Information for Detectorists

What finds should I report?

There is a separate section below dealing with coins, this section is intended to give a broader idea of what other objects you find might be Treasure Trove.

Objects are claimed for their archaeological or historical importance rather than financial value and Treasure Trove is not restricted to objects of precious metal and many important finds of bronze or lead alloy have been claimed in recent years. Unlike in England and Wales objects do not have to be over 300 years old and finds have been claimed which relate to famous historical figures and events.

While it may be tempting to think of a find as just another Roman brooch every object tells us something new, by its type and by where it is found; finds which you might think common can still be important, as can objects of which only a part remains. The Gallery has a range of recent finds to give you an idea of the type of object which we are interested in seeing. With the exception of what is clearly litter, or more modern objects such as Victorian coins or horse gear, it is important to record every artefact recovered from the ground as even the most unpromising looking objects can contribute to our understanding of Scotland’s past. Finds can be reported directly by emailing images to the TTU staff. You can also take finds into your local museum who can then bring them to the TTU.

Do I need to report all coins that I find?

At the present time, we don’t need to see any coin which dates after 1707, unless it is found as part of a group of objects of the same age. Likewise, common 17th century coins such as bawbees and turners only need to be reported if they are part of a hoard or a group of finds.

All other coins should be reported, even if you think they are common types. All coins are recorded in the Scottish Coins Register with the aim of building up a picture of the use and distribution of coins in Scotland and how this changed over time. Coins found by metal detectorists have shown how extensive the use of medieval coinage was and also the widespread use of foreign currency in the 16th and 17th centuries. After recording the vast majority of coins are disclaimed and returned to the finder. However there have been a number of significant discoveries of rare and early Scottish coins which have been claimed as Treasure Trove. These have included issues of David I and William the Lion

How should I record find spots?

When metal detecting it is important to record find-spots as well as anything else found at the same findspot, as once an object is removed from the ground valuable information can be lost, limiting our understanding of its potential significance. In many ways the findspot is as important as the object itself and can tell us as much.

An accurate findspot can help us as the object may have been found near an archaeological site or found in an area where other objects have been found in the past. When detecting you should look out for potential scatters of artefacts or trends in the types of artefacts recovered; for example high status medieval objects or dense distributions of musket balls which may indicate the presence of a previously unknown archaeological site. Compare your finds at the end of the day if metal detecting as a group or part of a rally as potentially important artefact scatters can easily be missed.If you find more than one object of the same period or type it is useful to know if they were found close together in the same area or further apart.

If you require any more advice in relation to recording techniques, artefact scatters, or any other matters please get in touch with staff at the Treasure Trove Unit who will be happy to assist you.

Are they any recommended ways of recording?

Accurately recording find-spots is relatively simple and does not need to be a time consuming process. In fact, it can be incredibly rewarding to plot the history of your area in a distribution map, which can now be done on online programmes such as Google Earth. A hand-held GPS for taking accurate grid reference readings is a recommended part of the metal detecting kit, however if this is not possible, a detailed map (1: 25 000) taken with you when metal detecting may also be used for plotting find-spots. Once an object is recovered record its position or find-spot with a National Grid Reference (NGR) to at least 10 figures, e.g. NO 74859 74854 or plot it on the map. It should then be individually bagged and given a finds number which relates to either the GPS grid reference or the plot on the map. A helpful tip to save time is to pre-number your finds bags and write the corresponding number in a notebook. This also allows you to keep a record of what you have found during each outing.

The Treasure Trove Unit works closely with regular finders and can provide maps and finds bags.

How can I best look after finds?

While many websites have tips and tricks about cleaning objects at home the majority of these damage the object and can remove valuable information about how it was made. Cleaning finds can damage them and result in the loss of valuable information.

  • Never apply olive oil, sealants, lacquers, waxes or other substances.Do not clean finds since this may remove the original surface and can cause the loss of microscopic detail. The surface of an object may still have traces of enamelling or gilding as well as evidence of anufacturing techniques. Cleaning or applying substances damages or destroys information about the find which can be discovered through the use of microscopic and analytical techniques.

  • If a find is taken from a water-logged place such as a peat bog keep the object damp. You can do this by digging out some peat and placing it round the find until it is covered then sealing it in a plastic container or bag. Do not let it dry out. Contact the TTU for assistance as soon as possible.

  • If a find has come from a river or loch, then wrap it in a wet cloth and seal it in a plastic bag or fill a plastic container with water and keep it covered. Contact the TTU for assistance as soon as possible

  • Surface corrosion, particularly on bronze, can have the same colour and appearance as enamels (eg red) so it is important never to brush these areas. It is often only under high magnification that details such as worn enamels and residues of gilding become visible and these add both information and value to finds.

What do I need to know about land access?

The advice on this page should be read along with the advice given by Historic Scotland in their leaflet Metal Detecting; Yes or No?

Scheduled Ancient Monuments

Under Section 42 of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act (1979) it is a criminal offence to use a metal detector on a scheduled ancient monument. It is also an offence to remove from such a monument any object of archaeological or historical interest found using a metal detector. If in doubt seek advice from either Historic Scotland or the land-owner.

What are ex gratia payments?

The finder of an object deemed to be Treasure Trove is eligible for a award to recognise their role in securing the object for the national heritage. There are common misperceptions about how an ex gratia payment is decided and this section is intended to provide guidance and information for finders.

The ex gratia payment is based on the current market value of the object and the Treasure Trove Unit use information from recent sales and auctions to ensure the information is up to date. Where appropriate the Treasure Trove Unit will also commission independent valuations. The finder of the object also has the opportunity to submit evidence as to the value of their find.

The reward is based on the sum it would take to purchase an equivalent object on the antiquities market rather than the sum a dealer might pay for an object; thus it will be considerably higher than the offer a dealer might make. The ex gratia payment can be increased to reflect good conduct on the part of the finder, and can be reduced if the object has been damaged.

Reporting in brief

When reporting an object you should provide:

  • A copy of the finders form (this provides us with key information, and is the core of our case archive)

  • A findspot which is accurate as possible (this helps us see if any other finds have been made in the same area before, or of there are any sites nearby)

  • Any other objects which may have been found, even if you might not think them old or important