£50,000 reward for four-inch silver figurine

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The Independent Online

When Danny Lambert found a small metal figurine during a routine day out metal detecting in Hertfordshire, he simply added it to his collection of Roman coins and buckles and forgot about it.

When Danny Lambert found a small metal figurine during a routine day out metal detecting in Hertfordshire, he simply added it to his collection of Roman coins and buckles and forgot about it.

The silver artefact has now been dated to the 13th century and bought for £50,000 by the British Museum, where it will go on display today.

Mr Lambert, who shared the money equally with the landowner, who has not been named, said he would buy a new Ford Focus and take his wife, Jo, on holiday to Elvis Presley's home, Graceland, in Memphis.

His delight at finding the rare four-and-a-half-inch statue was in contrast to the chagrin experienced by another pair of metal detectors from Hull who ended up with nothing after a treasure trove hearing ruled they had not only lied about where they found a lump of gold but tried to talk up its value.

Nigel Wilding, a cucumber-greenhouse worker, and his father-in-law, John Sutton, claimed they had found the 7th-century sword pommel in a lump of clay on the beach - an area of common land that meant they would not have to share any money it raised.

The sword was at the centre of a treasure trove inquiry at Hull coroner's court two years ago, at which experts were called in when Mr Sutton claimed the artefact had been valued at up to £3m. It was later traced to an area inland where Mr Sutton eventually admitted he had been metal detecting a day earlier than described.

No charges were brought against the men but the sword, which was valued at £100,000 was declared the property of the Crown until East Riding Council raised the money to buy it back. Had the men been honest about where they found it they would have received £50,000; as it was, they got nothing. The sword will go on display at Sewerby Hall, on the outskirts of Bridlington on Friday.

Mr Lambert, who unveiled his figurine at the British Museum yesterday, said he did not detect for the money but for the connection with the past. "When I find things I like to hold them and try and visualise what the person was doing when they lost the item and what the land might have been like. It's a good feeling."

After finding the figure on a farm last year, Mr Lambert simply put it in a drawer until a friend asked him what had become of it. He took it to a dealer who advised him to declare it because it was probably more than 300 years old and made of precious metal.

He contacted the British Museum and after several months of consultation with auction houses and experts he received a letter saying the tiny figure, which is thought to be an apostle or saint, was 13th century and worth £50,000. "My wife thought it was a mistake and I was amazed," he said.

A spokeswoman for the National Art Collections Fund, which gave the British Museum £20,000 towards the cost of the figure, said it was extremely rare. "While medieval figures of bronze have been found with relative frequency, small silver figures are extremely rare, since they were often melted down," she said.

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