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Treasure Find Laws Around the World
I have the honor to read and upload the treasure find stories as they come in. Many times there are some great conversations that come from emailing the writer to let him or her know that their story is up on the site in our treasure finds section.
One of the most memorable exchanges was about how England requires all relics found be handed over for inspection. It made me wonder what other countries around the world have in place for metal detecting finds. During my research, I found a list of where detecting is allowed and banned, which is useful in and of itself but I want to focus on what to do after you have a find in hand.
According to the European Council for Metal Detecting, each "Land", similar to a state in the USA, has their own laws on metal detecting so it is best to contact local law enforcement to verify rule and regulations.
Most of the country is not allowed to search for artifacts and when they do find one it is typically not reported for fear of punishment. However, In the Flanders region, you have to register as a metal detectorist and receive a permit. Once you do find an artifact you must report it immediately and hand it over to the government or archaeologists for inspection on request.
They probably have the best process in the world. All of the information is detailed on the government website. Once you have a find that meets the requirements of a treasure, you must report it to the local coroner. Once they write a report you will get your find back, unless a museum wants it, in which case you most likely will get a monetary reward.
According to the Treasure Trove Act any treasure find, by a metal detector or otherwise, of more than 10 rupees (currently ~.16 USD) must be reported to the Collector. It is then handed over or a deposit given to the government as soon as possible. After a process of trying to find the owner is completed, you will get all or part of the find depending on the outcome of the Collector’s findings.
Each Providence has rights over how it handles the finding of relics, including old coins. In general though, if you find anything that the government has outlined as artifacts you are to stop what you are doing and call the appropriate authorities. Nova Scotia has a portion of its website dedicated to what to do if you find something while metal detecting. They even have the number for the Nova Scotia Museum.
For the most part in the United States, it is a finders keepers situation for relics and old coins. There is an exception, offshore ship wrecks. In 1988 the Abandoned Shipwreck Act went into effect. You can't go out and start looking for a shipwreck to salvage. In Florida the rights are given through a permit. When a permitted salvor does make a find they have to report it to the state. Once the state has assessed the find they may give the salvor a portion of the find.
Once again I will refer to the European Council for Metal Detecting since they have just published the basic laws on their website. Basically you can search for lost item on private land (with permission of course) but hunting for artifacts and on/near historical sites is against the law.
Another exception is if you come across a Native American burial ground. You must stop what you are doing and report it to the authorities.
Then there is the difference between mislaid vs. lost vs. abandoned treasure. Depending on the situation you may be required attempt to get the find back to its owner. Even then, each state has different laws in place on how to deal with each situation.
No matter where you go hunting it’s always best to do a bit of research and be sure to ask the authorities before you travel. This is even more important in countries that you don’t detect or live in.
The plan is to update this post as laws change and we find more information. If you have a country you’d like to add to the list email us with information and link to official documentation or scholarly works that we can verify and reference to email@example.com.