The Treasure Act Explained

A few years ago a new set of rules explaining what to do if you find something really old and special in the ground was introduced in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This set of rules was called The Treasure Act 1996 (it was written in 1996, but was made law in 1997). Scotland has different rules and you can see these at

Aaarrrr! Treasure is a legal name and doesn’t mean the same in the language that lawyers use as it does in ordinary language. It is not the same thing as a Pirate’s treasure! In lawyers’ speak, Treasure just means that the object found has to be made of at least a little bit (one tenth) silver or gold and be more than 300 years old.

Early Bronze Age hoard from Rossett, Wales Really old things found in the ground that are more than 2,100 years old (called Prehistoric because they were made before people wrote history books) do not have to be made of gold or silver to count as Treasure. Any really old Prehistoric metal things, even ones that are made of bronze (bronze is sometimes called copper alloy by archaeologists) can be Treasure.

Coin hoard Coins can be Treasure too. Coins have a special set of Treasure rules. If you find two or more gold or silver coins together in the same place, they count as Treasure. Also, if you find a group of ten or more metal coins that aren’t gold or silver together in the same place, they also count as Treasure. A group of coins found together in the ground is called a coin hoard.

Because Treasure is so special it belongs to all the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. If you find any of these Treasure finds, you have to tell either your local FLO, or a special type of judge called a Coroner. The FLOs look at finds like these all of the time and can tell you what you’ve found and if they think that it really is Treasure.

If you do find Treasure, you will need to get someone over 18 to help you tell the FLO or Coroner and help fill in a special form. The form says who found it (YOU!) and where and when it was found. The Treasure will then be sent away to be checked by an expert. After this, your local museum will be given the chance to buy your find so that other people can see it and learn from it. You may even be given a reward for reporting it!

Staffordshire hoard

© The British Museum 2012 | Credits