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Anachronistic Discovery in Newfoundland


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A roughly 600-year-old English gold coin was found over the summer on the island of Newfoundland, a surprising find given that the first documented voyage to the island came 70 years later. The artifact analyzed by former Bank of Canada Museum curator Paul Berry features the portrait of King Henry VI. The coin was therefore probably made between 1422 and 1427 at the London Mint. How this little treasure – which must have been of great value in the 1420s – ended up in Newfoundland remains mysterious.

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Officially, the first documented exploration expedition to Canada by European powers dates back to 1497 – 70 to 75 years after the gold coin was minted – with the second voyage of Italian navigator John Cabot, in the service of the King of England Henry VII. Previously, Vikings also settled for a short time in Newfoundland, at L'Anse aux Meadows, around the year 1000. Further research may be conducted in the future at the location where the artifact was discovered. The place in question has not been disclosed, for fear of attracting the covetousness of treasure looters.

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Throughout history gold coins, frequently hoarded, infrequently spent, remained out of circulation for some time only to reappear much later when someone needed that most stable store of value, a gold coin. During WW II Napoleonic gold coins, kept hidden by a family for several generations reemerged from hiding and saved who knows how many lives, winding up in the pockets of soldiers or officials who looked the other way. If some of them were later killed those coins might have more recently been "refound"  in a context that made it look like Napoleonic 20 franc gold coins were circulating in Siberia or Norway in 1945, which in a narrow context  was actually the case. Bottom line: gold coinage from an earlier period might not have been deposited in the place it was found at or near the time the coin was minted but was an earlier gold coin kept around for some rainy day purpose and reintroduced into circulation at a much later time. The context of the coin's finding is essential to its proper time of deposit. The 1955 wheat cent I dropped last week down a sewer grate does not means there was a sewer grate there in 1956.

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1 hour ago, kevikens said:

Throughout history gold coins, frequently hoarded, infrequently spent, remained out of circulation for some time only to reappear much later when someone needed that most stable store of value, a gold coin. During WW II Napoleonic gold coins, kept hidden by a family for several generations reemerged from hiding and saved who knows how many lives, winding up in the pockets of soldiers or officials who looked the other way. If some of them were later killed those coins might have more recently been "refound"  in a context that made it look like Napoleonic 20 franc gold coins were circulating in Siberia or Norway in 1945, which in a narrow context  was actually the case. Bottom line: gold coinage from an earlier period might not have been deposited in the place it was found at or near the time the coin was minted but was an earlier gold coin kept around for some rainy day purpose and reintroduced into circulation at a much later time. The context of the coin's finding is essential to its proper time of deposit. The 1955 wheat cent I dropped last week down a sewer grate does not means there was a sewer grate there in 1956.

Very interesting. 

I am not an expert in this area of history/numismatics, but it seems to me 70 years isn't really that long for a coin to still be in use? I know in the modern US it's not unheard of by any means to see a coin minted in the 50s or 60s still in circulation. And I believe there is evidence of ancient Roman coins remaining in use many decades or even centuries after they were minted. It doesn't seem that surprising to me that some of the voyagers in the late 15th century could have brought this with them. 

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