SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

September 30, 2010

Salem man finds 2,000-year-old shekel on the shore

MANCHESTER — What a builder thought was a quarter has turned out to be a 2,000-year-old shekel, the kind of coin Judas was paid to betray Jesus.

The coin was found during the reconstruction of a Manchester wharf in the spring of 2006, and now the finder and property owner are trying to solve the mystery of how it got there.

Phillip Pelletier of Salem was reconstructing the wharf at 7 Norton's Point Road in Manchester when he found what he thought was a quarter in a small hole in the sand. He pocketed the change without thinking twice and set it aside when he got home.

But later, after a closer look, Pelletier realized the coin wasn't a quarter at all. He brought it to one of his wife's co-workers, a coin collector, who identified the silver piece as a shekel of Tyre. The collector told Pelletier the 90 percent silver coin dated to biblical times and was the type of silver used to pay Judas for the betrayal of Jesus.

Pelletier said he is shocked he found a 2,000-year-old coin in Manchester but finds it ironic that he discovered the shekel on Holy Thursday, the day that commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles; it was after the meal that Judas betrayed Christ.

Pelletier said he held on to the coin for a while, thinking he had struck big. Some further research, however, revealed the coin was worth about $800 or so. The worldwide coin source online lists the coin as worth about $1,000.

Curiosity got the best of Pelletier, though. "I had to find out where it came from," he said.

He called Anita Brewer-Siljeholm, the owner of 7 Norton's Point Road, to see if there were coin collectors in her family who might have lost the shekel. Brewer-Siljeholm said she had no history of coin collectors in her family and was just as puzzled by the ancient coin being on her property.

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