Sorry, Sherlock: Brits can’t solve mystery of gold in piano

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The 913 gold coins which were found in a piano are displayed at Ludlow Museum in England on Thursday, where they are being kept under lock and key. British officials say they have been unable to trace the rightful heirs to the coins, which were found by a piano tuner. | Richard Vernalls/Press Association, distributed by the Associated Press

LONDON — British officials say they’ve been unable to trace the rightful heirs to a trove of gold coins found stashed inside a piano and worth a “life-changing” amount of money.

The school that owns the piano and the tuner who found the gold are now in line for a windfall after a coroner investigating the find declared it treasure. But the couple who owned the piano for three decades before donating it to their local school will likely miss out.

Coroner John Ellery said Thursday that, despite a thorough investigation and a public appeal for information, “we simply do not know” who concealed the coins.

The hoard was discovered last year when the piano was sent for tuning in Shropshire, central England. Under the keyboard — neatly stacked in hand-stitched packages and pouches — were 913 gold sovereigns and half-sovereigns minted in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Piano tuner Martin Backhouse found a stash of gold coins in this piano, now at the Ludlow Museum in  England. British officials say they have been unable to trace the rightful heirs to the coins, which they say are worth a “life-changing” amount of money.

Piano tuner Martin Backhouse found a stash of gold coins in this piano, now at the Ludlow Museum in England. British officials say they have been unable to trace the rightful heirs to the coins, which they say are worth a “life-changing” amount of money. Backhouse, as well as the school that owns the piano, are now in line for a windfall. | Richard Vernalls/Press Association, distributed by the Associated Press

Piano tuner Martin Backhouse said when he found the pouches and slit open the stitching, he thought: “Ooh, it looks like there’s rather a lot of gold in this.”

The hoard, which weighs 6 kilograms (13 pounds), has not been formally valued. But Peter Reavill of the British Museum has said the trove is worth a “potentially life-changing” amount.

Revenue from items declared “treasure” is generally split between the owner — in this case, the Bishops Castle Community College — and the finder.

The piano was owned for 33 years by Graham and Meg Hemmings, who donated it last year to the school near their home. But Meg Hemmings said she’s not bitter at missing out on treasure that was right under her nose.

“The sadness is, it’s not a complete story,” she said. “They’ve looked and searched for the people and they unfortunately haven’t come forward.

“It’s an incomplete story — but it’s still an exciting story.”

Graham and Meg Hemmings previously owned a piano where a stash of gold coins was found. British officials say they have been unable to trace the rightful heirs to the coins. The Hemmings donated the piano to a school, and now that school, and the tuner wh

Graham and Meg Hemmings previously owned a piano where a stash of gold coins was found. British officials say they have been unable to trace the rightful heirs to the coins. The Hemmings donated the piano to a school, and now that school, and the tuner who found the gold, are in line for a windfall after a coroner investigating the find declared it “treasure” under British law. | Richard Vernalls/Press Association, distributed by the Associated Press

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