A rare and ancient silver coin was found by an archaeological fieldworker at an excavation site near Conception Bay in the eastern part of Newfoundland, Canada. It is believed to be the oldest ever English coin found in Canada and possibly in all of North America.
The coin was unearthed beneath about 20 centimeters (7.9 inches) of soil close to the northeastern part of the excavation site and not far from where a wooden palisade once stood. The site held the Cupids plantation which was the oldest English settlement in the entire country. It was settled by a merchant named John Guy who came from Bristol, England, in addition to several other colonists who joined him. By the year 1613, they had constructed numerous structures that included the first ever brewery and sawmill in Canada.
The plantation was first discovered back in 1995 by William Gilbert who is the head archeologist and supervisor at the Cupids Cove Plantation Provincial Historic Site – it was declared a historic site in May of 2011. Incredibly, by the time that it was declared a historic site, over 150,000 artifacts had already been unearthed there. “You can picture kind of a Wild West fort arrangement,” Gilbert explained.
Based on analysis of the coin, it was minted in Canterbury, England, between the years 1493 and 1499. Measuring about the same size as a nickel, it is referred to as a Henry VII “half groat” or two-penny piece. One side of coin contains a stylized portrait of King Henry VII as well as an inscription in Latin that translates to “Henry, by the grace of God, King of England and France”. The other side has a cross with the king’s motto in Latin that translates to “I have made God my helper”.
Steve Crocker, who is Newfoundland’s tourism minister, stated, “It is incredible to imagine that this coin was minted in England and was lost in Cupids over a hundred years later,” adding, “It links the story of the early European exploration in the province and the start of English settlement.”
Prior to this discovery, the oldest English coin in Canada was an Elizabethan coin that dates back to 1560-1561. Interestingly, it was found in 2001 at the same site as the King Henry VII coin.
It is expected that the newly discovered coin will be put on display just before the site opens to tourists in 2022. A picture of the coin can be seen here.