Not all that glitters is gold

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by Björn Schöpe
translated by Christina Schlögl

February 22, 2018 – The field in South England promised a plentiful harvest: It was freshly ploughed and the two detectorists Andy Sampson (54) and Paul Adams (58) hoped to find a Roman coin once again.

‘Roman gold!’

Suddenly, Paul Adams started to perform a dance of joy, his friend remembers. He was beside himself and screamed: ‘Roman gold!’ The detectors went off without stopping for ten meters in a furrow and finally, the two had collected 54 gold coins. They estimated the market value of each of the six aurei of Emperor Nero at around £26,500 and thus hoped to get £250,000 for their find.  

Dreams come true

The clay shards in the furrow confirmed the friends’ impression that they had found a Roman hoard. ‘We sat there in total disbelief’, Andy Sampson said. He immediately started to make big plans: pay off the mortgage, buy a sports car …
Both men had only had one year of experience with their new hobby. Their professional job is to deliver oxygen to medical patients. And now they had hit the jackpot! They went home, ‘too excited to think straight’, as they said. They wanted to inform the property owner and the public authorities the next day; they pursue their hobby completely legally, after all.

The big disappointment

Then the big disappointment came: A neighbour, who had been a detectorist for 40 years, was flabbergasted. But he only had to briefly touch the coins and he knew: forgeries! The two finders did not believe him, of course.
But Sampson’s wife works in the estate office of the farm that owns the property, where the coins were found. She suddenly remembered that a TV series was shot there, only a short while ago – the new season of ‘The Detectorists’. This TV show, which is extremely popular in Great Britain, revolves around two befriended detectorists …

Television material

A telephone call with the production company cleared things up: The crew hat actually buried a clay pot with replica Roman gold coins in the field. After shooting was finished, the team had attempted to collect all coin replicas, but some of them were buried too deeply in the ground. The main actor (and script writer and director) Mackenzie Crook expressed his regret over the story. He had planned on searching the field with a metal detector the next day, but the two (un)lucky beggars had got there first: ‘As a detectorist myself, I’d like to assure these gentlemen that I was gutted that I might have contributed to their disappointment. I hope they continue searching and I hope they find their real gold soon.’
The replicas are each worth £5. Andy Sampson thus sums up: ‘I think we are officially the world’s unluckiest metal detectorists. Our story would make a TV series of its own.’ Maybe this series is still to come. For now, the two said, they will not let anyone or anything spoil their hobby. 

There are more detailed reports on the matter by the Telegraph and BBC.

At least these two detectorists did not lose their friendship, like these two colleagues of them, who found an actual hoard. 

You can find more information about the Portable Antiquities Scheme, which legally regulates the work of detectorists, here. 

You can find the TV series ‘The Detectorists ‘ here. 

And here’s the trailer! When will this be broadcast in Germany?