The 17th century Arabian silver coin was struck in 1693 in Yemen. (AP/Steven Senne)

The 17th century Arabian silver coin was struck in 1693 in Yemen. (AP/Steven Senne)

Jim Bailey uses a metal detector in a field in Warwick, Rhode Island. He found the coin. (AP/Steven Senne)

Jim Bailey uses a metal detector in a field in Warwick, Rhode Island. He found the coin. (AP/Steven Senne)

This illustration depicts Captain Henry Every receiving three chests on board his ship.

This illustration depicts Captain Henry Every receiving three chests on board his ship.

The Arabian silver coin, top, is shown near an Oak Tree Shilling minted in 1652 by the Massachusetts Bay Colony, below, and a Spanish half real coin from 1727, right. (AP/Steven Senne)

The Arabian silver coin, top, is shown near an Oak Tree Shilling minted in 1652 by the Massachusetts Bay Colony, below, and a Spanish half real coin from 1727, right. (AP/Steven Senne)

Jim Bailey scans dirt for colonial-era artifacts. (AP/Steven Senne)

Jim Bailey scans dirt for colonial-era artifacts. (AP/Steven Senne)

A Captain’s Coins?

Posted: July 1, 2021

Sweet Berry Farm: Come to pick fruit. Leave with pirate coins.

Wait, what?

Let’s begin at the beginning . . .

Once upon a time—on September 7, 1695, to be exact—an English pirate named Henry Every robbed a ship. The vessel was carrying Muslim pilgrims home to India. Captain Every and his crew killed the people on board. The brigands also stole tens of millions of dollars’ worth of gold and silver before escaping. Government officials sought to bring the criminals to justice. But no one ever found Captain Every. The case went cold.

The case warmed up again more than 300 years later. In 2014, amateur historian Jim Bailey took his metal detector to Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown, Rhode Island. With it, he found a dime-sized coin. Peering closer, he spotted Arabic text. The coin was oooold . . . from the 17th century. Eureka! That pocket change is the oldest ever found in North America!

Indeed, the coin was minted in 1693 in the Middle Eastern country of Yemen. There’s no evidence that American colonists traveled to anywhere in the Middle East to trade until decades later. So who left the coins? Maybe pirates. Maybe Captain Every.

Since then, others have unearthed 15 more Arabian coins from the same era in New England. Another was found in North Carolina. Records show that some of Captain Every’s men first came ashore there.

Mr. Bailey says the coins he and others have found are evidence. They show that the pirate made his way to the American colonies. There, he and his crew spent the stolen treasure while on the run.

So where was Captain Every hiding until his death? In plain sight—pretending to be a slave trader.