LONDON: A British school and a piano tuner are to share the reward after hundreds of gold and silver coins from the Victorian era were found under the keys of a piano.
The hoard of 913 sovereigns and half sovereigns –dating from 1847 to 1915 — was found before Christmas in Shropshire, central England, and might be the largest of the kind in Britain.
On Thursday, authorities qualified the hoard as a treasure, a status usually reserved for coins that are at least 300 years old.
The sovereigns were discovered after the Bishops Castle Community College called in a piano technician to retune an upright piano that had just been donated to the school.
Martin Rickhouse, 61, finding the keys a bit stiff, removed them to find the coins carefully stitched into seven cloth-wrapped parcels and a single leather drawstring purse.
“I’d never come across anything like this is my whole life,” he said, describing his discovery as “gob-smacking”.
The British Museum, tasked with valuing the treasure, wrote in a blog post that the stash appears to have been collected over several decades and tucked away in the piano in the late 1920s.
They believe it might have been in response to the Great Depression or to the events leading up to World War II.
“We are not sure of the value but I would expect it to be hundreds of thousands of pounds,” Peter Reavill, the British Museum’s finds liaison officer for Shropshire said.
Some newspapers have estimated the hoard could be worth between £300,000 ($384,000, 359,000 euros) and £500,000.
Authorities have since tried to find who the real owners of the treasure were, and over 40 claimants came forward but their claims proved unsatisfactory.
According to Britain’s Treasure Act: “The Treasure Valuation Committee will decide how much the treasure is worth and how much will go to anyone entitled to a share of the find.”
The couple who donated the piano to the school and who had owned it for more than 30 years will not receive any reward.