A 700-year-old coin caused a whole lot of trouble
A British girl named Kate Harding was out working in the garden with her mother on a normal day. She was 9 years old and had no idea the silver coin she had just found in the dirt was over 700 years old. She put it away and didn’t think much about it.
Many years later, she found herself face-to-face with the police at her front door; she had no idea what was happening, but she would soon find out. Her life was about to be drastically affected in a way she couldn’t have predicted. Here’s what happened to Kate Harding 14 years later.
When she was 9 years old
Kate Harding probably thought it was nothing more than an old, quirky-looking coin when she found it in her backyard. Kate and her mother had been gardening when she discovered the coin in the dirt. She picked up the coin and put it away, not thinking too much about it.
Kate’s mother passed away and she was forced to think about other, more pressing matters. Life went on and she didn’t think much about the coin for a while. Kate grew up, and 14 years later, she had gained a renewed interest in the coin. She started to look into the history of the coin.
The older she got, the more information she could get ahold of and process. Kate began to research where the coin came from to see if she could get any leads on its history. Without any luck, she turned to museums to see if the staff could help her identify the coin’s past.
Unfortunately, she was about to be involved in a lot more than a simple history project. It was too late to turn back once she got into the thick of it. Kate had already talked to the museum people and found herself answering other people’s questions rather than asking them.
What is it?
Kate was told by experts that the “coin” she had in her possession was something else entirely. Furthermore, they told her that it was an incredibly rare find and worth a lot of money. They had only found four of them in the entirety of the United Kingdom.
You would think that this was all great for Kate to find out; she had helped unearth a huge part of history without even realizing it. It’s too bad that other people had a different idea in mind. Things were about to get heated as she found herself in some hot water.
What is a piedfort?
The history experts she talked to told her that it wasn’t a coin in the same sense as it is known today. It was actually a piedfort, which is a type of coin that wasn’t necessarily used as a common currency. Officials and higher-ranking officers used these for several different things.
They could be used as administrative tools for approval as well as examples of what the printing of currency was going to look like when they were finished and mass-produced. Piedforts are incredibly rare and the one Kate had found was rarer still. She would soon find out the hard way.
Although some uses for piedforts were guessed at, it wasn’t certain what these were actually used for back when they were made. Historians could only speculate at the use of these coin-like objects. This specific coin turned out to be over 700 years old, and was attached to a certain monarch.
The piedfort turned out to be French and was tied to Charles IV of France. The object was thought to have marked Charles IV’s rise to the throne way back in 1322. This was all very interesting, but Kate couldn’t have guessed what the staff would tell her next.
What was it worth?
Kate had an understandable value attached to the coin, especially due to the fact that she had been with her mother when she found it. The history experts told her that the coin was worth approximately $3,000, but it was worth more to her than that; it was priceless to her.
To have something that personal and dear to her be valued at $3,000 must have made it that much more special. Unfortunately, what she was about to be told next wasn’t going to make her feel good about owning the rare piedfort. She got some advice from the museum staff.
Kate messed up
The specific museum she had been at, the Ludlow Museum, told her that she should go visit a coroner so that she could begin the process of getting the coin sold to a museum. Understandably, Kate wanted to keep the coin for herself to hold onto the memories of her childhood.
She would soon find out that she should have sold the coin right away. What happened next could have been avoided if Kate had simply gone to the coroner and eventually gotten the coin sold off. But she didn’t mind; Kate simply thought she’d go about her life just the same.
Letters and phone calls
Kate went back to her life like normal, but soon, she began receiving dozens of letters and phone calls. The number of letters began to stack up and the phone calls began to come in daily. She couldn’t escape the pestering of the museum staff. She just wanted to be left alone.
Shortly after that, she received a really important call from a coroner nearby. Anthony Sibcy, from South Shropshire, got word of the coin and contacted Kate. Kate still refused to sell the rare piedfort. She had absolutely no idea what visit she was about to get at her own home.
Kate was living her life, minding her own business, when she received a knock at her door. She opened her front door to the faces of the police, standing right at her doormat. They told her that she had been summoned to appear in court. It turns out, it was related to the piedfort.
Obviously, Kate was shocked at what happened right at her front doorstep. What could she have done that had warranted a summons to court? Apparently, the Treasure Act 1996 was to blame for the court summons and the police visit. But what exactly did that mean for Kate Harding?
Treasure Act 1996
It turns out, according to the Treasure Act 1996, Kate was in some serious trouble. The act held that ancient objects over 300 years of age, not categorized as coins, made up of at least 10% rare metals, had to be reported within two weeks of being found.
Upon failing to report these objects, the perpetrator would be in violation of the law, and thus be charged with criminal activity. This all seemed ridiculous to Kate, so she immediately tried to get to the bottom of what was going on. Should she be worried at all about the summons?
Time for a defense
But before she could even defend herself, she found herself arrested by the police and prosecuted right away. She had three months of jail time ahead of her if she didn’t do something right away. Kate got ahold of her lawyer, Brendan Reedy, as soon as she could do so.
Brendan came to her defense, with the claim that Kate hadn’t reported the coin for valid reasons. He said that she hadn’t reported the coin because it meant so much to her and because the organization of the whole process was a mess and didn’t allow for a smooth negotiation.
She kept fighting
Kate was up for the fight, insisting that she had no idea of the value of the coin when she found it, and that she was being treated unjustly. She wanted to keep the coin no matter what, due to its value to her, which she couldn’t put a price on.
It was the last thing she owned that reminded her of her mother and she was determined to keep it. So what ended up happening to Kate and her priceless coin? She finally ran into a little bit of luck, at last. Of course, that depends on your definition of “luck.”
Free at last
Finally, Kate was allowed to leave, on the condition that she pay a $30 legal fee. Unfortunately, she was told that the coin had to be given up because the court had ruled against her keeping it. She still believed the coin was hers, so she decided to do something about the messed-up situation.
Once the dust began to settle, she thought it was time to visit the coroner. She had a plan in place and it was finally time to execute it. Kate went to the coroner and had a quick chat about the coin and what would happen with it next.
Kate was offered $3,000 for the piedfort by the museum, which they thought was completely fair. So what did Kate do in order to keep the coin for herself? She claimed that she didn’t know what had happened to the piedfort; she lost it. The museum was obviously outraged.
But what could they do about the situation? They had no way of proving that Kate was actually in possession of the piedfort. Word soon got out about the whole mess, and the public wasn’t happy about it. They were mad at the museum and the law for what they had put Kate through.
The public to the rescue
Comments began flooding in as the word began to spread across the U.K. through news and social media. People started to send in complaints and voice their very strong opinions about what had happened. Almost everyone was on Kate’s side, commenting on how wrong everything about the particular situation was.
It was really heartening for Kate to get such a strong outpouring of support for what she had been through. But why had the whole incident happened in the first place? Was it really necessary, or were the officials simply doing their job of following the letter of the law?
There were some important questions that were being posed by other citizens. Kate had found the coin in 1996, which happened to be the same year that the law had been passed. In addition, how could the court even prove that she had found it in that year? What if she had found it before 1996?
Didn’t this mean that they had to prove the date on which she had found the piedfort? Was that even possible to prove? They had a lot of work to do if they were going to prove all of that information. But were they going to even care about any of that?
A man named Alan, from Coventry, commented that “… if it took place 14 years ago she was only 9 years old. What was the age of criminal responsibility at the time? For juveniles under the age of 15, the prosecution would still have to prove that she knew that the act was seriously wrong.”
Furthermore, he said, “As the magistrates’ appalling ignorance of the law has given her a criminal record, I think she should appeal before a real judge.” So what happened, since Kate’s reputation and record were clearly damaged by the court ruling? Did she go about changing any of what happened?
Although it’s likely that Kate lied about losing the coin, there was no way to prove it without a pointless investigation that no one was interested in carrying out. Kate didn’t do anything more to fight and simply stayed silent. There wasn’t really anything else the museum could do without harassing her further.
Kate continued to live her life, and everyone eventually left her alone. Whether or not she lied about keeping the coin, things settled down for Kate Harding. She went back to her normal life and she was finally left to her own devices. Did she actually keep the coin or not?
The mystery remains
It was never discovered what actually happened to the piedfort and whether or not Kate kept it. Since the museum couldn’t prove it either way, Kate was at peace at long last. If she did have the coin, she definitely didn’t sell it to the museum. It was simply too important to her.
Luckily, she didn’t face any other fines or fees after the whole incident. She found herself back at her place, living at ease with her boyfriend. It could have been way worse for Kate, but she got lucky in the end. She was still heavily affected by a simple piece of metal.
What would you do?
The piedfort was so important that she was willing to turn down $3,000 for her treasured memories. It makes sense that she didn’t want to part with something so valuable to her, especially because she had nothing else to remember her mother by. It’s a good thing her life went back to normal.
What would you do if you were in a similar situation? Would you lie about the coin, give it up for the money, or is there something else you would end up doing? Treasured memories matter, and at the end of the day, that’s what’s important, especially in Kate’s case.