The father-son duo of David and Andrew Whelan hit the jackpot on a cold January day in 2007. The two came upon a trove of Viking treasure in Harrogate, United Kingdom valued at over $1 million while out metal detecting. Prior to their huge discovery, the Whelans had been practicing the hobby of metal detecting for six years, but had only come across a few buttons and some scraps of metal. Speaking with reporters, Andrew recalled that on the day of their discovery, he was feeling incredibly unlucky. Before arriving at Harrogate, Andrew and his father had been turned away from two other farms. Andrew also wasn’t very optimistic about finding anything interesting at Harrogate because they had scoured the area several times before with nothing substantial to show for it.
As the day dragged on, David and Andrew could find nothing in the muddy, heavily plowed farm fields. Undeterred, David and Andrew struggled on, eventually getting their long sought-after ping. The 60-year-old David couldn’t hide his excitement at finding something, immediately joining his son in digging up the area. As the two delved deeper and deeper, David saw a large clump of dirt roll out of the hole with a coin stuck in it.
Andrew couldn’t believe his luck at finding the coin. Examining it in his hand, the 35-year-old man began shaking when he realized that the silver piece of currency didn’t come from England. As the father and son continued to expose the area, they came upon more coins and artifacts of immense historical significance. When the two left, they had found a total of 617 silver coins, a magnificently adorned cup, several pins, a ring, and several large chunks of silver.
Returning to their home in Leeds, David and Andrew reported their find to the local Coroner’s Office, as is required under the Treasure Act of 1996. The Coroner sent the treasure to the British Museum for evaluation. After several months, David and Andrew learned the story of their amazing treasure and just how much it was worth.
Historians with the British Museum reported that the treasure dated back to 927 and was the property of the Anglo-Saxon ruler King Athelstan. Bill Ager, curator for the British Museum, says that the Viking king faced a large uprising in 927 and probably buried it in the field in Harrogate to safeguard it from his foes. In terms of value, the museum assessed the entire trove at $1,376,574. The cup was the most valuable item in the hoard, being valued at $254,450.
After assessing David and Andrew’s find, the British Museum sought to display it, but a judge ruled that they had to buy it first. With the help of York Museum, the British Museum spent two years raising over $1 million to buy the objects. David and Andrew got half of the funds, while the other half went to the owner of the field in Harrogate.
The Whelans have since been commended for how honestly they went about reporting their find. While Andrew and David say they will never reveal the exact location where they found the loot, they did say that they have since returned to the field and determined that there is no more treasure in the area.