Gold rush: how much hidden treasure is found each year?

We’re used to seeing unusual statistics from government, but this one from the Department for Culture, Media & Sport is a particular rarity; it’s all about treasure. Real treasure that is. All 970 bits of it that were discovered in 2011. This is what we found out.

The common law of Treasure Trove in England, Wales and Northern Ireland was replaced by the the Treasure Act 1996. Now, the ‘finder’ is legally obliged to report the object to a local coroner within 14 days who will lead an inquest.

Then it’s a waiting game – if it turns out to be treasure, then the finder has to offer it up for sale to a museum. The price is decided by an independent board of antiquities experts. If the museum can’t or won’t buy the item, the ‘finder’ has the right to keep the treasure.


92.7% of treasure was uncovered using a metal detector, compared to a mere 3.4% from archeological digs.

Gold rush: how much hidden treasure is found each year?

The Guardian article also includes maps showing the distribution of treasure finds by county in 2011 and a link to download the entire spreadsheet of data.

3 thoughts on “Gold rush: how much hidden treasure is found each year?

  1. Very interesting Aurelia! Thanks for sharing this link, perhaps I will translate it (The Guardian’s article) into Spanish to put it in my blog. It’s a shame that there isn’t something like that here in Brazil. Greetings!

  2. Hi Leonardo, I don’t think anywhere else has anything quite like our treasure laws. They originally derive from the old Common Law, and an assumption that if valuables were deliberately hidden, rather than lost, then it was assumed that the owner would return at some stage to claim them. In the meantime, the Crown looked after them until the owner turned up – and if he never did then the Crown kept them. Either way, the finder was rewarded for his honesty in turning them in. The Treasure Act 1996 builds on this very old (12th century) arrangement but extends it considerably.

    Certainly nowhere else has anything like our Portable Antiquities Scheme, which allows any finder of any item which is, or is likely to be, of historic or archaeological interest to be handed over for identification and recording. Some archaeologists are still very hostile to the PAS but others do see considerable value in it. I understand that several other EU countries look upon it with interest with a view to possibly introducing something similar. But for that to work, they would have to make it possible to metal detect since that is how the vast majority of items handed into the PAS are found.

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