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by Nigel Swift

A well-known detectorist just saidI only write to major landowners who want things done properly in terms of “documentation”. The majority of farmers much prefer to see the whites of your eyes.By “documentation” he means a written contract. Many detectorists don’t offer one and stress instead that “trust” is paramount. As does this character:

“Alright mate. Sorry to hear your grandad has died. I’ll clear his garage for you if you like – no paperwork, no charge. I’ll just take the stuff. And oh yes, if I come across anything valuable I’ll tell you. ‘Course I will. Look at the whites of my eyes”.

“Alright mate?  Sorry to hear your grandad has died. I’ll clear his garage for you if you like – no paperwork, no charge. I’ll just take the stuff. And oh yes, if I come across anything valuable I’ll tell you. ‘Course I will. Look at the whites of my eyes”.

Such characters are often featured on Crimewatch. In stark contrast the authorities are silent about the thousands of detectorists who don’t sign contracts (or offer blatantly unfair ones that leave them free to take almost everything home unseen). The words “just trust me” can never be uttered with the farmer’s interest in mind so shouldn’t The Alliance to Reduce Crime against Heritage et al be pointing that out? After all, they are assiduous in warning landowners about the other, far less numerous “no contract” detectorists, the nighthawks. 

It’s a fair question that I anticipate will be entirely ignored. Why?

(Incidentally, the Moderator of the “UK and European Metal Detecting Forum has just said that “Its probable that only about 5% of all detectorists use a contract”. Does officialdom seriously believe farmers and society are ripped off more by nighthawks than by a proportion of those 9,500 “no contract” daytime artefact hunters? I very much doubt it but such is the official pretence in Britain: lots of condemnation of the former, echoing silence about the latter. Barmy.)

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

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