A British tuner received a six-figure reward for discovering 913 gold coins hidden under the keys of a piano donated to the college.
£773 gold sovereigns dating from 1847-1915 are worth £500 today.
Martin Backhouse, 61, was hired by Bishop's Castle Community College in England to work on a Broadwood & Sons piano, which was a gift to the school from the Hemmings family. The piano was made way back in 1905 and the Hemmings family has owned the instrument for the last 33 years.
The piano tuner found seven canvas pouches tied with leather cords just below the keys of the instrument. Backhouse was shocked to see that each pouch was filled with gold sovereigns and half-sovereign coins, most of which dated back to the reign of Queen Victoria.
British Museum experts believe the coins, already dubbed the Piano Hoard, were hidden in the instrument in the 1920s. A cardboard lining recovered from one of the sacks is thought to date from 1926-1946. The identity of the original owner of the treasure is still a mystery.
Under the British Treasures Act 1996, Backhouse and the college administrators reported their find to the local coroner. The Shrowsbury Coroner Court ruled that the found sovereigns were treasure, which meant that Backhouse and the college would receive compensation corresponding to the value of the coins determined by the Hoard Valuation Committee. According to the treasure act, the reward is distributed between the one who found the treasure and the owner of the land on which this treasure was discovered. The Treasure Act is administered by the staff of the British Museum.
Usually treasures are objects made of gold and silver, over 300 years old. And, while the piano hoard was not that old, the Treasure Act also states that objects of any age made of precious metal, original owners or heirs, that are unknown and were deliberately hidden for the purpose of later restoration, are also "treasures."
While Blackhouse and the college share the reward of hundreds of thousands of dollars, the last official owners of the piano, the Hemmings family, according to British law, alas, are not entitled to anything!