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Staffordshire Hoard: What if it's you that strikes gold?

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Will Gompertz | 17:15 UK time, Tuesday, 23 March 2010

I was in the middle of writing a post about what makes the Staffordshire Hoard so special when I saw this performance by the historian David Starkey. So I stopped; Dr Starkey says it all.

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So that's the exciting end of the story covered. I'll tackle the prosaic by answering the question: what do you do if you strike gold when out metal-detecting?

According to the 1996 Treasure Act, applied to the whole of the UK apart from Scotland, the first thing you must do is report your find to your local coroner within 14 days.

An inquest is then led by the coroner who determines whether your find constitutes treasure or not. If it is deemed to be treasure, ownership then goes into limbo. The Portable Antiquities Scheme, which is run through the British Museum, takes over and is responsible for safekeeping on behalf of the Crown.

Next, a Treasure Valuation Committee of experts is convened, the job of which is to decide the value of the find. There is then a four-month window in which interested parties can bid for the treasure, with national institutions given preference. The price remains the same regardless of the number of bidders.

The money raised by the acquisition of the treasure by an institution is then divided between you and the owner of the land where it was found.

If nobody steps forward in the four-month window, the ownership of the treasure goes back to you, whereupon you can decide to keep it or to sell it on the open market.

Whatever the outcome, this is probably a good time to celebrate.

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