Metal Detector Hobbyists Find Rare Heap Of Celtic Coins

For more than 30 years, Richard Miles and Reg Mead scoured the fields of their native Jersey with metal detectors, hoping to one day come across an ancient coin or two. Earlier this week, the detector beeped and they found the world's largest-ever stash of Celtic coins. Host Scott Simon speaks with Reg Mead about their find.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Reg Mead and Richard Miles began to scour a field on their home island of Jersey - the one that's British, not the one next to New York - after hearing talk that a farmer had found some silver coins on the land. They are amateur metal detector hobbyists and they kept searching for 30 years. Well, earlier this week, they struck gold. Or at least silver.

With the help of some professionals, Reg Mead and Richard Miles unearthed a literal ton of coins - tens of thousands worth an estimated 10 million pounds - $15 million. Guess that pays off more than playing weekend golf for 30 years. Reg Mead and Richard Miles join us from their homes in Jersey. Gentlemen, thanks for being with us.

RICHARD MILES: Hello. Good evening.

SIMON: So, I mean, what kept you searching for 30 years?

MILES: Well, Reg heard the initial story about these coins. We knew that possibly these were Celtic staters, so then the hunt was on. We searched for many, many years in a number of the fields around the locality and this is the one that we struck lucky in.

SIMON: I understand that for a month; I don't understand it for 30 years.

REG MEAD: It wasn't actually every day for 30 years. What it was, was we have very little time between crops here in Jersey because we have the Royal potatoes that come out very early and then you have all the other filling crops. So roughly each year at a maximum 10 to 15 man hours was put into the fields whenever we were allowed on there.

SIMON: Could you give us the exact coordinates of the field so we can help you dig?

(LAUGHTER)

MEAD: Thank you very much. Yes. Yes. Do you know where the airport is?

SIMON: Oh, I'll Google it.

(LAUGHTER)

MEAD: Well, it's nowhere near there.

(LAUGHTER)

SIMON: Forgive me, I don't know the local laws. Is it finders keepers there in Jersey?

MILES: We have an old practice called the practice of trove and (unintelligible) on it's recorded at the correct time and if it is declared to be treasure trove then they will allow the museums or the authority will hang onto everything. If they don't want them, then they will give us the coins back. If they wish to retain them, then they will give us the full market value.

SIMON: And the full market value could be up to, well, all the coins would be $15 million.

MEAD: If everybody's happy with that figure, fine, but honestly and truly don't know.

SIMON: Oh. It could be just a few pounds too, right? If the museums want to keep most of them?

MEAD: I wouldn't go that far.

(LAUGHTER)

SIMON: Maybe you'll get a nice set of cufflinks out of it or something.

MEAD: Yeah. Gold ones, Richard?

MILES: Yeah. They would be nice, wouldn't they? A memento of our times.

SIMON: One last question. Being from Jersey are you big Bruce Springsteen fans?

MEAD: Yeah, there you go. My wife loves him.

(LAUGHTER)

MEAD: I like that.

SIMON: Well, that's Reg Mead and Richard Miles. They're amateur coin finders from the island of Jersey. Maybe they shouldn't be amateurs anymore. Thanks very much for speaking with us.

MEAD: It's been a pleasure. Thank you.

MILES: Thank you, Scott.

SIMON: This is NPR News.

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