A man was “completely amazed” to find one of the US’s first struck coins in a forgotten sweet tin.
The Hon Wentworth Beaumont said he found the mid-17th century New England shilling in an old Barker and Dobson sweet tin at his father’s home among a collection of old coins.
Mr Beaumont, an art adviser, has now put the coin up for auction in the hopes of fetching almost £200,000.
The rare coin is thought to be one of the very first struck in North America and bears the initials NE for New England and the Roman numerals XII, indicating 12 pence which is equal to one shilling.
It was identified by coin specialist James Morton, who said the collection of coins found in the sweet tin were “completely varied” and came from “all over the world and in all metals, ranging in date from ancient times right up to the 1970s”.
He added: “I could hardly believe my eyes when I realised that it was an excellent example of a New England shilling, struck by John Hull in 1652 for use as currency by early settlers in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.”
Mr Morton said the coin is the “star of the collection”, which also includes a Massachusetts “Pine Tree” shilling, two examples of “Continental Currency” pewter dollars dated 1776, a “Libertas Americana” bronze medal and several British hammered gold coins.
Mr Beaumont said his father had recently found the tin in his study.
He said: “If he knew it was there he had long since forgotten about it. I’d never seen it before and when I opened it I thought it was just a rather bizarre collection of random old coinage.
“However, as I don’t know anything about coins, I felt it was worth checking out so I took it to show James Morton.
“I’m very pleased I did and needless to say I was completely amazed when James Morton pointed out how important the rare shilling was in the context of North American history.
“I can only assume that the shilling was brought back from America years ago by one of my forebears.”
Mr Beaumont, whose family seat is Bywell Hall in Northumberland, is descended from William Wentworth, who is thought to have visited New England in 1636.
Several members of the family were later to take up prominent positions in Colonel America, including John Wentworth and his son, who both represented New Hampshire in the Continental Congress of 1774 to 1781.
The coin will be put up for auction online by Morton & Eden in London on November 26.
Morton & Eden offers online viewing of the sale and bidding via www.invaluable.com and www.biddr.ch