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Good news! Two detectorists just said: I will also be letting the farmer know that all items found excluding treasure items belong to him” and “everything that I find is his so he can set the terms for what to do with the finds.” You might think “So what? Of course his property should all be delivered to him to decide what to do with it.” But amazingly it mostly doesn’t happen:

Mostly farmers sign what they think are “50-50 Finds Agreements” that are actually nothing of the sort. Under them, “valuable” items (usually set at “over £300“) are split 50-50 but in addition the detectorist gets 100% of the rest. The farmer must somehow believe (how?) that “the rest” isn’t much. But take a look at EBay or the treasure hunting magazines. It’s massive. Thus, the reality of those contracts is that they aren’t 50-50 at all. Detectorists get the lions share and usually the whole of the monetary value of what’s found. Worse, it is the detectorist alone, out in the fields, who decides what’s “valuable” and must be shared and what isn’t and can be taken home without the farmer even seeing it.  As unfair contracts go, these fifty-shifty ones just couldn’t be worse and as ways to take the bulk of someone’s property with their apparent written consent they couldn’t be more convenient.

So why a crack in the dam? Well if those two detectorists can see what usually happens is profoundly wrong maybe there will be others. Even archaeologists? Or will millions of pounds worth of property continue to be harvested in Bonkers Britain without the owners obtaining independent advice on it or getting a single penny for it or even ever seeing it or knowing it existed? And will the Archaeological Establishment continue to support that massive injustice by saying not a single, solitary word about it to anyone – except to each other in private? Will they be able to sustain an attitude towards farmers that’s demonstrably less responsible than some detectorists?


Update – a comment by Farmer Brown …

I’d like to say something. It’s time a farmer did. I might only be a literary device and bitterly attacked and derided by detectorists as a childish concept and a patronising stereotype, ooh arrr, but I do have one massive virtue: I’m focused on the interests of landowners alone, which is more than a single one of them can claim!

It’s time artefact hunting was viewed purely from the point of view of the artefact owners and not through the prism of PAS who want the knowledge or detectorists who want the finds. Landowners have their own rights and don’t need manipulating, misinforming or keeping in the dark to serve the agenda of others. So I think everyone, artefact hunters and archaeologists alike, should keep in mind that in a country that won’t/can’t legislate to regulate artefact hunting (so far) we landowners hold absolute control over the activity – and whether it happens or not. So not treating us absolutely fairly is unwise to say the least. If ever landowners got the idea that a bottle of sherry at Xmas and a couple of framed coins were a shameful and patronising sop, and that the Government hadn’t told them they were losing vastly more than that, well….. (12 million recordable artefacts since 1975 at only 20 pounds each is 240 million pounds. Do I hear a cry of “Nonsense”? Of course I do! So lets say only 5 pounds each then and add the 299 pound ones that get taken home without being shown and the 1000 pound ones that get valued at 299 pounds and taken home without being shown and oooh look, now it’s more like 500 million pounds! And that’s nonsense too, no doubt, but isn’t.

Like I advised my fellow landowners a while back:  Friends, they are YOUR artefacts. The ONLY “contract” you need is to assert that fact and that access must be on YOUR terms.The authorities have no right to have damaged your interest by advising you to sign anything else.”



More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting



May 2014

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