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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Finding Gold: Beginner's Luck

The St. Albans coin hoard
I've had a soft spot for stories about Roman coin hoards for a long time (here and here for my old posts; links to this story here and here).  I often thought about how awesome it would be to uncover a two thousand year-old coin. I can't fathom the thrill of finding the life's savings of a Roman Legionary carefully stashed away before he suited up to battle hoards of barbarians that simply weren't buying into the Pax Romana.  The story behind the St Albans coin hoard has to be one of the most amazing.

In October 2012, a would-be treasure hunter from St. Albans, UK took the plunge and bought a beginner's metal detector.  After watching a couple of videos on You Tube, Wesley Carrington headed for the woods near his home about 20 miles north of central London.  His first 20 minutes of treasure hunting rewarded him with a spoon and half-penny.  When his metal-detector went off a third time, he dug down 7 inches to find a gold coin with a roman figure. By the time darkness fell, he had found 55 gold solidi dating back to the late 4th century AD (Emperors Gratian, Valentinian, Theodosius, Arcadius and Honorius). He had no idea what he'd found, so paid a visit to a local coin shop.  The owner was absolutely 'gobsmacked' and thought it a joke.  Real experts, on returning to the site of his find, found 104 additional coins in what is one of the largest coin hoards ever found in the UK.  The coins are estimated to be worth $156,000.

This story is the sine qua non of beginners luck. Such stories always strike a cord with commoners as we realize 'that could be me!'  Even as I write this, I have to suppress the overwhelming urge to look on Ebay for metal detectors.

Alas, reality demonstrates that most great things only come at the end of great effort and dogged persistence.
"Thou, O God, dost sell us all good things at the price of labor." Leonardo da Vinci
"Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."" Calvin Coolidge
"In the sweat of thy face shalt though eat bread, till though return to the ground." Genesis 3:19 
Though Wesley Carrington has joined a local metal detecting club, he hasn't found anything else since October. With his beginner's luck having run dry, it looks like he will have to rely on hard work and persistence for his next find. Apparently it's not supposed to be easy. 

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