Gold coin from the ‘Hackney Hoard’ on display at Hackney Museum

A specially selected gold coin from the ‘Hackney Hoard’ will go on display at Hackney Museum this week (from Tuesday 29 November), the only part of the collection that will be available for the public viewing.

The $20 ‘Double-Eagle’ has been donated by the owner Mr. Max Sulzbacher, son of the original hoard owner that was buried during WWII.

The remaining hoard, which is being auctioned on 29 November 2011, consists of 77 coins, minted in the United States between 1854 and 1913. They are all $20 ‘Double-Eagle’ coins and were discovered in the back garden of a property in Hackney in 2007. The find was initially reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme at the Museum of London before being passed to the British Museum and the St Pancras Coroner for assessment as ‘treasure’. The find was totally unprecedented in the United Kingdom as it is the only case reviewed under ‘Treasure Trove’ law that has been returned to the original owners since the Treasure Act came to force in 1997.

Mr. Martin Sulzbacher and his extended family moved to Hackney from Germany in the late 1930s. He was interned as an ‘enemy alien refugee’ and sent to Australia, his wife and children were interned on the Isle of Man. The extended family remained in the Hackney home and buried the coins in the garden for safe keeping in early 1940. On 24 September 1940 the house in London was bombed and his family tragically killed. On his release Mr. Sulzbacher, his wife, their four children, and the four orphaned children of Martin’s brother Fritz, all returned to London. He was unable to locate the coins despite a detailed search.

However in 1952, as work started on a new building on the site of Mr. Sulzbacher’s former home, a hoard of 82 $20 American gold coins dating to 1890 was discovered in a glass jar. The hoard was awarded to Mr. Martin Sulzbacher by the coroner at the time, and now his son has been awarded the most recent find, which he is selling at auction.

Hackney Council Cabinet Member for Health, Social Care and Culture, Cllr Jonathan McShane said: “This is an incredible story spanning over 70 years. Hackney has such a colourful history and this personal account gives an insight into how war affected families who had settled in the borough. Mr. Sulzbacher’s generous donation means the council can display it in Hackney Museum and keep the story alive for generations to come.”

Mr Max Sulzbacher said: ‘I am surprised but delighted by the recent discovery, which has come to light almost 70 years after the coins were buried. I am very grateful to the finders for reporting the coins to the Portable Antiquities Scheme and the Museum of London, and to the member of the public who alerted the coroner to the 1950s discovery’.

The money from the auction is being used to refurbish and re-bless the graves of family members killed by the bomb, a fitting conclusion to this part of my family’s history.”

The coin will be on display, along with the original jar and papers, and a poignant British penny dated 1940 that was excavated amongst the rubble of the bombed house, from Tuesday 29 November. The council-run Hackney Museum is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday: 9.30am - 5.30pm. Thursday: 9.30am - 8pm, Sat: 10am - 5pm. Closed: Sunday, Monday and Bank Holidays.

Hackney Museum
Ground Floor
Technology and Learning Centre
1 Reading Lane
E8 1GQ

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Notes to editors

On 18 April 2011 the Coroner for Inner North London resumed an inquest in relation to a hoard of American gold dollars found in Hackney in 2007. The Coroner ruled that Mr. Sulzbacher has a superior claim to the coins meaning that they do not qualify as Treasure according to the terms of the Treasure Act 1996, on the grounds that in order for objects to be classed as such, their owner or his or her heirs or successors must be unknown. Mr. Martin Sulzbacher passed away in 1981 but the coroner’s office, the British Museum and the Museum of London worked together to track down his son, Mr. Max Sulzbacher who lives abroad.

This represents the first time since the Treasure Act came into force in 1997 that an original owner or direct descendent has lain successful claim to an item that would otherwise have been ‘Treasure’ and the property of the Crown.
The ‘Hackney Hoard’ is currently being auctioned by Morton & Eden at Sotheby’s.

Hackney Museum is owned and run by Hackney Council. Exhibitions about Hackney s fascinating history and diverse population are on display all year round. Hackney Museum also holds activities and events for all ages. These are free unless otherwise stated. To find out more visit

Hackney Museum
Ground Floor
Technology and Learning Centre
1 Reading Lane
E8 1GQ