The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 26, Number 16, April 16, 2023, Article 23


Undercover police recovered rare coins from a Viking hoard. -Editor

King Alfred two-emperors type silver penny Two amateur history enthusiasts have been accused of trying to sell ancient coins from a Viking hoard to representatives of a mystery American buyer who were in fact undercover police officers.

Roger Pilling, 74, of Rossendale, Lancashire, and Craig Best, 46, of Bishop Auckland, County Durham, are facing a jury trial at Durham crown court.

They have denied a joint charge of conspiring to convert criminal property, namely the Anglo-Saxon coins, for money. They also deny separate charges of possessing criminal property.

Matthew Donkin, opening the case for the prosecution, said the two men had known that the culturally important coins from the reign of Alfred the Great came from a Viking hoard. The court was told the value of one particularly rare coin had been estimated at £70,000 while the combined value of the coins, 44 in total, was about £766,000.

Donkin said the prosecution did not allege that the two men were the original finders of the coins. But someone discovered them, he said. They are extremely rare, ancient coins and they have been dug up or unearthed by someone who chose not to declare them.

The rightful owner of the coins, he said, was the crown.

The two men were arrested after an undercover police operation, the court heard. They had thought that a man, Hugh, was a broker and Max was a coin expert when they had in fact been police. The prosecution alleged Best took three coins to a meeting in a Durham hotel bar.

Donkin said the conspiracy to sell the coins began in 2018, when Best had contacted a US radiology professor at the University of Michigan, Ronald Bude, who was also a collector and lecturer on coins.

Bude's first assessment of the coins had been that they were fake and he said he was consulting an expert at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

The Fitzwilliam expert had recognised the coins as genuine and included a King Alfred two-emperors type silver penny. Donkin said: Prior to 2015, only two coins of that type had been discovered. News of the discovery had then spread through the community of coins professionals.

Donkin said the jury would hear evidence from Dr Gareth Williams, a curator of early medieval coins at the British Museum. He would say that the coins dated from AD874 to AD879 and had been issued in Wessex and Mercia. The majority of the coins are of a comparatively rare type known as cross or lozenge, said Donkin. Two of them are the extremely rare two-emperor type.

The trial continues.

To read the complete article, see:
Two men accused of trying to sell rare Anglo-Saxon coins to undercover police (

Herer are additional articles on the topic. -Editor

Best was in possession of three coins from the hoard which he took to the meeting to be validated by the ‘expert' prior to the supposed sale to the fictitious US collector.

A short time later police raided Pilling's home in Rossendale, Lancashire, arresting him and recovering a further 41 coins believed to be from the same undeclared hoard as those in Best's possession at the Durham meeting.

On day three of the trial, the jury heard from Prof Bude, via a live link from Michigan, in the USA.

He said he came into contact with Best by Facebook prior to attending a symposium on ancient coins at the Fitzwilliam Museum, in Cambridge, in October 2018.

The court heard that Best went on to meet Prof Bude during his stay at the Cambridge conference and subsequently sold him some Northumbrian sceats, small coins, for which he was paid £3,059.

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
Collector accused of £766,000 coins sale plot denies being greedy (
US expert tells trial he thought Viking hoard coins on offer were fake (

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Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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