Gold Henry III coin found in Devon field by metal detectorist sells for £500k

It is the most valuable single coin find ever made on British soil Credit: Spink

A gold coin found by a metal detectorist in a Devon field has sold for £540,000 - making it the most expensive English medieval coin ever sold at auction.

The coin - which is only an inch in diameter - is one of the UK's first ever gold coins. It is one of just eight still in existence.

It features King Henry III and may be the first 'true' portrait of an English King on his throne since the time of William the Conqueror.

It was found in a Devon field by Michael Leigh-Mallory - an ecologist and amateur historian - who was on one of his first metal detecting outings for 10 years.

He located it on farmland in Hemyock in September and was unaware of its value until he posted it on Facebook.

One side of the coin shows the bearded king on the throne and the other features a long cross and roses. Credit: Spink

'My wish came true'

The 52-year-old said he is "humbled" and "honoured" to be linked with the discovery.

"The coin was found in an unappealing field and could quite easily have never been recovered", he said.

"Now it is protected for future generations to enjoy and it is truly humbling that I was its finder.

"My wish that day came true, and I just happened to be the fortunate one. I feel I have to apologise to all those other detectorists who search and dream."

Michael said he will put the money towards his children who share his keen interest in history.

"I really owe it to my children for having found the coin in the first place, as they were my inspiration to go out prospecting", he said.

"Had it not been for a promise I made to my children to finally take them out searching and being rewarded with an Elizabethan coin a few weeks before, I do not believe this gold coin would ever have been found."

With auction costs the realised price of the coin sailed to a world record of £648,000, making it the most valuable single coin find ever made in British soil and the most expensive English medieval coin ever sold at auction.

There are just eight of the coins known to exist with almost all of them in museums around the UK.

There are just eight of the coins known to exist with almost all of them in museums around the UK. Credit: Spink

The coin - showing Henry III on the throne - is the first of its kind to be found in 260 years.

Experts say it was struck in around 1257 by William of Gloucester with gold imported from North Africa.

52,000 of the coins were minted and would have been worth the equivalent of around £60 in today's money.

But it became apparent that they were financially unviable because the value of the coin was worth less than its weight in gold.

As a result, virtually all of them were melted down after they fell out of circulation following Henry III's death.

The other surviving examples are in the British Museum in London, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, and private collections.

Senior Numismatist Gregory Edmund, specialist at Spink Auctioneers, said: "I add my own personal praise to the dedication and honesty of the finder for placing the heritage of this find above all else.

"Without his diligence, the subsequent research would not have been possible, and nor would have the record-breaking price been achieved."

Mr Edmund confirmed the anonymous UK buyer wishes to place the coin on loan to a public institution or museum.

The final hammer price of £540,000 will be split between Mr Leigh-Mallory and the landowner.

A further £15,000 will be give to charity.