A policeman-detectorist has been convicted of theft. He secretly sold dug up coins for £15,000 to a dealer and kept the entire amount, despite having a contract with the landowner to split the proceeds of any find.
“No big deal, there are crooks in all walks of life”, as detectorists say every time there’s some nighthawking. Maybe. But it does illustrate that “finds agreements” are no protection for landlords. Indeed, they’re a crook’s best friend for most of them authorise the detectorist to take home items of “low” value (commonly £300 but £2,000 at Central Searchers rallies) as his own without showing the farmer – and that’s as good as carte blanche since it is the detectorist alone who determines “low value”. As the notional but wise Farmer Silas Brown has said to farmers ad nauseam:
“NO good can come from you signing a finds agreement. The official Responsibility Code (for detectorists, not for you!) says signing a finds agreement avoids future ownership disputes. But it categorically doesn’t, it’s a lie as by law they’re already our artefacts or the State’s, no-one else’s. So don’t do it. Sign nothing, especially if it contains the word “share”. Why would a person who’s “only in it for the history” ask you for a share? Do history lovers or amateur archaeologists ask for a share? No. By all that’s logical, legal, practical, safe and just it should be YOU alone who decides what (if anything) you give away, and then only when you’ve seen everything the detectorist has found, not before. And only when you’ve been given the finds and had them independently examined and valued.
By not signing a finds agreement you’ll still get ripped off sometimes. More fool you for letting an “acquisitive historian” onto your land (what a horrible description, yet totally accurate) to do what archaeologists nearly all object to in private (ask them) but it will happen less often if it is made clear: nothing leaves my farm without me seeing it.