A treasure of 17th century gold coins has been discovered during renovation of a mansion in Plozévet, Brittany, northwestern France. The coins were found in 2019 when the mansion’s owners, Véronique and François Mion, decided to connect two buildings (a barn and a plant nursery). Three stonemasons working on an interior wall came across a metal box filled with gold coins embedded in the wall. Three days later, they found a fabric bag of coins stashed over a beam on another wall.
All told, they recovered 239 gold coins, 23 minted under Louis XIII, 216 under Louis XIV. The coins were minted between 1638 and 1692. There are two stand-out pieces: a Louis d’or with the Templar Cross, struck by the Dijon mint and issued by King Louis XIII in 1640, and a Double Louis d’or with a long lock (referring to the tendril of hair curling down Louis’ neck) minted in Paris and issued by King Louis XIV in 1646 when he was all of eight years old. There are only 120 known examples of the Double Louis with long lock known to exist.
The earliest parts of the manor date to the 13th century. The estate is believed to have belonged to a family of wealthy merchants. The last known residents (before the current owners) lived there in the mid-18th century. The area was lively with trade in the 17th century, a stop on the network transporting Bordeaux wines to England and grains to northern Europe. The growth of ports in Normandy poached a lot of that business and the area suffered a steep economic decline between 1750 and 1850. Because the coins were minted in 19 different cities, archaeologists believe they were collected by a single individual, likely a merchant, who traveled for business.
The coins will be going under the hammer on September 23 in Angers. The pre-sale estimates for most of the coins range from €600 to €1200 . The Cross of the Templar coins is estimated to sell for €7,000-8,000. The estimate for the final take of all 239 coins is €250,000-300,000 ($296,000-$355,000).
By the terms of the 2016 Treasure law, all archaeological materials recovered in the country, including on private property, belong to the state. Because the Mions bought the mansion in 2012, the finds made within its walls are grandfathered in under the previous law, thus the proceeds of the auction will be split in half, with one share divided equally between the three stonemasons who found the coins and the other half going to the property owners. The Mions plan to use their windfall to pay down the ungodly sums this restoration is costing them.