Have you ever wanted to get rich quick? Long before Nigerian spammers were in on the act there was the art of metal-detecting. Often metal-detecting enthusiasts are derided as being a little bit odd and depicted as spending their lives wondering around barren fields with not much to show for it but then one of them discovers a lost treasure and spends the rest of their lives still being the subject of jealousy the rest of us.
The largest UK hoard of Anglo Saxon treasure was found in a field near Lichfield in Staffordshire in July 2009, by metal detector enthusiast Terry Herbert. His 7th Century hoard of 1,600 items including sword pommels, helmet parts and processional crosses was valued at £3.285m!
It was announced yesterday that Paul Coleman from the Weekend Wanderers Detecting Club discovered more than 5,000 coins buried inside a lead bucket two feet under a field near Aylesbury. The discovered hoard contains treasures dating back to the 11th Century – the late Anglo Saxon, early Norman period.
Mr Coleman, from Southampton, was taking part in a dig in the Padbury (just a days walk from the old Buckingham mint) area on 21 December when he found the 5,251 coins depicting the heads of kings Ethelred the Unready and Canute. Many of the coins are in absolute mint condition.
Metal detecting for treasure is a relatively cheap hobby and obviously comes with the chance that you might even make some money out of it. You can’t just metal detect anywhere and then start digging holes randomly around the countryside. Technically you need a licence and when I say technically, it’s more of that you do need a licence. However they are easily and cheaply obtainable. All the coast around the entire U.K. between the high tide and low tide marks belong to The Crown Estates or the Queen to you and me. If you wouldn’t dream of digging up Buckingham Palace gardens then think twice of treasure hunting around the coast or indeed any national park or public area as one way or the other it belongs to a council or government.
Like Mr. Coleman, you could try your luck around the countryside but you really should get permission from the land-owner first. It’s not likely they will object and if you find any treasures on their land then obviously you both have to share it out between you but make sure you agree this before you strike gold as if not, legally all treasure belongs to the landowner! If you do find something important then it is highly recommended you call in the local archaeologist and then a coroner within 14 days of discovery.
With thousands of years of history your treasure could be anything from an unexploded WW2 bomb to a collection of jewellery, coins, treasures, weapons or personal and military gear belonging to an untold number of groups of people. Treasure can often turn up in totally unexpected areas as settlements and roads move or totally disappear over the centuries or even millennia.
Once you have found some goodies worth keeping then you can’t quite count on making it rich. Previously the Coroner would decide whether the treasures had been buried for its owner to return to or accidentally lost. The wrong verdict could be tough news for the metal sector enthusiast as then the treasure could be taken by The Crown or in practice a museum. These days, this is less likely to happen but it is still a possibility.
If the hoard is declared to be treasure then the Coroner will value it and the finder must sell it to any museum who is interested in it. Otherwise the finder can keep the treasure or sell it for the best price available.
There are still numerous treasure hoards that we know about that have yet to be discovered, let alone the unknown or forgotten treasures. One such is the rumoured treasures of a number of English pirates or even the Knights Templar in the Money Pit on Oak Island, Nova Scotia. It is said that £2million of treasure is buried deep underground (valuation at 17th Century) with many dying in the allegedly booby-trapped area and thousands of others including Franklin D. Roosevelt trying to find it.
Another hoard of treasure that await someone, somewhere is that belonging to the Knights Templar. This unbelievably powerful and rich organisation was made illegal overnight and many of its members killed. It’s treasures have never been adequately explained away or found.
In ancient Egypt, in places Gold was so common that it could be found just laying around on the ground but over time it was all taken away and melted down. A more recent treasure that was taken away was The Amber Room from St. Petersburg, Russia. In fairness both the Nazis and Russians stole countless treasures with many missing to this day or in the case of Russia, some hidden away and others blatantly known about but the Russian leaders refuse to return it. The Amber Room was a priceless treasure long ago passing from Potsdam in Prussia (Germany) to St. Petersburg, Russia. In 1941 Nazi troops discovered it and sent it back to Germany where it was thought to be destroyed in an Allied bombing raid but it is now thought that it was smuggled away before the bombing. It is thought the value of this treasure could be over £120 million!
Elsewhere there are thought to be hoards of Spanish gold waiting to be discovered, priceless Faberge eggs that have “vanished” after being appropriated and stored in the Kremlin and the treasure of the Flor De La Mar, a Portuguese vessel that was shipwrecked on the coast of Sumatra whilst heavily laden with treasure. The legendary El Dorado or its more fact based relative Paititi in South America and the legend of the missing Krugers in South Africa show that treasure is waiting to be discovered all around the world and these two treasures alone are valued at around £250 billion! Paititi was long thought to be a myth as Spanish explorers and their successors could not find any trace of it. Recently however thanks to satellite imagery, traces of this missing city seem to have been found amongst the dense undergrowth.
For those of us in the U.K. the pinnacle has to be the lost treasure of King John. Bad King John, and he is known as such for many a good reason, was on one of his frequent marches across the kingdom no doubt collecting tax revenues in the area of East Anglia known as The Wash. Whilst staying at Lynn in Norfolk he fell ill with Dysentery and decided to dash back westwards to Wisbech and then north to Newark Castle. Even today this area of England is very low-lying, often under sea level but 800 years ago it really was awash with marshes, quicksands and unpredictable tides that would flood in tens of miles from the coast.
King John decided to take the longer but undemanding route home whilst ordering his heavily laden column to meet him on the other side. King John was famously bad-tempered and no-one would ever want to keep him waiting or get on his wrong side and so his men were forced to take a short-cut which was only passable with the help of local guides. Sadly and in a turn of events that are still largely unknown, the entire group of 2-3000 soldiers, their animals, wagons, tax coins, gold and treasure from across Europe disappeared and were never seen again.
Bad King John died just days after making it into Lincolnshire and it is rumoured that his demise was hastened when he was possibly poisoned by a monk. He was buried without any of the treasure a monarch might have been expected to be interred with.
King John’s treasures would make today’s Crown Jewels in London look very pathetic indeed. It is said that a 14th nobleman found them and set himself up for a life of luxury but there is no real evidence of this at all and such treasures if found would have made history even back then.
As there were no witnesses to the sinking of the treasures, they could be anywhere. The lands around The Wash have been drained and the marshes are now very rich and fertile farmlands. It is thought the most likely location for them could be around Sutton Bridge but it could be anywhere in a 50 mile radius. Wherever the treasures are, it is likely buried 20 feet under soil and possibly under a village, riverbed or road and it would need a huge stroke of luck and equipment far more sensitive than a metal detector to find. Still, the £50 million price tag on it means that someone somewhere may one day strike it very rich indeed.