Viking Currency & Treasure Troves
Maybe combing and searching with metal detectors pays off after all…
In the case of the two men who discovered a hoard of 130 Viking coins on the coast of Southeast Denmark, the above statement undoubtedly rings true. The hoard they found, which dates back to around 1000 A.D., was buried near Kalvehave Kirke (Church), and upon its discovery the men made the selfless decision to hand them over to a team of expert archaeologists.
If you happen upon a hoard of ancient coins, it’ll be in your best interest to place them in some nice coin cases. Until that happens, read on to learn about Viking money and old treasure trove laws in general:
The coins found in Denmark were mostly from England. Considering Vikings were not of English descent, this may be puzzling to you?
In the middle ages (around 1000 A.D.), Anglo-Saxon royalty paid out Vikings millions of ounces of silver coins to protect their homeland from invasion. This new discovery in Denmark is almost certainly a product of that phenomenon.
In pre-Viking Scandinavia, coin-based currency did not exist. As the Viking Age took over that geographical area, a bullion coin economy was established, meaning the coins that were used were valued for their weight in gold and silver (unlike the coins we use today, which are not valued by their pure weight in whatever metal they’re produced in). During those times, silver was by far the most used metal, however gold was also prevalent.
As much as the Vikings were better invaders and warriors than the Anglo-Saxons, they looked up to the English for their level of civility, leading them to adopt many Anglo-Saxon cultural values and ways of operation—hence the Vikings’ introduction of their own system of coinage in the 800s.
Treasure Troves & the Law
This story brings another question to mind—what are the laws regarding these important historical treasure troves found on private property. Do they belong to the current land owner? Do they belong to the state in which they were discovered? There are many questions pertaining to ownership here. Let’s start with the definition.
Treasure troves are coins, bullions, gold or silver articles that are found buried in the earth (or in cellars and attics), and cannot be linked to a known owner.
There is no universal law for how to treat treasure trove findings, and the semantics vary from nation to nation; they have also varied through the eras. Two prominent cultures with notable old treasure trove laws were the Romans and the Medieval-era English. Here are some of their rules:
In Ancient Rome, a treasure trove was called a thesaurus. Under Roman law, if a landowner came upon a thesaurus on his own property, he was entitled to keep the lot. However, if a person found a treasure trove on someone else’s property, he was to split half with the landowner.
Under English common law, a true treasure trove had to be buried with intent to recover it later. A famous example of this rule applying was the great discovery at Sutton Hoo, where the “treasure” was lost at sea, and thus, not hidden with intent to recover at a later date, so by default not considered a treasure trove. Because of that fact, the Crown held the right to its ownership. The Crown would only have to give up the hoard if someone else came along with a legitimate title of ownership to it.
Going back to those combers who are responsible for bringing this topic to light, while they gave up the coins to archaeologists, their work didn’t go without some monetary recognition. They were paid out the equivalent value of all the silver they discovered for their findings.
While that may sound like chump change compared to the cultural significance of what they gave up, their discovery will now be added to the canon of mankind’s relationship with currency—and for that they should feel proud.
With that said, it looks like they won’t be needing any coin holders for their findings this time around, but if you are in need of some, don’t hesitate to peruse our inventory. However, don’t be surprised if you can’t find one that fits ancient Viking silver coin sizes!