A metal detectorist hunting a friend’s lost wedding ring discovered a haul of ancient gold worth up to £100,000.

Paul Raynard, 44, burst into tears after unearthing the 84 coins — some dating back to the reign of Henry VIII — in a field near Ballycastle in Co. Antrim.

He ran off to find his pal Michael Gwynne, screaming: ‘There’s millions! This is the moment we dreamed of!’

Mr Raynard, a father-of-two from Keighley, West Yorkshire, said: ‘It’s like checking your lottery numbers and realising you’ve hit the jackpot.’

The lighting engineer said he and his business partner Mr Gwynne, 52, stopped in Northern Ireland for some metal detecting on their way back from a business trip to China.

However, they were only in the field as a favour for a farmer friend who lost his wedding ring there.

Mr Raynard said: ‘We didn’t find the ring and had only been there a couple of hours when we found the coins.

‘I dug a small hole and there they were. I just could not believe it. I went to fetch Michael who was across the field so we could share the moment.’

The lucky treasure hunter has been told it could be the biggest haul ever found in Northern Ireland.

Just one of the hoard — an ultra-rare Henry VIII coin dated 1512 — is estimated to be worth £5,000. Other coins, including one featuring Edward VI, could fetch up to £3,000.

The coins have been sent to Ulster Museum for official identification and valuation. It will take several months for them to be valued, but experts estimate they are worth £100,000.

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The value will be split equally between Mr Raynard and the landowner if they choose to sell them.

Mr Raynard said the ‘once in a lifetime’ find had repaid him for years spent pursuing his hobby.

He first became interested at the age of seven when he was given a copy of Treasure Island but has taken it more seriously since he bought a £600 metal detector, able to spot items 4ft below ground.

‘It’s something I have dreamed of since I was a kid,’ he said. ‘It was an amazing feeling.’ It’s like checking your lottery numbers and realising you’ve hit the jackpot.

“I saw one or two coins at first but had no idea of the size of the hoard, to begin with. I went to fetch Michael who was across the field so we could share the moment together. I was shaking, I still can’t believe it now.”

Video footage of the moment Paul and Michael dig up the underground treasure shows them pulling one muddy coin after another from beneath the soil.

The coins have been sent to Ulster Museum for official identification and valuation by a team of experts. It will take several months for the 84 coins to be valued in full but Paul said other experts told him the whole hoard could be worth more than £100,000.

Paul said he and his business partner, Michael, usually study old maps looking out for signs of ancient settlements or battlegrounds where hoards may be buried.

He said: “We had just come back from a busy business trip to China and Michael said he knew of a nice little place we could go to in Ireland for us to take our detectors. But we only went to that field to try to find his mate’s wedding ring.

We didn’t find the ring and had only been there a couple of hours when we found the coins. I dug a small hole and there they were. I just could not believe it.”

Paul has been interested in metal detecting since aged seven when his parents bought him a treasure island book as a present.

He took his hobby seriously at the age of 35 and bought a £600 metal detector, capable of picking up gold and silver items buried up to 4ft below ground.

The coins are Paul’s most significant find and he has described it as a “once in a lifetime” discovery, Metro UK reports.

Their value will be split equally between Paul and the landowner if they choose to sell the coins on for cash, following the completion of the valuation process.

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