A metal detectorist who recently returned to the hobby after having given it up when he started a family has unearthed his first ever gold coin – worth a record-breaking £648,000.
Michael Leigh-Mallory, 52, found the Henry III penny buried on farmland in the Devon village of Hemyock.
His lucky find came while on his first metal detecting outing in a decade after his children inspired him to pick the hobby back up to take them out detecting with him.
Not realising the value of the coin, he posted a photo on social media where it was spotted by a specialist at Spink auctioneers in London.
The extremely rare penny is said to depict the first “true” portrait of an English King on the throne since the time of William the Conqueror.
The buyer – who paid £648,000 for the rare coin – said he will loan it to a museum or institution. There are only eight of the coins known to exist, most of which are already displayed in museums.
Mr Leigh-Mallory plans to split the proceeds with the landowner of the farm and use the rest to help fund the future of his children’s education.
He said: “It is quite surreal really. I’m just a normal guy who lives in Devon with his family so this really is a life-changing sum of money which will go towards their futures.
“Emily and Harry are very much a part of this story. I used to be a keen metal detectorist but once I had a family the detector ended up getting buried in a cupboard.
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“The money will be put towards my children’s future who are both showing the same passion for our history as me. In fact, I really owe it to them for having found the coin in the first place, as they were my inspiration to go out prospecting.
“Had it not been for a promise I made to my children to go 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.
“The fine margin between discovery and loss makes this result all the more remarkable.”
Mr Leigh-Mallory plans to continue metal detecting, though he doesn’t expect to find anything of such value again.
He said: “But it’s not about money. It’s about finding connections to our past.”