Friday 29 April 2011

Observer: "The Chances of Further Hoards of Large Gold Coins are Slim"

In collecting of ancient coins there is an underlying current of tension between the 'pure' collector and those buying coins as an investment (the latter of course of concern to the collector as it takes items off the market and affects prices) so collectors are particularly interested in the supply of newly-surfaced items from the searchings of metal detectorists. A collector on the EnglishHammered forum observing what metal detectorists have been doing in the UK notes a recent slowdown in large gold hoard coins coming onto the market (Treasure Act, anyone?) and has come to a conclusion which he wants to check:
Can anyone with knowledge of detecting confirm what I suspect - that gold has a good response on a detector and is relatively easy to pick up if there. So the chances of further large gold hoards is slim.

As a collector his concern at the apparent completion of the depletion of this finite resource has the significance that it will make filling of gaps in his collection much more expensive in future as prices go up as the new collectors compete for a finite amount of material, but it also means (yay!) for the same reason that the resale value of coins in his collection will have kept up with inflation. For those of us more concerned about another aspect of that finite quality of the resource in the ground, the vision that by 2011 thousands of metal detector using artefact hunters hoovering the fields for collectables will by now have covered every possible site in every possible field is a very real possibility. This collector is suggesting that as a result of current policies in Britain, this particular part of the archaeological resource may have already gone. Even if he is wrong, we are well on the way to this happening.

[The PAS might like to do collectors and investors a service and produce a chart on whether the reporting of particular types of portable antiquity groups as Treasure is on the increase, decrease or relatively stable as likely find spots are searched dry. I do not think the trend for large gold hammered coins will prove to be as the collector predicted]

A while ago an insistent journalist for a big British national was beggaring me with questions for an article he will be writing (yet to materialise I see), they included such gems as: "how many sites have metal detectorists damaged in the UK?" Answer number one, ask the PAS. But that was no good, they'd never have told him even if they knew the answer (and do they?). So I sat down and did some thinking how to answer ("Nobody really knows, but look at this, if...."). I'll post it up here one day, but even a conservative estimate (didn't want to be quoted giving an alarmist one) was a very depressing and very frightening prognosis. And the Brits do nothing as a major part of the archaeological archaeological record is emptied onto eBay...

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