Jerry Morris or JBM as he is also known has been a very respected name on the UK detecting circuit for many years, and indeed a dear friend of the XP team.
Jerry is approaching his 83rd birthday and still manages to get out with his Deus 3 times a week which should be an inspiration to us all. Rumour has it that there were so many candles on his birthday cake last year a risk assessment had to be put in place and a fire warden on standby.
I could write a whole book on Jerry, he is such an interesting guy and very wise to the workings of the world, his work for charities and generosity is something he rarely discusses in public and I know he will hate me for even mentioning this.
Last year Jerry had a bit of luck, it is one of those times when it was simply meant to be as the circumstances were so bazaar you could not make it up.
After a rainy day detecting he was cleaning the mud off his coil, like we all do by sweeping it over a clean patch of grass when he got a signal that just could not be left in the ground.
Exhausted after his days detecting he decided to get his spade and investigate.
What he unearthed with his XP Deus metal detector was an extremely rare American copper coin, but he didn’t realise this at the time, he originally thought it was a copper token or something along those lines. He told me at the time it looked like another candidate for the scrap box, but on closer inspection this coin looked different.
Jerry’s coin a Maryland penny 1658 / 59
Research is king
When he got to his computer he posted some pictures on the web and a knowledgeable chap contacted him saying “Do you know what you have found “
It was a Maryland Penny – At that point in time Jerry had no idea how events were to unfold.
Being a copper coin it had suffered from some corrosion which is understandable after being in the ground for hundreds of years, but the features slowly emerged as he gently cleaned it.
The obverse side had a head facing to the left and the reverse showed a Coronet with 2 staffs and pennants. The obverse legend CAECILIVS. DNS. TERRAE: MARINE:&C the reverse side reading DENARIVM:TERRAE:MARIAE this was so unusual.
Jerry decided to start researching this coin and indeed the history of the location it was discovered.
The Maryland Penny is extremely rare (only 9 others are known) and is referred to as the Lord Baltimore Maryland Denarius copper penny 1658/59.
A better example
The Maryland Penny a brief history
Lord Baltimore’s coinage was minted when the Maryland colony had a severe shortage of money, which was urgently needed when trading their tobacco.
The coin started its life after being struck at the London Tower Mint for Lord Baltimore at the end of Oliver Cromwell’s time as Lord Protector.
The mint also produced prototype shillings, Sixpences, Groats and threepence coins plus a few of the pattern copper pennies.
Now here is the interesting part.
Lord Baltimore’s effort were short-lived and unsuccessful. His right to mint coins was called into question in England and the Dies were instructed to be destroyed, this is why production never got underway and only a handful of examples exist today. Tobacco was the exchange medium and continued to dominate throughout the colonial period.
How did the coin get from America to Bristol
Tobacco and other products were shipped from America to the UK, Bristol was the port but the river Avon leading to the port proved difficult to negotiate sometimes the ships were towed to the docks by large rowing boats other times the large ships were often tied up and unloaded at Crockerne Pill. This is where John Cabot and the famous Ship Matthew docked prior to her voyage of discovery.
The research all fits together as the port is also only 1 mile from where Jerry located this coin.
So, at the time the coin was lost, it had travelled from the mint in England, over to America and then back to England.
Jerry will take the story from here
My plan of action was to go to the top and make contact with Spink in London. After talking to them on the land line they seemed very keen to see the coin, even offering to come to my home to collect it.
One day in January my detecting friends Steve Hutching and Gary Blackwell from XP met up at Spink in London with the small coin safely tucked away in my pocket.
SPINKS representatives were there to meet at the agreed time and we all sat down at a beautiful boardroom table to introduce ourselves and talk about the events leading up to the day.
We showed them the all-important Baltimore penny that had brought us together and I watched their faces with some delight.
SPINK had of course already done their homework and there was little that I could add other than how it had come out of hiding using my XP Deus after 300 plus years.
The senior company representative looked in my direction and said Mr Morris do you realise what you have found, yes, I replied.
With a smile on his face he said I don’t think that you do.
I was asked what I would like to do with the coin and my reply was that I was coming up to 83 years of age and it should be sold to a collector.
The next question to me was has it been recorded, as this was necessary for them to obtain a required export licence for it to leave the UK to go to their SPINK auction in New York where they assured me the coin would steal the show and cause a lot of interest. They also suggested that an insurance value of £50,000 should be put on the coin.
Jerry outside the Spink offices in London photograph by Gary Blackwell
Knowing how busy the PAS are and bearing in mind that SPINK have more contacts than myself I asked them to take of the task for me. I wanted Gary and Steve along with me for advice and general support.
In fact, they agreed to do everything that was required including obtaining the export licence which needed approval by the Arts Council.
They explained about the “slabbing” process and assured us there would be no problem as they could clearly see the coin was genuine.
Slabbing is a term used in the USA to confirm if an item is authentic.
3 months later this tiny coin was on its way back to America where it was last seen all those centuries ago.
This would be its 3rd crossing of the Atlantic the first 2 trips by olden day sailing ships and this time by a 21st century aircraft.
Now the adventure takes a nose dive and some strange events start to happen.
Silence is Golden
After several weeks of waiting, apart from a few personal e-mails and the occasional phone call we are all waiting to hear from the American slabbers.
It seems strange to all concerned that the USA experts have yet to authenticate this coin as genuine, it is almost unbelievable that this coin was located in England by a British detectorist.
I did some investigating via the internet and also found that my coin was not featured in the SPINK June catalogue.
It appears that for some unknown reason the American experts are very slow in responding to SPINK with regards to this being a genuine coin or not
The British Museum have declared it as one of National Importance, I am truly baffled by the lack of correspondence.
The only other identical coin like it to be found by a metal detectorist was in America and is to be featured in a book, the publishers are keen to have my coin associated with the American example.
All I can say is watch this space, as my story unfolds I will Keep XP updated so they can share the latest information with you.
Will this fantastic coin be crossing the Atlantic for a fourth time ?
Jerry Morris the finder of the rare Maryland penny
Jerry Morris and Gary Blackwell