If you ever find Viking treasure in a farmer’s field you may think all your dreams have come true. However, for four men who were lucky enough to come across the incredible bounty, it was the beginning of a nightmare. The men have now been arrested for withholding the treasure from the public and sentenced to time in prison.
George Powell, Layton Davies, Simon Wicks, and Paul Wells thought they had earned some easy money when they used a metal detector to find Viking treasure in a farmer’s field. They found 1,000-year-old treasure estimated to be worth over $5 million. Included in the treasure were many coins and jewelry that could have provided missing pieces in the history of England.
Instead of declaring what they found the greedy foursome hid the treasure from the farm owner and the authorities. They decided to sell it off piece by piece to make their fortunes. As they continued to sell off the treasure, word got out and the authorities were notified. George Powell, the ringleader of the bunch was sentenced to 10 years in prison while Davies and Wicks faced 9 years and 5 years respectively.
The charges were laid under something called the Treasure Act which says that anyone who finds treasure must report it within two weeks of finding it or face prosecution. While it may seem like declaring it is the easy answer then, think again. One treasure finder who went the honest route is now being sued. In 2014 another hero with a metal detector found some treasure on land held by the Church of Scotland, declared it, and was paid $2.3 million. He was later sued by the Church of Scotland for his discovery.
It appears that finding treasure is the easy part, earning your fortune from it, is difficult. While metal detector fanatics are very common in the farmlands of England few have ever made a true fortune out of it, despite the land previously held by numerous wealthy settlements.
Our advice if you find some treasure is to get whoever owns the land to sign a waiver to whatever is found first. Then if you do find something make sure you declare it quickly or get ready to face jail time. To think that someone is now facing ten years in prison for finding treasure seems a little unjust but when you consider the poor farmer who was left with nothing and the potential significant changes it could have meant to history itself, it can be understood.