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Canterbury pensioner's hidden collection of rare coins sells for £185,000


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A pensioner's secret stash of rare coins has sold for a staggering £185,000 at auction - well over double the estimate.

John Cross, 72, from Canterbury, died with few knowing of his extraordinary collection, which has been described by experts as among the most important of its kind outside any UK museum.

It was only discovered when executors assessed belongings at his mobile home and found documents linked to the Anglo Saxon haul.

The 80 coins were so valuable that Mr Cross had held them in a bank vault for safekeeping.

They had been estimated to sell for £75,000 but keen bidding from collectors at the recent sale at the Canterbury Auction Galleries saw prices rocket, with two charities now set to benefit.

The most valuable single coin in the collection was an extremely rare gold Thrymsa, or shilling, dating from 640-660 and minted in Northumbria or York, which was estimated at £8,000-£12,000, but sold for £17,500.

The most valuable coin was an extremely rare gold Thrymsa, or shilling, dating from 640-660, which sold for £17,000
The most valuable coin was an extremely rare gold Thrymsa, or shilling, dating from 640-660, which sold for £17,000

A silver penny minted in 757-796 showing Cynethryth, Queen of the Mercians and wife of King Offa, sold for £7,400 against an estimate of £1,000-1,500.

Cynethryth is the only Anglo-Saxon queen known to have an image on a coin. Offa established his power in Kent in the mid-8th century until Egbert, King of Wessex, defeated the Mercian king Beornwulf in 825. A silver penny from Beornwulf’s short reign from 823-825 sold for £3,000.

A silver penny minted in 757-796 showing Cynethryth, Queen of the Mercians and wife of King Offa, sold for £7,400 against an estimate of £1,000-1,500.
A silver penny minted in 757-796 showing Cynethryth, Queen of the Mercians and wife of King Offa, sold for £7,400 against an estimate of £1,000-1,500.

Mr Cross's hoard included many silver pennies, including one from 1066 - a date familiar in schoolboy English history lessons - minted for King Harold II, who was killed at the Battle of Hastings

Mr Cross, who died last year, amassed the collection over a 20 to 30-year period, with many of the coins having connections to Canterbury, including a silver penny minted for the Archbishop and dating from 765-792.

A spokesman for the executors gave an insight into the enthusiast's incredible collection.

"On inspecting the gentleman’s personal items, it appears he was very much into researching Anglo Saxon and medieval history and had quietly amassed a sizeable collection," he said.

"He had a particular fascination for coinage from the period and he was also interested in early buildings and churches.

"He attended lectures and even held a certificate in archaeological excavation, for which he qualified back in 2010 when he was in his 60s."

A coin minted in 1066 for King Harold II
A coin minted in 1066 for King Harold II

The entire collection was sold at auction in separate lots during the sale yesterday (Sunday).

The proceeds will go to The British Numismatic Society and Friends of Kent Churches, as Mr Cross wished.

This article originally contained an image which was incorrectly captioned as John Cross, this image has been removed and we are happy to correct this error.

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