Are Your Finds Really Yours?


Archaeologists would like you to believe that they have the inherent right or claim to everything that has been lost or cast to the wind. Whether buried in the ground or hidden under the seas, it’s theirs to preserve so all of mankind can enjoy. The problem with that is they are NOT actively looking for it. We ARE and that makes a difference. A helluva big difference because there’s no guarantee that anything buried in the ground will ever see the light of day.

We tekkies tend to feed this BS idea by repeating the “I save history” mantra. Listen I get it.  It’s sounds cool and it’s a lot more palatable to John Q. Public than saying “I hunt for treasure”. Saying it however pins you down and defines every single thing you find as history and it’s not. Not by a long shot.

Understand when I go detecting I go where it’s legal for me to hunt. Where it’s legal for me to dig and where it’s legal for me to recover items. If it’s private property I’ve asked and been given permission to dig and I’ve made arrangements as to the disposition of the items I find. Sometimes it’s just a handshake and a verbal agreement – other times it’s in writing.

Public Property

Before I give my take on public property, what does ‘public’ mean? Well here are a few definitions according to Merriam Webster…

“of, relating to, or being in the service of the community or nation” 

“of or relating to people in general : UNIVERSAL”

“devoted to the general or national welfare”

“accessible to or shared by all members of the community”

When  it comes to hunting public property, a.k.a. park, school, athletic field, beach, etc.,  I make the decision as to what happens to my finds. If I recover a coin it’s mine. Mine to keep, mine to sell if I want and mine to share if I so desire. If I find a piece of trash it’s also mine. Mine to keep and dispose of. If I find a piece of jewelry it’s also mine to dispose of how I see fit though if the item is extremely valuable I will make an effort to check lost and found ads. If it’s a class ring I do all I can to return it. Bottom line? I searched for these items legally and what ultimately happens to them is up to me, no one else.

To the victor (finder) go the spoils...

The one possible exception to what I just stated? Historical items/relics. You see IF I  find something  at a city park, school, beach, etc. that would be of historical significance to the city I will gladly give it them or to the local historical society providing they have a way to display and/or share it with the community.

I’ve posted the following before but I want to share it again because it’s important to what I’m trying to say…. Here in Texas we have something called the Texas Antiquity Code that states:

Sec. 191.002. DECLARATION OF PUBLIC POLICY. It is the public policy and in the public interest of the State of Texas to locate, protect, and preserve all sites, objects, buildings, pre-twentieth century shipwrecks, and locations of historical, archeological, educational, or scientific interest, including but not limited to prehistoric and historical American Indian or aboriginal campsites, dwellings, and habitation sites, archeological sites of every character, treasure imbedded in the earth, sunken or abandoned ships and wrecks of the sea or any part of their contents, maps, records, documents, books, artifacts, and implements of culture in any way related to the inhabitants, pre-history, history, natural history, government, or culture in, on, or under any of the land in the State of Texas, including the tidelands, submerged land, and the bed of the sea within the jurisdiction of the State of Texas.

As you can see if I went by the above it would be a total waste of time to go metal detecting because everything I found would theoretically belong to the state and that’s just pure bullshit….sorry!

So you tell me…

….am I right, wrong, selfish, rude? Do I have an attitude problem? If you think I do consider your finds collection and tell me if you’d give up a good portion of it because the state says it’s really theirs? I’m pretty certain the state doesn’t go out of their way to enforce these regulations/codes because they know full well the pastime would go silent and the reporting of anything historical would disappear. The UK realized this years ago and came up with the PAS.

Archaeology needs to understand that we aren’t going away and they can either work with us or demean and fight us.  Choosing the latter will certainly not be in theirs or anyone’s best interest!

Bottom line?  I exercised due diligence, busted my butt to search for it and find it. It’s MY decision as to what will happen to it! Happy hunting y’all….



Saw where the “The Curse of Civil War Gold” was on TV last night and tuned in. It took only about ten minutes to feel stupid.  These shows cater to the mindless and naive –  sorry if you happen to like them. I mean come on folks the same faces, the same corny pretenses and the same “be sure to tune in next week” outcomes. Don’t you ever feel suckered?

Never met Gary Drayton, but have heard a lot of good things about him. IMO these shows are not helping his image and yes I know he doesn’t give a rat’s ass what I think.




Filed under Metal Detecting

25 responses to “Are Your Finds Really Yours?

  1. John Winter

    The situation is a little different in the UK, Dick. The term PUBLIC is very different. For example, woe betide you if you detect on the playing field of a public school without permission. A so-called public school is actually PRIVATE. All land is owned by somebody. We cannot just desend on a children’s play area. There are more interesting and productive places over here than a Tot-Lot, anyway. Compared to the USA we are rather fortunate.

    Thank you for a well-written and thought-provoking post.

    • Hi John, it’s good to hear from and hope you are feeling well.

      Thanks for the clarification regarding PUBLIC in the UK. Interesting contrast for sure and yes you do indeed have more interesting and more productive sites there. I’m envious….

  2. Gary Banning

    Very well written article…and yes, I agree. I have said some of the same things before. I’ve been detecting for over 45 years… I put the time in. If they want artifacts and items bad enough…then they need to do the work. I have returned class rings too…and that’s the right thing to do.
    Take care…

  3. Tony

    Dick, good article for us to think about and talk it up.
    I am not sure who it was that said “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours”!
    Might have been your old buddy Karl Von Muller – but then again at my age maybe not – dam brain cramp again

  4. Dick,
    It would seem that the State of Texas can claim ownership of any object within the State that is considered to be of educational importance (the mention of 19th century is restricted to shipwrecks).
    If some unfortunate student were to discover a new subspecies of some of the local flora or fauna and published it, the State would have total control over that paper or book,and that student’s descendants could gain no benefit from it.

    I sincerely hope that the State does not come up with a loophole whereby they can define a person as an object, for then, they will own you, too!


  5. Wow, good post Dick! My head is still ringing from it…dammed good post!! I guess I’m gonna have to go and do a new blog now myself, now that you’ve shamed my minuscule blogging efforts by putting out this dammed good post! And I’m going out detecting in the morning and I’m gonna keep everything I find cause’ it’s mine!!! Cheers!

  6. Ed B.

    I guess the state of Texas doesn’t believe in that old rhyme we used when we were kids…..”Finders keepers, losers weepers”.

    • Ed I suspect other states have similar restrictions, dunno. Pretty sure the Texas code was crafted by an archaeologist and very carefully worded to cover everything, especially their ass.

  7. wendell

    It’s all about protecting their turf and it’s all their turf to hear them tell it. Maintaining the status quo and their power, but we the taxpayers have rights and I intend to exercise my rights to metal detect ethically until the Lord calls me home.

  8. john taylor

    rights can be rescinded by local jurisdictions. ..proper “nomenclature”
    would be a “local city, or town ordinance”


  9. john taylor

    yes! really! dick! it’s “unfortunate!” may liken it to be a “wake up” call and the logic would indicate that if you “don’t” do the right using “shovels” in public parks, and other nice public domains, the “gendarmes” will quote you the “local” ordinance, just before they “toss ya ass outta the park!”and give a “black eye” to all the rest of us “ethical” detectorists. now with that said,i’m climbing down off my high horse, and slipping over to piggly-wiggly for another taste
    of the “nectar of the gods” the most infamous (m.d.) 20-20.


    • Didn’t think there were Piggly Wigglys in Vermont??

      • john taylor

        there ain’t!..sounds better though!..we got (i.g.a.) up here,
        and the locals ain’t never heard of that “merlot!”.. they know all about
        “madeira” though, and make it in their basements…”nasty stuff” it is, ayup!
        keeps winter bearable! ..just sayin’

  10. john taylor

    hi dick!
    great stash!,by the way! i think if the “right reverend” sees that,
    you may experience great difficulty getting him to give up the 20 spot.
    IF you decide to “re bury” that, don’t forget to send the reverend, and me
    a map so we can “share in your good fortune”..i’m just sayin’


  11. You nailed it with the finds. I think a lot of us feel the same way about what’s ours, what’s Historical, and what should be returned if possible.

    As for the public property issue, I have become aware lately that a lot of these so called “treasure hunters” who are posting their finds all over social media, are also hunting and finding these items on private properties, without permission. Taking their chances on not getting caught. It’s not a new thing, but it’s becoming a trend in the community. It kind of sucks, because eventually some will get caught, and it will cast a bad light on us once again, and just when our hobby is starting to be seen as legitimate.

    • Diva didn’t realize that was the case…that’s not good. Guess there will always be bad apples. Stay out of the woods!

    • john taylor

      excellent point!..well taken! diva! ..unfortunately,this “absurd” behavior has been with us since christ was an altar boy!..always been a “certain” element “hell bent” on “getting there” before anyone else. this will never change, as we ALL want to have our “efforts” rewarded, and expending energy in a fruitless endeavor is generally NOT something we want to experience when we are in the field. as you mentioned, and i agree, “smart money” says take the time to ask permission. “push” yourself to do the correct thing for the hobbies sake, and for the future enjoyment of all!..”for what doth it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul!”


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