Tuesday 03 October 2023
Select a region

Jersey’s £4.5m coin hoard payment ‘sets damaging precedent in Britain’

Jersey’s £4.5m coin hoard payment ‘sets damaging precedent in Britain’

Tuesday 18 January 2022

Jersey’s £4.5m coin hoard payment ‘sets damaging precedent in Britain’

Tuesday 18 January 2022

British archaeologists are concerned that the Government of Jersey’s decision to pay £4.5m to purchase the Le Catillon II coin hoard against official advice has set a “damaging” precedent for valuations that will affect museums’ ability to keep important historic finds in public ownership both locally and across the water.

According to researcher Andy Brockman, who edits The Pipeline, an investigative publication exploring the intersection between archaeology, money and politics, there are strong fears that the move has paved the way for so-called “casino metal detecting”.

The £4.5m payment announced in December marked the end of a long-running row over how much the finders should get paid.

As Jersey doesn’t have its own law governing treasure valuations - despite calls from Jersey Heritage to put one in place - it was decided that a valuation should be sought from the Treasure Valuation Committee (TVC) in line with the “spirit” of the English law.

The final payout figure was more than twice as high as the TVC’s suggested £2m after counter-valuations from coin specialists Chris Rudd and CGB Numismatique of around £6m were put forward.

Following the decision, which was met with disapproval from senior civil servants, Jersey Heritage warned that the valuation could “endanger future acquisitions by setting a precedent for inflated valuations.”

That view has since ben amplified by Mr Brockman, who says that the effects will also be felt on the mainland.

Writing for The Pipeline, he described the decision as “explosive” and said that it would leave Portable Antiquities Scheme and Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport questioning how to “come up with a response to the States of Jersey undermining in one day the credibility of the key committee in the Treasure process”.

Elaborating during an interview for the latest Bailiwick Podcast, he said that while English law gives finders the opportunity to provide a counter-valuation to the TVC, it was highly unusual for their rulings to be challenged.

He said Jersey’s handling of Le Catillon II “sets a precedent for challenging the valuations, it sets a precedent for the amount by which a challenge might be successful”, adding: “You overshot the original offer by 100%, there will be concerns that does set a precedent and a damaging precedent which would at the very least cost the public purse more than it might otherwise.”

Podcast Hoard

CLICK TO LISTEN: Andy Brockman discusses the issues Jersey's decision may have created in the latest Bailiwick Podcast.

Not only will the decision hit the public in the pocket, he argued, but impact the ability to keep important finds in public ownership.

“The higher a find like Le Catillon II is valued, the more difficult it becomes for a local museum in particular to actually raise the money to match a commercial valuation. That’s one danger,” he explained.

“There’s a second danger which is that it promotes a kind of – for want of a better phrase – ‘casino metal detecting’, where someone goes out and buys a metal detector, gets permission or, worse, goes out without permission and detects illegally in the hope or expectation - even if it’s statistically unlikely,… of finding a Le Catillon of their own.”

And such detectorists, when motivated by financial gain rather than increasing historic understanding, may not deal with their finds in the right way. In the hope of making a quick buck, they might fail to declare their find, instead opting to “rip it out of the ground” before finding a dealer, risking the loss of important historic context.

The current processes are intended to “maximise the archaeological information” about the find - “Find the remains of the plants, remains of the inspects that tell you what time fo the year it was buried. To do that, you have to do that forensically,” Mr Brockman explained.

Jersey is in the process of drawing up its own Treasure Law, and it’s widely expected that the current English Law, in its application to the Le Catillon II hoard, will form the basis.

But that law - drafted in 1996 - is currently under consultation for an update that will put the historic value of a find before its monetary value. Mr Brockman thinks it would be best for Jersey to await the result before drafting up and voting on its own legislation.

“Don’t just adopt the ’96 act before waiting to see what happens in the current consultation. At the moment, they are consulting on an update, which removes the idea that ‘treasure’ has to be connected with precious metal.

“If adopted, introduce a new definition that a treasure is judged on historical value. For example, in the recent past, we had a Celtic horse mount sold privately through auction house for a high five-figure sum that didn’t come through treasure act so it wasn’t compulsory to report it. That’s the kind of thing you need to avoid at all costs.

“If the island’s heritage is going to mean anything at all, you have to have a system whereby you catch everything of significance.”

Sign up to newsletter



Comments on this story express the views of the commentator only, not Bailiwick Publishing. We are unable to guarantee the accuracy of any of those comments.

Once your comment has been submitted, it won’t appear immediately. There is no need to submit it more than once. Comments are published at the discretion of Bailiwick Publishing, and will include your username.

There are no comments for this article.

To place a comment please login

You have landed on the Bailiwick Express website, however it appears you are based in . Would you like to stay on the site, or visit the site?