A £10 Million Haul for Treasure Hunters

Published in Mail Online, 30 June 2012 (Article written by Jane Fryer)

''Although the article was hot news last summer, I was not aware of it. I think this discovery is important enough to pop-up here again.'' (admin)   

So, Reg, how did it feel to find £10m? One man and his mate spent 30 years searching  for a hoard of hidden silver. JANE FRYER hears how they finally struck lucky.

Can she coin in too? Reg Mead shows Jane Fryer how he found the 2,000-year-old cache.


Some people might shy away from spending their weekends and holidays trudging up and down the same soggy field in Jersey, drenched by horizontal rain, ears squashed flat by a pair of enormous padded headphones, and pausing only to unearth an empty Coke can or a rusty old thimble from the mud. 

But best friends Reg Mead, 70, and Richard Miles, 49, are not among them. So for 30 years (yes, really) they have walked up and down, up and down, up and down — admiring the wonderful sea views, sweeping their state-of-the-art metal detectors in smooth arcs above the furrows, straining their ears for the smallest metallic bleep as they searched, and searched, for a cache of 2,000-year-old hidden treasure, once vaguely hinted at by a farmer’s daughter half-a-century ago.

Until a gloomy day in February, when suddenly Richard yelled ‘I’ve got one! I’ve got one!’, Reg ‘pegged it as fast as I could, which isn’t very fast’ across the field with his top-of-the-range Deepseeker machine that can detect treasure up to 8ft deep, and they discovered a stash of 120 Iron Age silver coins. 

‘When I saw Richard raising his hand above his head, I just couldn’t believe it — 120 coins!’ says Reg, all dewy-eyed at the thought.

But that was just the beginning. Because Reg (a part-time satellite engineer) and Richard (a customs and excise officer) weren’t the sort to hang up their metal detectors at the first sign of treasure. So they carried on in their spare time — up and down, up and down.

And finally, on Tuesday, June 5, Reg’s Deepseeker picked up an unusually loud signal, the pair called in a team of professional archeologists and together they unearthed more than 50,000 handmade coins from the 1st century AD, said to be worth a staggering £10 million.

The cache was heralded by Dr Philip de Jersey, a former Celtic coin expert at Oxford University (and, rather confusingly, from Guernsey) as ‘extremely exciting and very significant, and the largest hoard of Iron Age coins ever found in the whole of the Celtic coin-using world’.

The coins — the size of 10p pieces, but thicker and heavier, extraordinarily preserved and intricately decorated with an exotic Red Indian-style head with tattoos, plaited hair and necklace on one side and a stylised horse on the other — hail from Armorica, modern-day Brittany and Normandy.

‘They were all stuck together and weighed nearly a ton,’ says Reg.

‘It took four days of digging and a crane to get them out. Looking back, there was no logical reason why we would persevere in those fields for so long. But something made us. 

'Something kept us going.’


Richard Miles and Reg Mead first stumbled across a find of 60 silver and one gold coin - believed to be part of the same haul - back in February this year.


It wasn’t overnight success, to say the least. For the 30 years up until February, the 20-acre field yielded just ‘a grotty thimble, a beer tap, a few bed springs, some broken bottles and a couple of old bits and bobs’.

‘But I just couldn’t stop. And now I can’t stop thinking about the people who left them there. It’s as if I can feel their history.’

Which must have been grisly.

In 55BC, as Julius Caesar’s army sliced and pillaged its way through Gaul, and Roman galleys popped up like death ships off the coast, a Celtic tribe called the Coriosolitae buried their treasure in a panic. 

‘They must have dumped it in a hurry — there was no box, no container, just a rough-shaped hole and they hurled it in,’ says Reg, suddenly rather emotional.

‘Maybe they were taken into slavery, maybe they were all killed. But it’s been sitting there for over 2,000 years. How can anyone not be interested in history? How can anyone not be interested in metal-detecting?’

One person who isn’t quite so obsessed is Reg’s wife of 49 years, Ruth. She is 70, very attractive, immaculately presented and extremely long-suffering. 

‘Before “The Find”, what he brought home was usually just something else to put in the rubbish bin,’ she says.

‘He’d show me this and that, but there was nothing much, nothing exciting. And a lot of mud. But it could have been worse. It could be golf. And he’s not a pub man.’

Since ‘The Find’, Reg and Ruth have been thrown into disarray.

‘It’s been a rollercoaster — the phone won’t stop ringing. Everyone’s so pleased for us. He’s had calls from America, Australia, Thailand, Canada, Spain and South Africa, and it won’t stop. I wish it would now — I can’t think straight.’


Determined Reg Mead and Richard Miles spent decades searching a field in Jersey after hearing rumours that a farmer had discovered silver coins while working on his land.


The team prepares to lift the haul out of the ground, a side view demonstrating how big the bundle of coins is.


Getting the hoard out: Metal detector Reg Mead (centre, back, blue polo shirt) watches as archaeologists unearth the Celtic coin hoard.


Ruth may not have caught the bug, but there’s a whole metal-detecting community out there who have — and not just in Jersey. The National Council for Metal Detecting has just celebrated its 31st anniversary. 

Reg was president of the Jersey Detective Society for 25 years until it disbanded last year (‘We’ve gone independent, though we still meet every Thursday in the pub to share the gossip and chat about what fields we’re “playing”’).

There are even two dedicated metal-detecting magazines — Treasure Hunting and The Searcher, which include articles such as ‘Clay pipes and how to date them’ and detailed reviews of the newest metal detectors available. 

For Reg, it all started back in 1958 when his brother came home with a monster of a metal detector — called a Deep Frequency Oscillator — which had been made by a friend.

‘It really screamed and only detected an inch or so down, but on our first outing we dug up an old threepenny bit and a penny, and I’ve been detectoring ever since.’

It was when Reg, Ruth and their two children moved to Jersey from Lewes, East Sussex, in 1976, that his hobby really took off.

‘Jersey’s a brilliant place for treasure,’ he says. ‘During the German occupation a lot of family treasure was hidden, and people have been depositing money here for centuries, not just in tax-free banks.'


Neil Mahrer, Conservator for the Jersey Heritage Museum inspects some of the coins uncovered in Europe's largest hoard of Iron Age coins worth up to GBP10 million.


‘Richard joined us as a young pup over 30 years ago — his dad had bought him a metal detector and dropped him off at one of our meetings.’

‘I found a military grenadier’s button and a gold ring and I was hooked,’ says Richard.

He and Reg have been firm friends ever since.

They went on detecting trips all over the island, while Reg became more and more obsessed by the tale of the farmer in the parish of Grouville who, legend has it, ploughed up a clay pot of silver coins back in the Fifties, gave a bag full to the local mayor and, keen to avoid any disruption to his crops, ploughed the rest back into the soil and said nothing.

Meanwhile, Richard and Reg got permission to detect on the land, but were given access only when the field was fallow — in the gaps between the Jersey royals, cabbages and wheat. 

‘In between, we waited. And tried other sites. But we always came back. Something drew us back for 30 years. I always thought there might be a few more coins, but never 50,000.’

Today, Reg has four detectors, stored in immaculate condition in his garden shed. 

He very kindly gives me a quick lesson in the next-door field — he insists he can’t show me The Find field (‘for security reasons, or everyone would be there digging away’). 

But he does show me how to check the battery, sweep in big arcs just skimming the grass as we walk side by side and twiddle the ‘discriminator’ knob to block out unwanted bleeping ‘from foil and iron and rubbish stuff. God, I hate tin foil.’

He knows his stuff. Where I see a nice green field, because of what he has discovered in the past, he sees the site of a three-masted ship, a training centre for naval recruits and a medieval rabbit farm. 

‘Ooh, I’ve had some lovely finds in this field.’

And while he insists he gives away any interesting finds, he is very attached to his beeping machines. 

‘They all do different jobs on different sites and vary in price from about £100 to £1,500, but it’s the Deepseeker that’s really special.

'It’s the only one on Jersey and I’m not getting it out for you. It goes so deep it might encourage the wrong people. And anyway, Ruth doesn’t know what it cost ...’

Ah. But surely now they’ve struck gold, she won’t mind.

After all, even when they’ve split it three ways with the landowner (optimistic as ever, they’ve had a written agreement in place for decades, just in case) there should be plenty of change from £10 million.

‘Ten million? That’s pie in the bloody sky! It’s going to be a long, hard legal battle before anyone sees any money.’

And he’s right. In England, under the 1996 Treasure Act, finds must be reported if they constitute ‘treasure’ — gold or silver pieces that are more than 300 years old.


The Roman and Celtic silver and gold coins were entombed under a hedge in a large mound of clay, weighing three quarters of a ton and measuring 140 x 80 x 20cm.


On Jersey it’s more of a muddle. Treasure regulations are based on medieval law, and depend on establishing not just that the hoard contains precious metal, but how and why it came to be placed in the ground. 

While that’s all sorted out — which could take up to a year — the coins and goodness knows what else sit in an unnamed air-conditioned location (‘it’s top secret — I couldn’t possibly tell you’) still stuck together in one huge, multi-million-pound lump, but now carefully sprayed with  chemicals to stop any more corrosion.

‘We’ll get something — a reward on a negotiated value, but no one knows what. It could be worth loads more than we think — there could be all sorts of jewellery in there, but we have to be realistic. We just want to enjoy the moment for now. 

'Because for us, it’s never been about the money. If it was, we’d have given up years ago.’

Really? All those years trudging about in the rain, they never had an eye on the money?

‘Really,’ Reg says firmly. ‘I’m not well off. But I’ve got enough to pay my bills and I’m still alive and enjoying every morning when I wake up.

'I don’t want to go round the world and I don’t want a new car: besides, if I came home from detecting with a new car covered in mud, Ruth would go mad. 

‘And I know it sounds daft with all my detecting, but I hate mud, too. One scrap on the kitchen floor and I’m down on my knees with the dustpan and brush.’

Richard is just the same. ‘I’ve got most things I want. I’d probably put some towards my children’s education and give the rest to charity.’

Gosh. What a noble, brilliantly down-to-earth pair.

Today, they have fulfilled their wildest dreams. But of late, they’ve also been neglecting their detectors, which are busy gathering dust.

So when will they be back out there?

‘I don’t know,’ says Reg, with a rueful smile. ‘It’s ruined my hobby now. How the hell can I get out of bed on a wet, windy morning in January to go and find a few grotty coins and bits and pieces when 

I’ve found everything I ever wanted to?’

Oh no! So what now — surely not the dreaded golf?

‘Never! I want to make my mark by helping to establish a proper Treasure Act for Jersey. And then I’ll be happy metal detecting up in Heaven, where everything’s made of gold and there’s no tin foil.’


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