Most treasure trove laws view a treasure trove as any significant amount of gold, silver, jewelry, currency, or artifacts found that were lost or buried in the ground, underwater, or even hidden in the basement, attic, or within the walls of a home (including your own or the one you rent). Typically, treasure troves are very old historically, the original owners are dead or unknown, and their heirs cannot be found.
Treasure Troves Laws Vary Widely
The basic laws governing the recovery rights and ultimate ownership of treasure troves vary widely, both here in the United States and elsewhere in the world at large. Here in the U.S., the states themselves appear to have the most control over treasure trove laws but in every instance of treasure trove recovery, the Federal government is always close at hand, particularly the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The IRS views all treasure recoveries as part of your gross income and therefore must be claimed as such.
In countries such as Great Britain however, treasure trove laws are much more clearly defined and applied. The same holds true for our friends "Down Under" in Australia. In both countries, any and all treasure troves found ultimately belong to the Crown (their version of our own Federal government). Ultimately, it is the Crown that makes the final ruling on the disposition of any and all treasure troves.
Who Gets the Treasure?
This too varies widely from country-to-country and state-to-state. In most instances, if a treasure trove find is made on someone else's property and you have not made a deal in advance with the land or property owner, guess what? Yep. The treasure belongs to the property owner and not you.
A recent and highly publicized find by a construction worker of a trove of gold coins on computer guru Jan Wenner's property in Idaho turned out badly for the finder. The State decided that "finder's keepers" and "possession is nine-tenths of the law" did not apply here and the worker's claims on the gold were dismissed. However, had this discovery taken place in another U.S. state, the reverse might be true. Sad to say, you'll never know until you get there my friend.
Also note that if you recover a treasure trove surreptitiously or "on the sly" from someone else's property and are subsequently found out, you can be held liable for trespassing and prosecuted for theft, and any "goodies" you recovered will be taken away from you, one way or the other. Much the same holds true of public lands or water areas belonging to state, Federal, or local governments."Keep It Zipped!"
In light of these little tidbits of information regarding treasure trove laws, may I suggest something to you? "Keep it zipped!" Keep what zipped, you ask? Your mouth my friend, your mouth. Now don't get me wrong here. I don't recommend breaking any laws, anytime, anywhere, but one of the most basic and most important rules of treasure hunting is KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT.
And if you require further explanation of why that is, then sorry. In all honesty you have no business treasure hunting.
Take care out there and be safe....
If you liked this post, you may want to read: "3 Key Tips for Successful Treasure Hunters"
(c) J.R. 2008
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