An extremely are gold coin, known as a Leopard, is currently being considered for official Treasure status following its discovery by a metal detectorist in Reepham, Norfolk.

The coin was found alongside a gold Noble in October 2019, with both coins bent in half. Despite the damage the find is a great discovery, especially in the case of the Leopard, due to the scarcity of this medieval gold coin.

Leopard and Noble

Image courtesy of the British Museum

The discovered Leopard was issued in 1344 at the beginning of the reign of Kind Edward III, while the Noble was issued around 1351-52. At the time, silver coins were overwhelmingly used throughout England, and the Leopard was one of the first attempts at issuing a circulating gold coin alongside the Florin and Helm.

The coin would have the equivalent value to roughly £12,000 today, and would only have been used by the richest in society. As such, it is perhaps unsurprising that the Leopard failed to gain any real traction and is believed to have only been minted for around six months at most. The coin was struck in 23 carats, around 96% pure gold, making it a very high purity for a circulating coin and susceptible to wear and tear in use.

Following this failed attempt, the gold Noble was introduced as a new effort, this time achieving a better success rate for adoption, although the coin was resized several times throughout its circulatory lifetime.

The Leopard was withdrawn from circulation and only three examples are known to have survived at this time. Historians had believed the Leopard to be withdrawn quite quickly, but the discovery of the 1344 Leopard with a 1351-52 Noble, suggests that some examples may have still been in circulation for longer than previously thought, or simply kept by its owner and not returned to the mint for restriking.

The period would also have coincided with the arrival of the Black Death plague in England at the time – 1348. This may also account for the Leopard outlasting the end of its official life, with the chaos of the time helping to preserve this fascinating part of British numismatic history.

Despite being folded in half, the coins are otherwise in good condition, with much of the detail preserved, and the high purity of the gold protecting them from any degradation while in the ground. They are now being considered for Treasure status, and will likely go on display as such a key part of British history.