It must be a nightmare running the forum UK Detector Net, a real juggling act between appearance and reality. The problem is it used to harbour lots of anti-PAS sentiment but a few years back it suddenly flip-flopped “for hobby survival purposes” and is now ostensibly very pro-PAS and pro-recording. But of course an awful lot of their users don’t agree in word or deed so heavy moderation is needed to ensure “off message” messages don’t appear. Lots of people have been thrown off the forum over the years for saying the “wrong” thing and most of the forum is kept locked from outsiders. Not for nothing is the site now dubbed “The Dark Side”. Think George Orwell without the finesse and you’ll get the idea.

But lately it’s not just the non-recording behaviour of 60% plus of detectorists that is being covered up, it’s the fact a lot of them sell their finds. To this end a new forum rule has been announced:

UKDN does not allow any reference to any sales of coins or artefacts on EBay at all. This is a blanket ruling and no exceptions will be allowed“.

[Update, 12 April 2012 - Today, a few hours after this was highlighted elsewhere, the above disappeared, having been deleted altogether or transferred to the members-only portion of the site. Whichever is the case, it confirms that (despite the denials of their spokesman) the purpose of the rule is indeed to mislead the public - since it has been deemed necessary for it's very existence to be hidden from the public. From now on, any visitor to the site such as a landowner considering granting permission for detecting on his land will be given the impression that none of the forum members are in it to make money and will have no idea that the real truth is being secretly manipulated.  A forum that trumpets it wants to establish "best practice" is still helping liars to bamboozle farmers, but now it's doing it secretly!] 

The intention is unmistakeable – it is to mislead the public. The standard claim at a farmer’s gate, “I’m an amateur archaeologist and my sole interest is history” gets you permission to detect whereas “I’m going to find stuff in your field and flog it on EBay for my own benefit” doesn’t. Ask a farmer near you which he was told. Then look up “metal detecting finds” on EBay. It’s a misrepresentation so crass as to be little short of theft and aiding people to commit it en masse is not something that the responsible elements of the metal detecting community should be doing.

But they know that’s what we think. We’ve told them often enough. They should split away– for their own sake and that of the resource. In an association of truly ethical detectorists there would be no need to warn morally challenged people to keep quiet about what they got up to – they wouldn’t be tolerated at all, and quite right too. When will thoughtful, responsible detectorists finally acknowledge the logic of that? Paul Barford has said it so well in his piece The Hidden Dark Underbelly of UK Metal Detecting

“is it not precisely the passivity of the majority of the “responsible guys” towards the extent of the loutishness in their ranks of the hobby that leads to this situation?”

Yes it is.

UPDATE 1 August 2011:  Anyone who remains puzzled about how asking detectorists not to mention on the forum if they sell their finds isn’t deliberately misleading the public by omission might care to note the contents of the LAND-OWNER / DETECTORIST CONTRACT that is displayed on the site… Not a single solitary word about acting in accordance with the Code of Responsible Detecting or recording finds with PAS and plenty about the monetary value of the finds – and selling them!  Just how that fits in with detectorists being in it for the love of history is hard to see – or with UKDN saying, “we do not support the selling of finds”, “UKDN does not want to be seen to be any part of this side of the hobby” and “UKDN took the stance that the only way forward for the hobby (and for our membership) was to make sure that, as far as we could influence people, we would pursue the highest standards of recording,  following the Code of Practice for Responsible Detecting” ! Let’s hope they don’t try to “clarify” further. A donkey’s a donkey, not a thoroughbred n’est-ce pas?

UPDATE 2  11 October 2011: A posting by “geordies lil bub” querying why selling finds mustn’t be mentioned: “why not dont some of you people want some dosh some wonga!!!!!!!!!!!” …………. and the official reply: “It’s the forum AUP, failiure to comply will get you carded or account suspended/ deactivated… you have been advised not to break any of the AUP.”

Жизни Сталин !  QED!

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More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting