A jury has heard how the would-be seller of rare highly-valuable monetary pieces from a Viking hoard tried to tout them to an American expert and collector of ancient coins.

Professor Ronald Bude, from the University of Michigan, has given evidence in the trial at Durham Crown Court of two men accused of trying to profit from the sale of up to 44 coins from an undeclared 9th Century hoard, worth an estimated £766,000.

Craig Best, from Bishop Auckland, and co-accused Roger Pilling, from Lancashire, deny conspiracy to convert criminal property and possessing criminal property (the coins).

The trial has previously heard that Best was arrested at a meeting with what he believed was an expert acting on behalf of a wealthy US coin collector, at Durham’s Royal County Hotel, on May 9, 2019.

Read more: Jury told of Bishop Auckland man's bid to 'sell' Viking hoard coins

Unknown to Best, both the ‘expert’ and his assistant were undercover police officers, as was the broker of the meeting, who all used aliases.

Best was in possession of three coins from the hoard which he took to the meeting to be validated by the ‘expert’ prior to the supposed sale to the fictitious US collector.

A short time later police raided Pilling’s home in Rossendale, Lancashire, arresting him and recovering a further 41 coins believed to be from the same undeclared hoard as those in Best’s possession at the Durham meeting.

On day three of the trial, the jury heard from Prof Bude, via a live link from Michigan, in the USA.

He said he came into contact with Best by Facebook prior to attending a symposium on ancient coins at the Fitzwilliam Museum, in Cambridge, in October 2018.

The court heard that Best went on to meet Prof Bude during his stay at the Cambridge conference and subsequently sold him some Northumbrian sceats, small coins, for which he was paid £3,059.

But in further messages to Prof Bude he mentioned other coins he would be able to sell him from the reign of Alfred the Great of Wessex, which he told the American expert would: “Definitely appeal to you.”

He told the professor: “These are high end, high grade coins that are worth many thousands of pounds each.”

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

Best sent Prof Bude images of the coins, but the American expert had doubts over their validity, believing them to be “fake”.

The court heard that when Prof Bude emailed Best to tell him he thought they were fake and he was consulting a leading expert at the Fitzwilliam Museum about them, the defendant was said to be, “not pleased”.

He replied to the professor: “They are a hoard, as you know they are. This can cause me problems.

“All you had to say was you didn’t want them and that was the end of it.”

Read next:

Experts in old coins will give views over provenance of Viking hoard at Durham trial next April

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

County Durham man to stand trial over recovered coin hoard

For more quality journalism, subscribe to The Northern Echo for £1.50 a week here

 The prosecution claims this was an admission by the defendant that he knew the coins were ‘treasure’ and he should not be advertising them for sale.

Best, 46, of South View, Bishop Auckland, and 74-year-old Pilling, of Rossendale, Lancashire, deny the joint charge of conspiring to convert criminal property, plus separate counts of possessing criminal property.

The trial, expected to last up to four weeks, continues tomorrow (Friday April 14).