Working in the garden can be one of the most relaxing and rewarding activities you can do. Digging up worms and weeds to plant seeds and bring new life to your yard can revitalize any area around your home. Sometimes, though, you dig up more than you bargained for. That’s what happened when a young girl helping her mom stumbled upon an ancient coin. The events that followed have to be read to be believed!
Finding The Coin
Kate Harding was playing in the garden in Britain while her mom dug up weeds when she made the discovery of a lifetime. While messing around in the dirt, Kate found something shiny sparkling from the sun.
The little girl picked up the object to discover it was a small silver coin. Not wanting to lose her newfound treasure, Kate put the coin in her pocket and ran inside the house to hide it.
Safely Hidden In Her Dresser
Once inside, young Kate ran to her room where she spent the next week playing with her new coin. Once there were no games left, she hid the coin in her dresser drawer for safekeeping.
As happens with young kids, Kate forgot she had hidden the coin and years passed by. When she re-discovered her (now lost) treasure, she had no idea the effects it would have on her life.
Going Off To College
It was when Kate was getting ready to go to college that she found the coin again. She remembered that she originally hid it so she could have it as a keepsake.
Now older, it would serve as a reminder of a more innocent time. She had no idea, of course, the effect the coin would have on her future. Just what would happen when she dug into the history of the coin?
You might think that finding the coin would have filled Kate with happy memories, but that wasn’t true. Just a few months after she originally found the treasure, her mother passed away.
Finding the coin again right before she headed for college was bittersweet for the young woman. That day in the garden when she first saw the coin was one of the last memories she had of her and her mother together.
The Quest For The Truth
Now 23-years-old, Kate decided she wanted to know where the coin came from. It was obviously old, but how old? Was it historically relevant? How did it end up in her childhood garden?
To find answers to her questions, Kate needed help. She didn’t know where to begin her research but did know several museums that might be able to help. What was revealed turned out to be life-changing for Kate.
Finding A Coin Expert
To solve her mystery, Kate needed to find a numismatist, someone who studies different forms of currency. At one of the museums she visited, she was able to find one and gave them the details of how she found the coin.
The museum then asked if they could examine the coin more closely to help the young women find her answers. When they returned with their results, Kate finally found out the truth.
The Coin Wasn’t A Coin At All
As the numismatist gave Kate the results she had been searching for, one major discovery was revealed. The coin, as it turned out, wasn’t a coin at all. Kate couldn’t believe it!
The “coin” was one of four ever found in the United Kingdom. It was incredibly rare. It was so rare, that the truth of its identity would impact the next several months of Kate’s life in both positive and negative ways.
A Common Mistake
The “coin” that Kate had found as a young girl with her mother in her garden was actually a piedfort. Piedforts are commonly mistaken for coins, so the mix-up by Kate made perfect sense.
What didn’t make sense was why the piedfort had been buried in her garden. There was still a story to be told, but would Kate learn the whole truth before her life was flipped upside down?
The Piedfort Was Extremely Valuable
Because the piedfort was so rare, it was also incredibly valuable. As a college student living month to month, this was good news for Kate to hear. If she could sell the piedfort, maybe she could live comfortably while she earned her degree.
There was just one problem. Even though Kate was the person who found the coin, she didn’t technically own it. Therefore, if she sold it, she would not be entitled to any of the profit.
Experts told Kate that the piedfort could have been more than 700 years old! They were unable to tell her what the original purpose of it was, though. No one actually knows what piedforts were used for.
The best theory for what piedforts were used for is that mint employees could use them to calculate cost totals for business owners. Now that she knew the piedforts origins, Kate wanted to know how much money it was worth.
Digging into their history books, the museum workers were able to determine the piedfort that Kate had found was likely created to commemorate Charles IV’s sovereignty in 1322. This fact made the coin even more rare and valuable than initially believed.
When Kate asked how much the coin was worth, she was told the estimated value was around $3,000. The college student then began imagining the positive impact it could have on her life.
The British Police Got Involved
Before Kate could consider how to sell the coin, the British police stepped into the picture and told her to give them the coin. This demand invalidated her claim to ownership of the historical piece.
The British police explained that because the coin was so historically relevant, they needed it turned over to them. This put Kate in quite a predicament. Even if she could no longer sell the piedfort, it held emotional significance because of how she found it.
The Museum Wanted To Buy The Coin
Another problem Kate was dealing with was that the museum had already expressed an interest in buying it. If she wasn’t going to be able to keep the piedfort, she didn’t understand why she couldn’t profit off of selling it.
Kate was left with two options. The first was to hand the piedfort over to the police, who would give to the museum for free, or keep the piedfort in her possession.
Kate Kept The Coin
When push came to shove, Kate decided it was best to hold onto the piedfort. She refused to give to the British police and also backed out of trying to sell the piedfort to the museum.
This should have been the end of the story. That’s what the young woman told herself. The police had other plans though and continued to pursue Kate to take the valuable piedfort from her.
Life Did Not Return To Normal
Kate returned home with the piedfort and expected her life would return to normal. Then letters started arriving daily from the museum, demanding that she give the piedfort to them.
Kate ignored the letters, which turned into daily phone calls. She soon started realizing that she would not be able to ignore the museum and British authorities forever. Before she could make a move of her own, however, something unexpected happened.
The Museum Called The Police
Because Kate had refused to cooperate for so long, the museum informed local authorities, who took quick action. The South Shropshire police sent an official to Kate’s place to force her cooperation.
The official, Anthony Sibcy, showed up at Kate’s home and handed her a court summons. Kate didn’t believe she was doing anything wrong by holding onto the piedfort. The police disagreed, and made sure she would have her day in court.
Kate Was Given A Lesson In British Laws
For her entire life, Kate believed that if you found something buried in your backyard, you became the owner. The British authorities were now telling her there were laws in place to make sure that wasn’t true with historically significant artifacts.
Kate quickly realized just what kind of situation she was in. By no fault of her own, she had broken the law and now had to deal with the consequences of her actions.
The Law Went Into Effect In 1996
The law that Kate had broken was The Treasure Act 1996. She was about to become the first person ever prosecuted under the law. Suddenly the piedfort that was found by a young child was about to damage her life as an adult.
According to the law, if anyone were to discover an object that could be considered a treasure, they needed to immediately report it to the authorities. The law could not be revoked.
There Was Nothing Kate Could Do
Going further, the law made clear that any object more than 300 years old that was made of 10 percent precious metals needed to be reported to authorities within 14 days of the discovery.
When Kate first found the piedfort, she didn’t tell anyone about it. She tried to explain this to the authorities, but they had no sympathy for the mistake she unknowingly made as a child playing in the garden.
Prison Was A Possibility
The situation was not looking good for Kate. Not only had she broken the law by failing to report her discovery, but she had also worsened her crime by refusing to give it to the museum.
Suddenly there was the possibility that Kate would be facing prison time. The police were clear that they weren’t going to cut her any breaks, which meant she needed to find the best lawyer she could.
Kate Hired A Top Notch Lawyer
To defend her in court, Kate hired a lawyer named Brendan Reedy. Reedy was experienced representing people in the magistrate’s court and had a great reputation for getting the best results possible.
After hearing her story, Reedy knew he needed to take the case. He believed that Kate was innocent and should not be found guilty of any crime. He also promised Kate he would get her case resolved as quickly as possible so her life could return to normal.
Reedy Laid Out The Details Of The Case
Brendan Reedy got to work right away using Kate’s story to create her defense. His points her simple – Kate found the piedfort when she was five-years-old and it held nostalgic value to her now as an adult.
Now all Kate and her lawyer could do was present her case to the court and hope they showed her sympathy. Kate was even willing to admit that once she did know about the law, it was short-sighted of her to try and keep the piedfort.
Kate Still Wanted To Keep The Piedfort
Even though she was battling to stay out of trouble, Kate still desperately wanted to keep the coin at the end of her trial. She understood it was extremely rare, but it was also a valuable reminder of her time with her mother.
No matter what the outcome of the case was, Kate would likely have to give up the piedfort. This made her come up with a plan to keep it safe.
Kate Avoided Jail
After a lengthy trial, Kate was given a release with a conditional discharge. She would have to turn the piedfort over to the British Museum (pictured), and would have to pay some minor legal fees, but otherwise avoided major penalties.
Kate still had one last move to play, and she knew it was probably the first thing she should have done. She went to the authorities to talk to them face to face about what the piedfort meant to her.
Kate Claimed She Lost The Coin
Sitting down with the authorities, Kate revealed something no one expected – she had lost the piedfort. After 14 years with the treasure, she said it had disappeared without a trace.
The revelation meant that the museum got nothing, and Kate finally stopped getting letters and phone calls asking where the piedfort was. Her story didn’t end there, though. After the public found out, they rallied around her and urged the government to expunge her newly created criminal record.
The Local Community Claimed Her Trial Was Unfair
A local man named Alan became the voice of the public in Kate’s defense. He based his assessment of an unfair trial on the fact that according to Kate’s story, she found the piedfort before the law she was prosecuted under was created.
He also argued that she was under 15-years-old at the time and didn’t know what she was doing was wrong, therefore she couldn’t be tried for it. Alan urged Kate to appeal her case, which she did.
Back To Normal
Kate Harding won her appeal, and her case was officially dropped before she was scheduled to appear in court again. Now that her life was back to normal, Kate could breathe. The mystery of whether she actually lost the coin or not remains today, but there is nothing that can be done.
The museum, as well as the authorities, no longer have any reason to contact Kate. With no piedfort to be claimed, it’s back to business as usual.