A court has heard about a rendezvous at which a would-be seller of rare ancient coins met what he thought was an expert acting on behalf of a potential buyer.

In reality, the meeting to which the hopeful vendor, Craig Best, was lured to, at Durham’s Royal County Hotel, was set up by undercover police, one posing as deal broker, ‘Hugh’, and attended by his ‘expert’, ‘Max’.

Best believed they were acting on behalf of a wealthy American collector of rare coins, ‘George’, with a view to the high-value sale of these and others from an undeclared hoard.

Following a series of emails and phone calls between them, Best turned up at the hotel with a sample of three of the coins, minted in the Anglo-Saxon era, supposedly for ‘Max’ to verify their authenticity.

Read more: Rare coin 'seller' unaware would-be buyer was undercover Durham cop

Durham Crown Court heard that in the lead up to the meeting Best told the deal broker: “I’m happy to do a deal, I’m not a greedy man”.

He had told the broker that the coins being offered were “unique” and “big money”, but was told, in response, by the go-between that, “money was no object”.

The 46-year-old defendant, of South View, Bishop Auckland, is accused of conspiring with 74-year-old fellow metal detecting enthusiast Roger Pilling, of Rossendale, in Lancashire, to sell criminal property, the 9th Century Anglo-Saxon coins, which should have been declared as ‘treasure’ and handed over to the Crown.

Both defendants each also deny separate charges of possessing criminal property, the coins.

Read more: Some of the recovered coins were seized from a County Durham 'seller'

The jury heard statements from the undercover officers, each using their alias names, including evidence of the exchange of messages as well as audio recordings of the phone calls with Best in the lead up to the meeting.

It took place at the pre-booked Neville Room, at the Royal County Hotel, in New Elvet, on May 9, 2019.

Best was greeted in the hotel lobby by a side-kick of the expert, going by the name of ‘Peter’.

He escorted Best to the Neville Room, where ‘Max’ was waiting with specialist equipment to validate the coin sample.

Best produced from his pocket the three coins, one said to be a “double emperor” of specific high value, which were in transparent boxes.

During a lengthy conversation Best told ‘Max’ he found them with other items in a box.

The supposed expert did a gravity test on the coins and then photographed them, telling Best he was sending the images individually to the broker, ‘Hugh’.

About an hour into the meeting police entered the room, seized the coins and arrested Best.

For authenticity at the time, both ‘Peter’ and ‘Max’ were also notionally arrested.

Shortly afterwards a police raid took place at Pilling’s home in Loveclough, Rossendale, where he was arrested and a further 41 coins, believed to have originated from the same undeclared Herefordshire Hoard, were recovered.

The Crown does not allege that either of the defendants, who were both interested in metal detecting, made the find themselves.

It was believed the coins were made between 874 and 879 and were buried by a Viking during a particularly violent period of English history, when Alfred the Great of Wessex and a neighbouring king, Ceowulf, in Mercia, led the Anglo-Saxon fightback against the Norse invaders and settlers.

Read next:

County Durham man to stand trial over recovered coin hoard

Pair in court after Durham Police find £1m Viking coins

10 rarest 50p coins in circulation as rare 50p sells for £234

Get more from The Northern Echo with a Premium Plus digital subscription from as little as only £1.50 a week. Click here

The coins recovered by police, valued by an expert at £766,000, include two rare examples of double-headed coins, bearing images of Alfred of Wessex and Ceolwulf.

Both Pilling and Best deny the joint charge of conspiracy to convert criminal property and individual counts of possessing criminal property.

The trial continues tomorrow (Thursday April 13), when an expert in rare coins from Michigan, in the USA, will be giving evidence via trans-Atlantic video link.