worth 10 cruzados, has been found in British territory and is valued at between 20,000 and 30,000 pounds (22,400 and 33,600 euros) by London auctioneer Noonans.
The coin was found in early July by 62-year-old Mick Edwards at a rural lodge in Etchilhampton, about 150 kilometers west of London, near the city of Bath, where he was celebrating 35 years of marriage.
This civil servant was testing the metal detector in a field before breakfast, at 06:00, when he received a signal and after digging a 25 centimeter hole he found the gold coin, which is 36 millimeters in diameter and weighs about of 35 grams.
“I was stunned and sat looking at the coin, unable to breathe. I could see the cross on the coin and thought it was probably Spanish, but later I found out it was Portuguese from the king named Manuel”, he said, quoted in a statement from the auctioneer.
According to the Casa da Moeda, the Portuguese of D. Manuel I was the Portuguese currency with the greatest circulation in the world due to the importance of the country in commercial terms at the time.
Coined in almost pure gold, the Portuguese would have been one of the coins that Vasco da Gama took on his ships to India and was probably also produced with gold brought to Portugal from his voyages to Africa and India.
Nigel Mills, a specialist at Noonans, said that “in England, at that time, the biggest gold coin was a Sovereign which weighed 15.3 grams, so this coin is more than twice the weight, so it would have a value of more than two pounds”.
It was the first time that a copy of a Portuguese by Manuel I was found in the United Kingdom, which also surprised Javier Salgado, numismatist and founder of Nunisma Leilões for 47 years.
“It’s very rare. I have no information that another one like this has appeared outside Portugal”, he told Agência Lusa, predicting that it would attract bids from collectors above the highest estimate, due to the good state of conservation.
A caveat is made due to a cavity that affects both sides of the coin, which the British auctioneer believes is a stamp made to certify whether it was made of pure gold.
The coin goes up for auction on September 29 as part of a sale of historic Noonans coins and medals, and “detector” Mick Edwards plans to share the proceeds with the owner of the farm where he found it.