Thursday, 5 February 2015

Metal Detecting and the Law: Selling French Artefacts

"Bonjour", writes a metal detectorist on a forum near you ('Selling Finds in France' Tue Feb 03, 2015 7:29 pm):
I have only been detecting for about 1 yr and still a bit wet behind the ears. Found some old French coins etc. I don't collect coins so I decided to sell my Double Tournois on a French website (we are not talking big money here)  [...] didn't take long for the e-mails to come rolling in, here is one: 
bonjour, la vente de trouvaille trouvée par le biais d'un détecteur de métaux pouvait intéresser l'histoire ou la préhistoire est formellement interdite. A bon entendeur votre annonce est signalée.
in short it is not allowed to sell 'stuff' found with a metal detecter in France. (and I'm grassing on you). I made the unfortunate mistake of including, 'found while detecting' in my announcement. [...] I won't post my response to Monseigneur, I'll let you all imagine......
Note the use of criminal slang (grassing) for somebody who is just doing what any responsible citizen witnessing a potentially illegal act would do - inform the authorities. You will not find many UK detectorists "grassing" on each other I'll bet. The coin appears to be the one that had been found in October last year "in a forest near Poitiers France". He seems surprised that there is a law he did not know anything about - he thought it was the same as in the UK, just get the landowner's permission and fill yer pockets. He now decides to dispose of it another way: 
Does anyone know someone that wants two French coins that I've had in my private collection for many years? =))
Detectorist Littleboot (who has a home in Normandy) advises him (Tue Feb 03, 2015 10:41 pm) 
I think its always unwise to mention 'found while metal detecting' when selling stuff like this. Asking for trouble really...especially from folks who have little idea of the nature of random finds. [...]  the French can be easily roused by the idea...however mistaken....that their heritage is being ransacked....particularly by someone foreign. They have their archie vigilantes same as we do.[...] Subtlety is the key. Join a French detecting website and get some pointers. [...] Selling finds, whether in the UK or France, requires a certain amount of tact and diplomacy at times.
It seems from this that a collector's "tact and diplomacy" is "bare-faced lies" in real people's language. Once again this raises the issue of artefact hunters laundering finds by stating they had a different origin from their real one. Of course he could take the coin to England in his pocket and sell it there out of the reach of the French authorities- but that's what normal people call 'smuggling'.  Littleboot goes on to say that:
Of course all this nonsense could be avoided if the French would wise up and formulate a Treasure Act. 
Nonsense is the above-mentioned laundering of finds. This could be avoided if artefact hunters just stick to the law of the land where they are. Why should the French change their law to suit a few selfish foreign and other artefact hunters and collectors who want to profit by selling them off?  Talk about entitlement.
As for attitudes of entitlement towards the French, "maniacs when it comes to history and heritage": 
I say to the person that sent me the most hateful mail, " Yes France has a rich history and you should fight to preserve it. If my grandfathers hadn't you might have just written your e-mail in German".
The French Resistance of course was in this metal detectorist's mind only a fiction to make Hollywood war-films more interesting.

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