A LOCAL man is celebrating a once-in-a-lifetime discovery after digging up a hoard of ancient coins in Caithness.
Thrilled metal detector enthusiast Mikie Aitken believes the find, made last week, could be worth a small fortune.
Mr Aitken said that he felt as if he had struck gold when his detector started beeping and he uncovered the incredible stash.
The 27-year old self-employed non-destructive testing supervisor from Killimister came across the potentially valuable ancient coins while he was out engaging in hobby.
When he researched his find with other enthusiasts, he learned that the coins dated back to 1279 and if sold at auction could be worth thousands of pounds.
Speaking to the John O’Groat Journal this week, Mr Aitken said he has been told he has discovered coins which are extremely rare and of great interest to museums.
“I only took up metal detecting over a year ago, but have become very interested in it and have scanned several sites across Caithness,” he said.
“I only found these coins by accident, as I wasn’t particularly looking for anything, it was a million-to-one chance that anybody could find something as valuable as these coins.
“When I returned home, I immediately discussed what I had found with members of a metal detecting forum whom I speak with on a regular basis.
“They thought that my discovery was unbelievable and ranked it as one of the most special find of coins to have been discovered in Caithness.”
Currently, Mr Aitken has nine coins in possession from the site, the location of which he is keeping secret, and there are still others to be dug up.
They date to 1279 and include five silver, hammered Edward I coins, which have engraved on them a picture of the head of Edward Longshanks, also known as the Hammer of the Scots, who was on the English throne at the time of William Wallace.
Four other coins are engraved with the head of King Alexander III of Scotland which are thought to be extremely rare.
They are said to be in almost perfect condition to the point that Mr Aitken can tell where they were minted.
Similar coins which are being sold at auction around the country are fetching around £300 each, but given the mint condition of Mr Aitken’s it is hoped they could fetch several hundreds pounds more – if he decides to sell them.
“The coins that I have seen on the internet are in nowhere near as good condition as the ones which I have found,” he said.
“The Treasure Trove Scotland will value them for me and if they want to keep them, then museums can bid for these coins and I will split the profits between the landowners and myself.
“But if they can’t find a museum who wants to bid for them, I would be happy to keep them for myself. This is a very special find for me and I’m not sure if I would want to sell them as money isn’t the most important thing for me.”
Mr Aitken is planning to return to the site this weekend to lift the rest of the coins before declaring them to Treasure Trove Scotland, which can claim on behalf of the nation, by law, any object or coin found in Scotland from before the Victorian era.
Treasure Trove Scotland spokesman Stewart Campbell said that he would not be able to comment on the value of the coins without inspecting them first.
“I look forward to getting in touch with Mr Aitken to investigate the significance of the find,” he said. “Without being able to see them, I couldn’t comment on their value or rarity.
“In general the find of 13th century coins is not uncommon, but the significance does lie in a number of coins being found together, as in this case.”