Roman Coins and Marks and Sparks – What’s the Link?


The Dorchester Hoard


Discovered on 11th May 1936, the Dorchester hoard is one of the largest hoards found in Britain. Consisting of 16 denarii and 20,732 antoniniani, it was found while rebuilding the Marks and Spencer store at the back of South Street in Dorchester. The last coins dated to the reign of Gallienus and so the date of disposition was around AD 257.


The Dorchester Hoard 1936


Groups of coins from the hoard were distributed to various museums around the country and some have just gone on display at the new Marks and Spencer’s museum in Leeds.


It is hard to imagine a museum that displays ancient Roman coins alongside this season’s Easter egg packaging – but this unusual cocktail is what visitors can expect at the newly opened Marks & Spencer Company archive in Leeds. An exhibition tracing the history of the retail giant has been opened by former MI5 head Dame Stella Rimington in a new building at the University of Leeds.

The collection, which has never before been open to the public, tells the story of how Marks & Spencer grew from a haberdashery stall in Leeds’ Kirkgate Market in 1884 to a FTSE 100 company. Robert Swannell, Marks & Spencer chairman, said: “The history of M&S as an iconic British retailer is now accessible for all to enjoy and will continue to evolve back in the city where it all began.”

The oldest exhibit is an array of third century Roman coins that were discovered by workers laying foundations for Marks & Spencer Dorchester in 1936. Buttons from Michael Marks’ original Penny Bazaar stall, which he opened in 1884, are also on show.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2012


The remainder of the coins were returned and seem to have been dispersed through the trade. We are fortunate to be able to offer a small group for sale at the Harrogate Coin Fair on 23rd and 24th March 2012. Any that remain following the show will be offered for sale on NumisMall. The examples we have are silver antoninianii from the reigns of  Gordian III, Philip I, Trajan Decius, Valerian and Volusian. These coins were bought from Seabys in the 1950s when many coins from the hoard were advertised for sale in their Numismatic Bulletin.