AN ELDERLY metal-detecting enthusiast has told how she found a hoard of 3,600 coins dating back to the third century in a field near York.

Marjorie Dandy, 75, of Thornton-le-Clay, near Malton, said the bronze coins had been buried inside three pots, one of which had survived intact.

She was speaking after coroner Michael Oakley declared at an inquest that the coins, described as rare survivals of the period by experts at the British Museum, were treasure trove.

Mrs Dandy, who has been metal detecting for 15 years, said she was out walking her pet dog Tiny just over two years ago and was using her detecting equipment in a field at an undisclosed location when she picked up a signal. She dug a little and found a few coins.

She said: “I thought: it must be a hoard. I was very excited. You could hear my heart beat half a mile away. Everybody dreams of something like that.”

She returned a week or so later with her older sister, Evelyn Hood, from Skewsby, to carry out a more comprehensive dig. This time, they found the remains of a pot containing about 1,500 coins, which might have been disturbed and damaged when the field was being ploughed for potatoes.

Mrs Dandy said she subsequently found a second damaged pot, with more coins and finally an undamaged pot, full of coins. “It was under a flat stone and three cobbles,” she said.

“Some of the coins were corroded and stuck together, but you could see the head on many of them. It was very exciting.”

She had since been back to scour the field, where the landowner had given her permission to search, but had found nothing more.

The coins had been taken to London and she understood the British Museum wanted to buy one which displayed the head of the Roman Emperor Gallienus, while she believed the Yorkshire Museum in York wanted to acquire the remaining coins and containers.

A valuation panel will now assess their value and the Yorkshire Museum will have six months to buy the find, with the proceeds to be divided between herself and the landowner.

She did not know how much the collection was worth, but believed it could come to several thousand pounds.