Rare silver coin not Treasure

Posted on: September 11, 2014 by

An English metal detectorist scouring the fields of Nottinghamshire last week stumbled across the find of a lifetime: a rare threepenny silver coin from New England with the date 1652 inscribed upon it. It is unclear how the US-minted coin made it all the way to England, but it is said that the coin could be worth upwards of £1 million.

What rights exist in the coin? Interestingly, because there were no other coins discovered, the find does not qualify as ‘treasure’ under the Treasure Act 1996. That legislation, which provides that title to treasure would effectively vest in the Crown, only applies to finds that consist of at least two coins, provided they are at least 10% gold or silver (which this coin appears to be), or that consist of at least ten coins (regardless of gold or silver content). Either way, it is not treasure.

But the question needs to be asked whether the finder in this case is now the only one with rights in the coin. According to reports, it was found buried in a farmer’s field. At common law, there would be a strong case for the landowner asserting ownership, but this would of course be subject to any prior agreements between the landowner and the finder. And one would guess that a well-equipped metal detectorist would make the proper arrangements…