Amateur historian discovers 600-year-old English coin in Newfoundland

The discovery of a rare gold coin on the south coast of Newfoundland, Canada, may challenge traditional historical narratives about the timing of European contact in the region, as it predates explorer John Cabot’s arrival on the island by at least 70 years.

In a press release last week, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador said that the English coin was found during the summer of 2022 by Edward Hynes, a local amateur historian, who reported it to officials as required under the province’s Historic Resources Act. The 600-year-old coin predates the first documented European contact with North America since the Vikings, in a region with a 9,000-year-old history of human settlement and rich Indigenous traditions.

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After consultation with Paul Berry, a former curator of the Bank of Canada’s Currency Museum, the coin was identified as a Henry VI quarter noble, minted in London between 1422 and 1427. In the 1400s, the coin would have represented a significant sum of money, valued at 1 shilling 8 pence, or around 81 Canadian dollars ($61) today.

Prior to this discovery, a coin minted in the 1490s and found in 2021 at the province’s Cupids Cove Plantation Provincial Historic Site was considered the oldest English coin ever found in Canada.

As Berry says that the coin was likely out of circulation when it was lost, there is much speculation about exactly how the gold quarter noble coin made its way to Newfoundland and Labrador. The precise location of the discovery is being kept secret to discourage treasure hunters.

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