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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 October 2006, 08:54 GMT 09:54 UK
Treasure trove warning over eBay
Using a metal detector
Some finds have to be declared under the Treasure Act
People who find treasure may be breaking the law if they do not report it to the authorities, eBay and the British Museum are warning.

The museum has set up a specialist team - under its Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) - to make sure antiques are legally sold by eBay sellers.

Some traders in archaeological finds are unaware they may have to be declared under the Treasure Act.

Illegal listings will be reported to specialist Met Police detectives.

English, Welsh and Northern Irish archaeological finds which constitute "treasure" must be reported to the local coroner or the PAS under the Treasure Act.

Metallic objects made up of at least 10% gold or silver which are at least 300 years old are classed as treasure.

There are definitely some people who know perfectly well what they're doing
British Museum

Some coins with lower amounts of gold or silver could also be classed as treasure.

Failure to report finds deemed to be treasure is a criminal offence under the act.

Items spotted by the PAS being sold on eBay illegally have included gold and silver Roman rings.

Staff from PAS - which is run by the British Museum on behalf of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) - will contact sellers to make sure they have reported items and are entitled to offer them for sale.

The British Museum's Roger Bland told BBC News: "There are definitely some people who know perfectly well what they're doing. They're selling finds on a regular basis all the time.

"But when we contact people who are selling objects we think should be reported as treasure there's quite a few more who I think genuinely do it out of ignorance because they don't know about the law."

'Valuable insights'

Chris Batt, chief executive of the MLA, said the partnership would mean illegal listings could be stopped and action taken.

"Doing so is vital because such activity is not only illegal but could also damage the archaeological record as, without effective reporting, valuable insights into our past could be lost forever," he said.

An eBay spokesman said educating its customers "on what to look out for when buying antiquities on eBay and informing sellers of their obligations is of paramount importance".

As part of the joint initiative, the site has created a guide to buying and selling antiquities which offers advice on reporting obligations.

Under the Treasure Act, metallic objects made up of at least 10% gold or silver which are at least 300 years old must be reported to the local coroner or the PAS.

Some coins with lower amounts of gold or silver could also be classed as treasure.

Items spotted by the PAS being sold on eBay illegally have included gold and silver Roman rings.


SEE ALSO
Watching the detectorists
03 May 06 |  Magazine
Treasure hunters law to change
11 Oct 02 |  Politics

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