Sunday, July 22, 2007

Gold Treasure Trove

A treasure trove is commonly accepted to be an amount of gold, silver, jewelry, gemstones, artifacts and even money found either in the ground, under the sea or even in an attic or cellar perhaps. A gold treasure trove would likely be gold coins or bars or even gold jewelry.

It is usually very old and the original owner unknown and any heirs are considered undiscoverable.

If you find treasure trove, how you deal with it will depend largely on the laws of the country in which it is found. These can vary so much so that in the USA for example, the law that is applied seems to be dependent on the state in which the treasure trove is found.

In the USA, treasure trove, regardless of what it is, is considered by the IRS as gross income and therefore taxable.

Who gets the treasure when it is found? This can vary too. In Idaho the Supreme Court heard a dispute over treasure trove found on the property of Jann Wenner by a construction worker. The worker found a cache of gold coins on Wenner's land and claimed the treasure under the common law rule of treasure trove which awards title of any artifact to the finder. The claim was rejected in favor of Wenner upon who's land the gold coins were found. The issue is made complex in that some states still accept the common law rule while others do not but instead place the title of such finds in the hands of the landowner.

In fact if one finds treasure trove on the land of someone else and simply removes it, that can be considered by the courts as theft.

Most of the US courts do follow the rule for buried objects, which states that items purposely deposited should be protected until the original depositor can return. The preferred way to protect them is to allow the items to remain in the custody of the landowner on whose property they were discovered. When it comes to old artifacts, however, this effectively delivers title to the landowner as there is no differentiation as to the type of treasure trove and what should happen to it. This principle presumes a living owner who may come back one day despite the obvious fact that the more time passes, the less likely the original owner will return. So how this is treated is very much dependent upon the whims of the court.

In Great Britain the law is more clearly defined. Under the common law of England, Wales and Scotland, if a person dies without passing their property through a will, and has no relatives, then their property passes to The Crown as final owner of all property in the UK. But, if property is established as lost, and remains unclaimed, then that property will go to the person who found it.

Since 1996, the ownership of such finds is determined in England and Wales by the Treasure Act of 1996. Prior to this Act, the local Coroner was responsible for determining whether the property was lost (e.g. dropped on an ancient battlefield) or just buried intentionally (e.g. at a burial, or simply to keep it safe).

Such finds must be declared to the local coroner within fourteen days of discovery. After which a there is a lengthy process where the treasure is offered to national or local museums. If they decide to take the treasure they must compensate the finder with the value of treasure as determined by an independent valuation panel. Interestingly, since 1996 the number of items declared treasure has risen significantly in the UK.

In Australia the law applied is closer to the British law in that treasure trove is considered belonging to the Crown regardless of who found it and where. Police work to enforce that in Australia. This is different to the US where the tendency is to drop the common law and vest the title in the landowner on the basis that the owner of the treasure may return and claim it.

So you can see there are variations in how treasure trove is treated depending on where you live.

If you find gold treasure trove where you are, it is very important then, that you know what the law is in your country and or state and it is probably better to report the find to the authorities. Of course, always ensure, when you do, that you get a receipt that itemizes the find and is signed by a person in authority. In many cases compensation is paid, eventually as it is likely a long process, to the finder but of course there is no guarantee of this or of the value of the compensation.

But the excitement of finding gold treasure trove can be enough for many people and an experience to remember long afterwards.

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