The collecting element of Metal Detecting introduces the emotive subject of selling or buying finds. Selling archaeological finds is one of the most controversial aspects of metal detecting and is regarded as highly unethical by those of us to whom artefacts represent a historical archive.
Though many detectorists now work closely with archaeologists, there is a huge market in artifacts for private collection and sale. This is directly opposed to the traditional archaeological view that artifacts should be valued by what they can tell us about the past and not by what they are worth financially.
So………Does a responsible detectorist sell their duplicate or unwanted finds for example on e-Bay?
If they are sold on the antiquities market, they mostly lose all association with their find-spot and therefore lose all of their significance to archaeological research. You should consider donation or sale of objects of particular interest to a local museum rather than sale on the antiquities market. If you must sell you should make sure that your find is recorded with PAS first.
Donating or selling a Metal Detecting Artifact to a Museum
Museums may sometimes be glad to have the opportunity to acquire your non-treasure finds, but this could only happen with your agreement and that of the landowner. People give things to museums so that they will be preserved for future generations to enjoy and for future research.
The Museum staff will be more than happy to talk to you about an object you would like to donate. However they often have strict collecting policies, so don’t be disappointed if the museum you approach cannot take the object. Most museums collect things which are relevant to the history of an area. You may also find that the museum already has a number of similar examples. The bulk of museum collections are not those you see when you visit a museum – but those which are kept behind closed doors – however these are then available and accessible to anyone with a valid reason to study them.
Its worth remembering that donating items to a Museum often presents several problems to the institutions that are left to look after these objects:
- Conservation of the objects – very expensive and time intensive.
- What to display, after all some collections may have objects which aren’t display worthy.
- Provenance – the objects are of more archaeological worth when they have NGR details and even PAS numbers attached or associated (stops dual recording!)
Some museums, while not wanting an object for their collections may want your object for its ‘education’ or ‘handling’ collection. These objects are not given the care that the main collection is given – they may be picked up and felt by children and visitors – and inevitably damage and wear means that the object will eventually be ‘loved to death’, and discarded.
This is one Metal Detectorists viewpoint on selling finds
If a find has been fully recorded I do not have an issue with selling. I do not have a problem with this but I certainly would have if the finds had not all been recorded first. I don’t expect everyone to agree with this selling viewpoint but that’s the way it is for me.