Somerset haul of coins is declared treasure

A metal detecting enthusiast who found one of the largest hoards of Roman coins in Britain was hoping for a substantial reward yesterday after his find was officially declared to be treasure.

Dave Crisp found about 52,000 coins from the 3rd century AD buried in a field near Frome, Somerset, in April. The coins, made from debased silver or bronze, were in a ceramic pot just over a foot underground.

The find also included coins issued during the reign of Carausius from 286 to 293. He was the first Roman emperor to strike coins in Britain. Mr Crisp said: "I have been metal detecting since 1988 and this hoard is the most exciting and important find that I have ever made."

The find was declared treasure and property of the Crown at an inquest at East Somerset Coroner's Court in Frome. Under the Treasure Act, Somerset County Council Heritage Service can buy the hoard for its new Museum of Somerset when it reopens in 2011.

The amount to be split between Mr Crisp and the landowner will be set by the Treasure Valuation Committee in the coming weeks. Since the discovery, which weighed about 160kg, was made, experts from the British Museum have been sifting through the coins. They believe the stash was intended as a religious offering, rather than storage. A selection from the find is on display at the museum until mid-August.

Roger Bland, head of portable antiquities at the British Museum, said it was an "extraordinary" discovery. "It's the largest hoard of coins that has ever been found in a single pot. In 1978, there was another find that was a little bit bigger but that was in two pots."