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It’s now 10 years since Culture Minister David Lammy dubbed metal detectorists “the unsung heroes of the UK’s heritage”. It caused astonishment amongst archaeologists at the time as it flew in the face of what was happening in the fields and it makes even less sense now after another 2.3 million bundles of knowledge have been lost to science through blatant non-reporting. Yet PAS has never said he was wrong. Instead they’ve gone quiet about it, dubbing detectorists, variously, as their “partners” and “citizen archaeologists”. Lately they’ve pulled out all the stops to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Treasure Act which is actually a tiny part of detecting but a great success, ergo they claim is a success for them. All this year there are “Treasure20” exhibitions at a host of museums and the public is being invited to vote for “The Nation’s Favourite Find”.

However, the whole jamboree is based on a claim that the Treasure Act “marked a radical change in the fortune of objects found …..allowing thousands of important finds to be acquired by public collections for all to enjoy” But that’s a fib. The Act didn’t “allow” anything. All it did was to start offering your money for your property. The number of detectorists who hand in their Treasure finds has grown greatly for sure, from a derisory number twenty years ago to over a thousand a year now, but neither PAS’s outreach nor the Act have done that. Your money has. Although it’s your treasure Dear Reader you’ve been paying many millions to the finders to ensure they hand your property over instead of doing what they mostly did before – quietly flogging it elsewhere. So although most Treasure is now probably declared there’s no heroism involved, just a ransom. At the same time 98% of non-Treasure items aren’t reported – but you don’t offer a ransom for those.

Not that you’ll see that reality reflected in the many Treasure 20 exhibitions round the country. At those, David Lammy rides again. They’re all about yes, wonderful things (that are yours), heroic finders and praiseworthy PAS. No mention of you paying for your own property or the endless talk on detecting forums about “how much” and “was the valuation too low?” and “are you going to appeal against it?” You should keep all that in mind if you go to look at your property.

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