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It happens time and again. A hard-pressed local museum appeals to the public to “save” some treasure a metal detectorist has dug up.

But save it from what? It already belongs to the Crown. So saving it from oblivion, that’s what, at the hands of someone who never owned it but who, unless they are paid a ransom, will keep it for themselves or sell it and will certainly not hand it over voluntarily else they would have.

It’s called Britain’s Treasure system, aimed to “reward” those who find stuff but won’t do the right thing by the community like amateur archaeologists would. It’s about to be reformed though so let’s hope the DCMS and the Treasure Registrar change things. After all, see this …

Above: donors. Below: a recipient. But why should there have to be donors? And why should the recipient be granted anonymity? How can either be right? Please write to the DCMS or the Treasure Registrar and ask. We’ve done so often but are never told. No wonder, since an honest answer to both questions would effectively require the use of the term “blackmail” and the metal detecting community wouldn’t like that as, try as they might, they can’t make it fit with “heroes”.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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