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Oak Island "Outlier" Coins

sellitstoresellitstore Posts: 2,354 ✭✭✭✭✭
edited March 22, 2023 5:27AM in World & Ancient Coins Forum

OK, as a numismatist, I can't stand by and allow such nonsense to be spoken about the partial Roman coin and the Chinese cash coin found on Oak Island. This baffling mystery which has no possible explanation except that Oak Island's human history goes back to Roman times, is obviously a joke. But how do you explain the out of place coins?

Scrap metal. Yup. Brought by early Europeans to be fashioned into whatever was needed-like the copper nail, also found on the island. Occam's Law. The simplest explanation is probably the true one. Metal to be fashioned into necessities was a basic requirement for those travelling to the new world.

I see "bar iron" as one of the necessities listed as being essential for survival in the new world on a 1628 London broadside that appeared in a recent auction. And non current copper or bronze coins were basically scrap metal in Europe during the 1600s-1700s. Even silver and gold hoards found during that period were often melted. Non current bronze and copper coins were a convenient form of small amounts of scrap metal, and as such, were among the first and earliest items brought to the new world.

Collector and dealer in obsolete currency. Always buying all obsolete bank notes and scrip.

Comments

  • WeissWeiss Posts: 9,922 ✭✭✭✭✭

    The simplest explanation, with the smallest possible set of elements, would be that any incongruous coins found on Oak Island were placed there with the intention to deceive. Authentic, uncertified Roman coins can be purchased in bulk for $10 each.

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  • sylsyl Posts: 882 ✭✭✭
    edited March 22, 2023 7:36AM

    It is a TV show for "entertainment" value, not historical fact. Just the little clips that they post to advertise the show have "discoveries" that seem to defy common sense. I don't think that half of the stuff that they dig up or postualize actually is more than a few years old when placed in the ground or what is believed to be a centuries old deposit. They "discover" things to keep the show on the air.

  • SapyxSapyx Posts: 1,957 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Being from outside the US, I am unfamiliar with the show in question, but I cna offer some general observations.

    The problem with the OP's "scrap metal" theory, is that both ancient Roman coins and Chinese cash coins will be made of unknown alloy. If you're making metal, for that metal to be useful and fit for purpose, you need to control its properties, which means controlling its ingredients. If you need bronze, then you don't want to be tossing in too much stuff that's not copper or tin, or you'll end up making a brass - and you can't guarantee that if you're tossing random ancient coins into the melting pot.

    It also doesn't explain why it crossed the Atlantic in coin form. If you want to ship scrap copper overseas to a new colony, you'll ship it in the most compact, easily transportable form possible - copper ingots. Or, more likely for a seaport from the 1700s, you'll break up an old ship and recover the copper from the hull plating.

    If an ancient Roman coin and a mediaeval Chinese cash coin were found in the same place, then the best fit for Occams Razor is that a coin collector put them there. There is no other means by which those two coins should coexist in the same archaeological setting.

    Whether that was a coin collector a hundred years ago or so, or a coin collector last week, should be answerable by proper archaeological examination of the context where the coins were found. Real archaeologists can spot very quickly when some prankster is trying to make a fake archaeological site, because the archaeology simply doesn't make sense. There are a couple of Time Team episodes that demonstrate this nicely.

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  • sellitstoresellitstore Posts: 2,354 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited March 23, 2023 10:15AM

    Here is the broadside which gives insight into what was recommended to bring to Jamestown in 1622 to avoid the problems of those settling there since 1607. I thought that it included bar iron but I don't see it listed here. Instead an inventory of iron tools and a variety of nails is specified. It's a fascinating glimpse of the necessities of the time.

    A late Roman bronze and unidentifiable Chinese cash coin found underground on Oak Island? I'm still thinking 1600s-1700s scrap metal. Certainly not part of an exciting "treasure" as Craig Tester suggests on the show. Late Roman (or any) bronzes aren't a treasure worth transporting and hiding, but very useful as a basic raw material. No need to mine and refine.


    Well @Sapyx hit on one very true means of establishing archaeological fact-context. If the coins were planted, they would not have been found in situ in undisturbed ground, well below the surface. Nearly all of the artifacts found were found in situ and were obviously not planted. Also worked wood recovered from deep underground that dates to the 1500s-1700s is a pretty strong indication that there was underground tunneling going on at that location and time. Now of course they could be lying about everything, including the various dating methods allegedly used.

    As far as the alloy goes, no, early explorers were certainly not trying to be precise with their alloys. Their purpose was just to fashion small metal objects, as needed, like the copper nail found on Oak Island. Having your scrap in small coins is much better than a large bar that would need to be cut to size depending on how much metal was needed. Coins do not take up significantly more room than bars and are much more convenient for their intended use.

    Yes, @Weiss, my first thought was to buy 100 cheap Roman bronzes, rent a light plane and scatter them all of the island. But that wouldn't leave them several inches underground, would it?. These coins were all found underground. So now, what the most likely explanation? I think that it's early Europeans, who we know were on the island in significant numbers.

    @Sapyx "There is no other means by which those two coins should coexist in the same archaeological setting." They were on the same island, not the same setting, which was used by hundreds, if not thousands of people, over a period of several hundred years. An effort to clean up trash and other relics seems to have occurred. Despite that, there's plenty still left that has told a story that doesn't seem to have been recorded elsewhere. The evidence of extensive activity during the 1600s-1700s is there yet there is no recorded history of exactly what was happening there at the time. And that, in itself, is a mystery. That's what the complete picture looks like.

    Yes, it is a show for entertainment value but so are many others that certainly present facts. I also watch Henry Louis Gates "Finding Your Roots" show on ancestry and "How the Universe Works" for entertainment, too. Entertainment does not have to be false. There is non-fiction and semi fictional, and fully fictional entertainment.

    For those who don't watch the show, other coins found would be what you'd expect from Europeans from the 1600s and 1700s. First coin found (in the swamp) was a mid 1600s Spanish bronze. Since then, many George II and George III halfpennies. No silver or gold coins yet. This week, in a making of the show episode, the "discovery" of a 1950s Canadian cent was documented just to show the audience that this represents the majority of the targets that they dig-modern junk. But watch the show, and you'll get the impression that every target is 200+ years old. Entertainment isn't showing the boring stuff. They get very excited over old rust and are mocked for it. Who cares about an ox shoe from the 1600s? But that's some historically very significant rust. They have found lots of these and Oak Island isn't exactly prime farmland. So, what's with all of the oxen?

    I believe that Oak Island is quite an important historical discovery as the first "secure" storge site in the new world. I believe that there was likely treasure here at some point but that it has likely been recovered long ago. Is there still a little there that was missed or unreachable because it was hidden too well? Maybe, but I wouldn't count on it. They are still zeroing in on the location of gold in the water samples, but those traces may be left from leaching that occurred between the 1500s and 1700s when the English likely recovered whatever was left there. Daniel Ball, a poor ex slave living on Oak Island, allegedly became one of the wealthiest individuals in Nova Scotia, circa 1800. I think that most or all of what was left there was recovered then.

    I believe that this site was used for several hundred years and by several different entities or governments. It was likely developed as a result of the precious metal flows leaving regularly from South America starting in the early 1500s and huge percentage that never made it back to Europe. There were shipwrecks, pirates and crews that would mutiny to steal the metal for themselves. And somebody somebody built a darn good vault to hide it. Discovered first by the French when they settled the area in the early 1600s and later when the British came in the 1700s. Each may have enlarged and used this facility, until the area became too populated, and then abandoned it. It could even predate the Spanish and could be Portugese as they were fishing the area since about 1500 or Templar, if you believe in the possibility of those theories, which I wouldn't rule out, yet. But 1500s initial construction seems most likely to me.

    Collector and dealer in obsolete currency. Always buying all obsolete bank notes and scrip.
  • ElmhurstElmhurst Posts: 767 ✭✭✭

    I remember seeing a cable “history” show that featured a bunch of WW 2 zinc German coins someplace as evidence that the bad guys escaped to there.

  • sellitstoresellitstore Posts: 2,354 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited March 23, 2023 3:30PM

    And took all the zinc instead of the gold?

    Zinc wouldn't last very long as buried treasure, would it? Maybe a year or two at best, unless in the desert.

    Collector and dealer in obsolete currency. Always buying all obsolete bank notes and scrip.
  • ExbritExbrit Posts: 1,232 ✭✭✭✭

    @Elmhurst said:
    I remember seeing a cable “history” show that featured a bunch of WW 2 zinc German coins someplace as evidence that the bad guys escaped to there.

    Argentina?

  • SaorAlbaSaorAlba Posts: 7,458 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Roman coins have turned up in shipwrecks in Bermuda etc. the explanation given was that they must have been in the Thames River in London where ships scooped up gravel for ballast for the Atlantic journey. I also remember a story of a coin collector in California finding a Roman coin on a sidewalk - surely the Romans weren't in California!

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  • sylsyl Posts: 882 ✭✭✭

    The camera shows and records what the producers of the show want shown. They can postulate all they want to in order to make the stories sound interesting, but I doubt a single true "fact" has ever been proven except maybe the time period of any coin or artifact that they show. How something got to where they "find" it is a guess at best. And, no, I've never seen the show, only the short clips to advertise the next show.

  • MasonGMasonG Posts: 6,268 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @sellitstore said:
    Yes, it is a show for entertainment value but so are many others that certainly present facts. I also watch Henry Louis Gates "Finding Your Roots" show on ancestry and "How the Universe Works" for entertainment, too. Entertainment does not have to be false.

    If you do a show about black holes for "How the Universe Works", next week you have to address a new topic. I think one of the points above is not necessarily that the Oak Island show is faked, but rather if they ever get around to explaining what happened there, the show would be over.

  • sellitstoresellitstore Posts: 2,354 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited March 23, 2023 3:32PM

    Yes, that's quite true. I've been contemplating how the show might end. It's been dictated by the finds right from the first season. They thought that the show might be over after the first season due to total lack of significant finds, then found the 1652 Spanish bronze in the swamp which was exciting enough to justify a second season. But the audience was small and the future of the show not certain.

    Yes, Roman coins could have ended up anywhere if river gravel from Europe was used as ballast. One of the nicest Roman bronzes that I ever owned allegedly came out of the Tiber River mud. And I've heard many stories of picking up ancient bronzes along the Thames. I think that larger stones were more common but if you need ballast and no large stones were around, bags or barrels of gravel would do.

    I remember an early Norse or Viking coin being found a few years back along the Maine coast and a well dating to around 1100AD on Oak Island indicates a possible earlier Viking presence. I believe that a few other finds of coins from this period have occurred in NJ and MD but confirmation that they were brought by Vikings 1000 years ago is far from established. Viking settlements in North America dating back 1000 years have been confirmed in Newfoundland and an increasing body of evidence indicates visits along the Atlantic coast long before Columbus.

    The show could end with no treasure being found, a similar conclusion to what I have proposed being reached, and a general lack of interest due to anything new to discover. When they conclude that the treasure has already been recovered 200 years ago, the show is over. Will they milk it as long as they can? Probably.

    Collector and dealer in obsolete currency. Always buying all obsolete bank notes and scrip.
  • lordmarcovanlordmarcovan Posts: 43,194 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited March 24, 2023 1:58PM

    Happened to me, once.

    (^ 4th century Roman coin in Georgia.)

    OK, maybe twice, if you count the time I found a MIng Dynasty Chinese medallion in Western North Carolina.

    Both of these "outliers" were likely deposited on their respective sites in a late-18th to early-19th century context, and are of course not definitive evidence of the Romans nor the Ming Chinese visiting America before Columbus, though some have interpreted my "Mysterious Ming Medallion" that way.


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  • ExbritExbrit Posts: 1,232 ✭✭✭✭

    @lordmarcovan said:
    Happened to me, once.

    (^ 4th century Roman coin in Georgia.)

    OK, maybe twice, if you count the time I found a MIng Dynasty Chinese medallion in Western North Carolina.

    Both of these "outliers" were likely deposited on their respective sites in a late-18th to early-19th century context, and are of course not definitive evidence of the Romans nor the Ming Chinese visiting America before Columbus, though some have interpreted my "Mysterious Ming Medallion" that way.

    Where in western North Carolina???

  • sellitstoresellitstore Posts: 2,354 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Thank you for reminding me. I remember you telling us of these finds years ago. And thanks for the link which sent me back down the rabbit hole. Apparently finding ancient Roman coins in North America isn't so unusual. Ballast makes sense as an explanation and so do collectors for many sites.

    Collector and dealer in obsolete currency. Always buying all obsolete bank notes and scrip.
  • lordmarcovanlordmarcovan Posts: 43,194 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited March 24, 2023 4:30PM

    @Exbrit said:

    @lordmarcovan said:
    Happened to me, once.

    (^ 4th century Roman coin in Georgia.)

    OK, maybe twice, if you count the time I found a MIng Dynasty Chinese medallion in Western North Carolina.

    Both of these "outliers" were likely deposited on their respective sites in a late-18th to early-19th century context, and are of course not definitive evidence of the Romans nor the Ming Chinese visiting America before Columbus, though some have interpreted my "Mysterious Ming Medallion" that way.

    Where in western North Carolina???

    Swannanoa, just east of Asheville. In the churchyard of a very old church. A modern building stands there now, but the site goes back to the 1790s.


    Explore collections of lordmarcovan on CollecOnline, management, safe-keeping, sharing and valuation solution for art piece and collectibles.
  • sellitstoresellitstore Posts: 2,354 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited November 10, 2023 9:40AM

    More Roman coins found, along with a possible ancient Indian example. The obvious mistake that the ignorant keep making is identifying these bronze coins as possibly part of a treasure. Bronze coins were never treasure nor are they treasure today. Nobody tries to hide their wealth in tons of bronze. They were likely brought here as potentially useful scrap metal.

    The possibility of treasure being there somewhere still exists but anything stored there was likely recovered. Hope is kept alive by the detection of precious metals being dissolved in water sampled around the garden shaft. However, couldn't these traces be left by what might have been stored there hundreds of years ago and since removed?

    Edited to add: The real test is have they or will they make the results of their scientific testing available to the scientific community? If the carbon dates can be confirmed and duplicated (and they allegedly have been many times, in some cases) then we have conclusive evidence that much activity occurred on this site well before history records such activity. I'm not expecting a treasure find but we may have located a vault used to stash valuables, possibly by more than one party over many years. There the appears to have been extensive activity to recover whatever might be there during the 1700s and I don't think that the British government would have given up the Island to settlers (in the 1760s) if they still believed a treasure to be there. So my guess is that it was once used as a vault but there hasn't been treasure there since the 1700s or earlier.

    Capt. Phipps and the early 1700s map Moll map (The English Empire in America, Newfound-land, Canada, Hudson's Bay) are strong evidence of a vault being located here at one time. The treasure recoveries made by Phipps of the Spanish shipwreck Concepion and the Moll map are both quite real. No debate about this. I have a copy of the map. You can buy an inexpensive copy online if you look around enough. It shows the wreck of the Concepcion off the present Dominican Republic labeled as "Sr Wil Phipps Plate Rack" and the site of Oak Island as "La Plata". Moll and a couple of his maps from around 1710 are the only cartographers to show these features. Google the story of William Phipps recovery of vast amounts of Spanish silver. It's fascinating. And may be a real connection to the Oak Island vault.
    Plate Rack and La Plata Map

    Collector and dealer in obsolete currency. Always buying all obsolete bank notes and scrip.
  • ExbritExbrit Posts: 1,232 ✭✭✭✭

    In any event - it still is a compelling story and the history being discovered is quite interesting.

  • YQQYQQ Posts: 3,255 ✭✭✭✭✭

    and.... there must obviously be some good portion of truth to it.
    they most likely have already located "the Treasure" but are now milking the story.
    if in a position to do so, would you not milk the story for all its worth ???
    I would
    H

    Today is the first day of the rest of my life
  • sellitstoresellitstore Posts: 2,354 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Sure, that's the purpose of the TV show-maximize revenue through longevity.

    I think that the answer was never simple but quite involved with many chapters. Unravelling the truth over a decade or more is perfect, as far as the show producers are concerned.

    I think that we are adding to our knowledge of early European exploration of North America. And the story so far is fascinating. It seems to be about possibly the first vault in North America.

    We still prefer to bury our gold. Now we like to keep it 80 feet below the streets of lower New York City. How little has changed.

    Collector and dealer in obsolete currency. Always buying all obsolete bank notes and scrip.
  • sellitstoresellitstore Posts: 2,354 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Weiss said:
    The simplest explanation, with the smallest possible set of elements, would be that any incongruous coins found on Oak Island were placed there with the intention to deceive. Authentic, uncertified Roman coins can be purchased in bulk for $10 each.

    While this is certainly a possibility, I had discounted it due to these coins being found underground rather than on the surface. Of course, it's possible to bury them but scattering them on the surface seemed most likely. Low grade late Roman bronzes (identical to ones being found) are even cheaper than you indicate, so I thought that buying 50-100 of them and flying over in a light plane, releasing them at the right time, could really screw up their search.

    However, more information has come to light that makes @Weiss explanation perhaps the most likely. Lot 5, where all of the Roman coins were found, belonged to Fred Nolan who sold it to Robert Young. The Laginas acquired it from Young's estate recently. Young metal detected and looked for clues or treasure while he owned it recently. It's possible that Fred Nolan planted the Roman coins in order to entice a better price or insure a sale to Young.

    However, I'm still entertaining the possibility that most of these little bits of metal found were brought here to fashion small, useful metal objects where refining capability was limited.

    Collector and dealer in obsolete currency. Always buying all obsolete bank notes and scrip.
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