A METAL detector enthusiast made the find of a lifetime when he unearthed a gold Bronze Age coin worth thousands of pounds.

Now Norman Smith, from Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, hopes to put the object on display after being told he can keep it.

Mr Smith discovered the 3,000-year-old coin, called ringmoney, on a farm near Ripon last July.

He said: "When I unearthed it I immediately realised what it was, but wasn't fully convinced I had any right to assume ownership."

He reported the find to York Museum, which in turn consulted the British Museum.

Experts confirmed the object is ringmoney, one of the earliest known British coins, dating from between 1150BC and 750BC.

Mr Smith, a member of the Northern England Weekend Searchers Club, said: "They usually have a bronze core and are a rare find in any case, but it's highly unusual and uncommon to find one made of solid gold."

The issue of ownership was decided at an inquest in Richmond this week.

North Yorkshire coroner Jeremy Cave ruled that the find was not treasure trove, which would make it the property of the Crown, and that it belonged to the finder.

Mr Smith said he was grateful to the museum for the help he had been given.

The coin is thought to be worth a four-figure sum, but Mr Smith said the money does not interest him.