Money: Going for gold? Take care ...

Metal detectors can make you rich. But get rich quick, the law is about to change. Ian Hunter reports

Treasure hunting is not only a childhood dream or just a pastime for metal detector nerds. Hundreds of people find something interesting or valuable each year and once in a decade or so, something spectacular turns up, such as the hoard of 120 Roman gold coins worth pounds 100,000 that a first-time prospector found in a field near Didcot last December.

Coincidentally, changes may soon be introduced to the laws governing the discovery of treasure. A Private Member's Bill aiming to modify the rules on treasure trove has just completed a reading in Commons.

Existing law dates back to Edward I. In general, if the original owner of an object cannot be found by reasonable means the finder can keep what he or she has found. However, if the original owner should reappear, the finder must hand over what has been found. If the find consists of gold or silver objects that have been deliberately concealed the find will be declared treasure trove and becomes the property of the Crown. Failure to surrender such finds technically constitutes a theft from the Crown.

The present rules do not extend to coins and antiquities made of copper or other base metals. Treasure trove only applies to property concealed with the intention of being eventually recovered by its owner.

The Bill proposes a number of changes. Specific penalties would be introduced for failing to report treasure finds within 14 days of discovery. In future, coin hoards of whatever composition over 300 years old will constitute treasure. And objects found with treasure troves which, although not falling within the definition of treasure, will also be protected.

The law presently requires any find to be reported to the local coroner, police or local museum. The coroner will call an inquest and decide, often with a jury, whether the find constitutes a treasure trove. The coroner will also rule on any dispute over the identity of the finder.

If the haul is declared treasure trove, it will be offered to the local museum or, if it is exceptional, to the British Museum. If it is not wanted, it will be returned to the finder, who will be paid the market value for the find, as assessed by an independent expert committee appointed by the Treasury.

Finders are entitled to submit expert evidence of their own to the committee. The committee's decision is binding. If a museum wishes to purchase the object, an ex-gratia payment is made to the finder. Usually these payments are made within a few weeks of the committee providing its valuation. However, in the case of a very valuable find, the museum or other body wishing to acquire the object will be given a longer period of time to raise the finance .

One of the greatest recent finds is the Hoxne treasure trove. The Suffolk find consisted of 500 gold coins and 15,000 silver coins, together with gold bracelets and silver spoons. In November 1993 the committee agreed a valuation of pounds 1,175,000 .

The British Museum is usually interested to hear about any finds. The student rooms at the museums will help identify objects, mostly without appointment. However, the museum will not carry out valuations. Both the leading auction houses, Sotheby's and Christie's, offer free verbal valuations, written valuations for insurance, inheritance tax or other purposes. Advice can be obtained on export licences.

Metal detectors vary greatly in price depending on their sophistication, some can be bought for as little as pounds 50, others can cost as much as pounds 700.

According to the Treasure Trove Reviewing Committee annual report l994- 95, "... all but five of the 27 cases of treasure trove recorded in this report were found with the use of metal detectors."

Potential treasure sites can be located by sifting through old public library records. Old market and fair sites are often rich hunting grounds. Old maps and local historical societies can provide useful sources of information.

Some metal detector clubs organise weekend trips and pay farmers for the right to search their land. Many enter into share agreements by which half the value of any find is shared with the landowner. Metal detector users should be aware that it is illegal to use a metal detector on a listed ancient monument unless permission has been obtained from the Secretary of State for the Environment. Permission should also be obtained from private landowners before venturing on to their land.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Thorn in our side? Some in the pension industry are warning of chaos in the run-up to 6 April

Simon Read: "Pension freedom is months away but if we don't act soon, the freedom may be to make an expensive mistake with our future"

The introduction of the new pension freedoms has been "alarmingly chaotic", reckons Nigel Green, chief executive of the financial consultancy deVere Group, He said this week: "The implementation of changes appears to be being rushed in a cynical attempt to woo older voters ahead of May's election."

The total bill for the scandal could top £24billion

City Watchdog to investigate banks' handling of PPI compensation claims

There has been continued criticism of banks' delaying tactics and failure to find those affected by by the UK’s biggest-ever financial mis-selling scandal

The new rules will come into effect on 6 April

Pension firms must ask consumers more questions, says City Watchdog

Companies will be required to ask about health and lifestyle choices or marital status, to protect consumers who do not take up the government’s offer of the Pension Wise guidance guarantee service

Simon Read: Frozen in time - the expat British pensioners who deserve a better deal

I had dinner with the pensions minister Steve Webb this week. There was a wide-ranging discussion about the new pensions freedoms starting in April, and changes to the state pension. Crucially, I also got to ask Mr Webb whether he had any plans to have another look at the injustice that is frozen pensions.

Number of serially under-performing investment funds has increased by a fifth, survey reveals

The new Spot the Dog survey shows that even famous fund managers, holding billions of pounds of our money, can make mistakes

Mark Dampier: We always bring down Britain. But there's plenty in the tank

While the health of the economy is not insignificant, Mark Dampier finds it incredibly unpredictable in terms of its impact on the stock market

If you haven’t switched supplier or tariff in the last 12 months then you could almost certainly save money by doing so

There are easier ways to save hundreds on your energy bills

A new free app is aimed at the three-fifths of Brits who have never switched supplier

Worse hit are loyal customers with long-standing accounts – their loyalty is rewarded with lower interest rates than more recently-launched accounts

Savers are being let down by banks and building societies, says Financial Conduct Authority

Regulator’s investigation into the market found that around £160bn was held in easy access savings accounts that pay interest lower or equal to BoE base rate

What to do if you're facing repossession: However far you fall, you're not on your own

Helen Fisher had to become a 24-hour carer, and then she faced repossession. But going to the right places for help changed everything, writes Simon Read

Simon Read: Information is power. And it's in the wrong hands when people are cold-called by companies that know they're in debt

In debt? You're likely to be targeted by unscrupulous companies that hope to profit from your misfortune. They may try to pretend to be your friend by offering what they call "help" – but almost certainly that help will come with a cost and leave you worse off than you were before they got in touch.

Mark Dampier: So you've got pension freedom... will it end up as a cold shower?

In less than three months' time radical changes to pensions will take effect, providing investors with more freedom. Yet for those who prefer to make their own investment decisions, the choice of funds available is overwhelming. And an income drawdown account is also not particularly easy to manage.

The move marks the culmination of a long campaign by debt charities and insolvency firms and follows a call for evidence launched by the Minister last August

Bankruptcy rules to change, Business Minister announces

The minimum amount for which you can be forced into bankruptcy is being raised from £750 to £5,000

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Software Development Manager

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Ashdown Group: Product Manager - (Product Marketing, Financial Services)

    £30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

    Recruitment Genius: Compliance Assistant

    £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...

    Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

    £23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee