12th July 2024

This one has been flying under the radar for some time. The law for detectorists in the UK is about to change. 

Currently, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, all finders of gold and silver objects, and groups of coins from the same finds, over 300 years old, have a legal obligation to report such items under the Treasure Act 1996. Prehistoric base-metal assemblages found after 1st January 2003 also qualify as Treasure.

These laws are about to undergo a fundamental change. The government has set out plans to amend the definition of what constitutes treasure to cover more rare and precious archaeological finds. These plans are due to be laid before parliament next week. They are subject to debate, but if approved, the change would come into effect from July 2023.

There are however two major issues with the proposed new legislation. The first is who is going to fund it. Currently, FLO’s (Find Liason Officers) around the currently are struggling with their existing workload. How are they going to manage even more reported finds without substantial investment in new staff and technology? 

Second to this is the possibility that more detectorists will simply decide not to report finds. Which is not a situation any of us want to see.

There is very little doubt that this new legislation will be approved. But where does it stop? What happens when it is decided that finds over 100 years old need to be reported, or as in some countries all finds have to be reported? It is not too much of a stretch to envisage a time in the future when detectorists will be required to hold a license and we will go back to the days when a permit was needed even in order to search your local beach. 

The idea of safeguarding our country’s heritage is a good one. But we need to be careful about the motivations of some of the people who are pushing this new legislation upon us. 


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