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What are the rules and guidance for reporting something that may be treasure?
If you find something that you think may be treasure, there are certain rules that you must follow to report the find. This page also provides information on other issues relating to treasure, such as the definition of treasure and receiving an award for your find.
What to do if you find something that may be treasure
You must report all finds of treasure to the coroner either:
The obligation to report finds applies to everyone, including archaeologists.
The definition of treasure
The following finds are classed as treasure under the Treasure Act 1996:
All coins from the same find count as treasure provided they are at least 300 years old when found. If the coins contain less than ten per cent of gold or silver there must be at least ten of them to count as treasure.
Objects other than coins
Any other object may count as treasure provided that it contains at least ten per cent of gold or silver and is at least 300 years old when found. Note that objects with gold or silver plating normally have less than ten per cent of precious metal.
An object or coin is part of the same find as another object or coin if it is found in the same place as, or had previously been left together with, the other object. Finds may have become scattered since they were originally deposited in the ground.
Only the following groups of coins will normally be regarded as coming from the same find:
Objects that would have been treasure trove
Any object that would previously have been treasure trove, but does not fall within the specific categories given. These objects have to be made substantially of gold or silver; they have to have been buried with the intention of recovery and their owner or their heirs cannot be traced.
Any object, whatever it is made of, that is found in the same place as, or that had previously been together with, another object that is treasure.
The following types of find are not treasure:
If you are in any doubt about whether an object counts as treasure, it will probably be safest to report your find.
How to report a find of treasure
It is very simple to report a find of treasure. You may report your find to the coroner in person, by letter, telephone or fax. The coroner or the coroner's officer will send you an acknowledgement and tell you where you should take your find. You can find contact details for the coroner at the bottom of the page.
Where to take your find
You will normally be asked to take your find to a local museum or archaeological body. The person who receives the find on behalf of the coroner will give you a receipt. They will need to know where you made the find, but they will keep this information confidential if you (or the landowner) wish. You should also keep the information confidential.
The person receiving the find will notify the Sites and Monuments Record as soon as possible (if that has not already happened) so that the site can be investigated by archaeologists if necessary.
If you fail to report a find of treasure
If you fail to report a find of treasure you could be imprisoned for up to three months or receive a fine of up to £5,000, or both. You will not be breaking the law if you do not report a find because you do not initially recognise that it may be treasure, but you should report it once you do realise this.
If the find is not treasure
If the object is clearly not treasure, the museum or archaeological body will inform the coroner.
If the find is treasure
If the museum curator or archaeologist believes that the find may be treasure, they will inform the British Museum. The museum will then decide whether they or any other museum may wish to acquire it.
If no museum wishes to acquire the find, the coroner will usually notify the occupier and landowner that he intends to return the object to the finder after 28 days unless he receives an objection. If the coroner receives an objection, the find will be retained until the dispute has been settled.
If a museum wants to acquire the find
If a museum wants to acquire part or all of a find, then the coroner will hold an inquest to decide whether it is treasure. The coroner will inform the finder, occupier and landowner and they will be able to question witnesses at the inquest. Treasure inquests will normally be held without a jury.
If the find is declared to be treasure, then it will be taken to the British Museum so that it can be valued.
Receiving a fair price for the find
Any find of treasure that a museum wishes to acquire must be valued by the Treasure Valuation Committee, which consists of independent experts, who will commission a valuation. You, together with the museum that wishes to acquire the find and any other interested party, will have an opportunity to comment on the valuation and to send in a separate valuation of your own, before the committee makes its recommendation. If you are dissatisfied you can appeal to the Secretary of State.
Loss or damage to the find
The coroner or museum is required to take reasonable steps to ensure that the find is not lost or damaged. In the unlikely event that this does happen, you should be compensated.
Receiving the reward
The person who receives the reward is set out in detail in a Code of Practice. To summarise:
The Code of Practice states that you should receive a reward within one year of you having delivered your find, although this may take longer in the case of very large finds or those that present special difficulties.