Gold Coin Pre-Dating First English Explorers Found on Newfoundland Beach

Sometimes a single discovery can completely rewrite history.

That might just be the case with a gold coin one man found on the coast of Newfoundland, Canada this summer.

The Canadian government announced last week that the gold piece could be the oldest-known English coin ever found in the country.

A man named Edward Hynes found it on a beach, where it sat waiting five centuries for someone to pick it up. Hynes reported the discovery to the Provincial Government, as required under Canada’s Historic Resources Act.

Researchers have now dated the coin to the early 1400s. It is a Henry VI quarter noble, minted in London between 1422 and 1427.

Pre-dates European contact

That means the coin predates John Cabot‘s arrival on Newfoundland by 70 years. The Italian explorer’s arrival marks the beginning of regular European contact with the area.


“The coin would have been a sizeable amount of money in the 1400s, valued at 1 shilling 8 pence,” the Canadian press release said.

That’s about $81 in today’s world. Exactly how the gold quarter noble coin made its way to Newfoundland remains a mystery.

Government officials won’t reveal the exact location of the beach for now. They’re worried about potential looting. Researchers are not currently excavating the site, meaning no one’s protecting the area.

“We’re trying to be really vague about the location,” archaeologist Jamie Brake told the CBC.

He would only confirm that the coin turned up near an archaeological site that dates to the 18th century.

gold coin newfoundland

The previous oldest-known English coin in Canada also came from Newfoundland. Researchers found it in 2021 at the Cupids Cove Plantation Provincial Historic Site. Photo: Government of Newfoundland and Labrador


A new mystery

This isn’t the first coin to cause a historical stir.

In 2021, archaeologists found a silver coin minted in the 1490s at Cupids Cove Plantation Provincial Historic Site. At the time, researchers considered it the oldest English coin ever found in Canada.

“Some artifacts are important for what they tell us about a site, while others are important because they spark the imagination,” said archaeologist William Gilbert. “This coin is definitely one of the latter.”

But the new find represents a much bigger puzzle for historians and archaeologists. Though the coin dates to the 1420s, England discontinued them in 1470.

“Between England and here, people over there were not yet aware of Newfoundland or North America at the time that this was minted,” Brake told the CBC. “So that’s sort of the really exciting part of this.”

Andrew McLemore

An award-winning journalist and photographer, Andrew McLemore brings more than 14 years of experience to his position as Associate News Editor for Lola Digital Media. Andrew is also a musician, climber and traveler who currently lives in Medellin, Colombia. When he’s not writing, playing gigs or exploring the outdoors, he’s hanging out with his dog Campana.