Published: 23/05/2012 11:00 - Updated: 23/05/2012 09:24

Local museum hope for buried treasure

Mikie Aitken.
Mikie Aitken.

ONE of the most significant hoards of coins to have been found in Caithness looks set to be displayed at a museum in the county.

Metal detector enthusiast Mikie Aitken (28), from Killimster, made a once-in-a-lifetime discovery after finding a total 46 coins that were thought to be over 700 years old.

Now accredited museums in Caithness are set to be given the opportunity to bid to display the coins at their premises.

Ever since they were first discovered in January, Mr Aitken’s coins have attracted attention from across the country, with experts describing the find as extremely significant.

After analysing the hoard, Treasure Trove Scotland discovered that the coins were in circulation only 30 years after Caithness became part of Scotland, predating 1290.

Mr Aitken said that the hope now is that the coins will return north and he is confident a new home can be found in Caithness.

"The Treasure Trove has confirmed to me that the coins will be returned close to home and accredited museums in Caithness will have the opportunity to bid for them if they so wish," he said.

"That is what it is all about for me as I’m not interested in personal gain from the discovery. I am just proud that I found them and want everyone to have the chance to see them."

He added: "It was quite interesting to hear the results of the analysis that the Treasure Trove undertook and to find that Caithness was still technically Norse when the coins were in use."

It is estimated that the coins are worth around £300 each if sold individually. However, Mr Aitken will get a reward from Treasure Trove Scotland as it can claim any coin found on Scottish land that predates the Victorian era.

Senior curator of numismatics for the National Museums of Scotland Nick Holmes analysed the hoard and confirmed the find as 25 Scottish coins of Alexander III, 20 English coins of Edward I and one continental issue of John of Avesnes.

Dunbeath Heritage Centre has confirmed that it is one of the accredited museums in the Far North interested in housing the collection, with manager Meg Sinclair saying the significance of the find is huge in unearthing the history of the county.

"Our collection policy for archaeology covers all of Caithness and we have regular dialogue with Caithness Horizons in Thurso that is the other accredited museum in the Far North," she said.

"It is something that we would be very interested in bidding for as we have been very excited about this hoard of coins ever since Mr Aitken discovered them."

A successful bidder for the coins is expected to be announced towards the end of the year.

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