Three construction workers were busy renovating a historic mansion in Brittany, France, when they came across an intriguing find: a metal box embedded in a wall.
To their astonishment, the box opened to reveal a trove of centuries-old gold coins.
The find occurred on a Friday in late October 2019, recalls the now-63-year-old François Mion, who owns the mansion with his wife. The couple had recently decided to renovate the historic structure to combine three main buildings on the property. Mion was at work in Paris when he received an excited call from his foreman, he tells Yoann Etienne of local television channel France 3.
“I thought it was a joke,” Mion tells Le Télégramme’s Gwendoline Kervella, per Google Translate. “But, no!”
As it turned out, the workers’ luck hadn’t run out yet. The following Monday, the trio discovered yet another cache of gold coins, this time wrapped in a cloth pouch that had been hidden above a wooden beam, reports Agence France-Presse.
All told, 239 rare gold coins were discovered on the property. The treasure will go under the hammer on September 29, per a statement from auction house Ivoire.
The couple first purchased this house in 2012 but decided to renovate in 2019 to unite the main building with a nearby barn and nursery, per the statement.
After the 2019 find, Mion alerted the local authorities and later sent the treasures away to be studied and verified. Archaeologists determined that the coins were minted during the reigns of Kings Louis XIII and Louis XIV, monarchs who ruled France from 1610 to 1643 and 1643 to 1715, respectively. The most recently minted coins were likely created during a series of money reforms that Louis XIV enacted to finance several costly wars. During his 72-year-long reign, Louis XIV also oversaw massive expansions to the Palace of Versailles.
Beginning in 2016, all treasures discovered in France automatically became property of the state. However, since the mansion owners purchased the property in 2012, they have the rights to sell their finds, reports France 3. Per French law, the proceeds from the sale will be split in half, with half going to the married couple who owns the property and half to be split evenly among the three discoverers.
Experts estimate that the sale of the coins will garner between €250,000 and €300,000. One coin in the collection, a rare “double” Louis d’Or made in 1646, is thought to be one of just 120 versions that have survived to the present day—that coin alone is estimated to be worth €15,000, reports the Télégramme.
Per the statement, the mansion dates to the 13th century and would have once belonged to wealthy farmers. Since the coins originated from 19 different mints across France, it’s likely that this treasure was part of a previous mansion owner’s life savings.
“The oldest part dates from the 13th century and the main body of the mansion dates from 1723,” notes Mion in an interview with the Télégramme, per Google Translate. “It is believed to have belonged to wealthy landowners. Research continues on the history of the place.”