I enjoyed Paul Gilkes’ article on Hogge money in the Sept. 23 issue
of Coin World. My metal detector is ready! There have to be more. Are
there restrictions on searching for such antiquities in the United
States as in Greece and other nations?
The laws involving metal detecting finds in the United States
represent an interesting and at times complicated intersection of
federal laws that affect all states and individual state laws.
Generally, per the Society for American Archaeology: “A metal
detector user may be in violation of the law if artifacts are
recovered during metal detecting, or if archaeological sites are
disturbed during metal detecting activities. Artifacts and
archaeological sites on federal, state, and local
jurisdiction-controlled properties are protected by law.
Archaeological resources on private property are also safeguarded by
law (e.g., trespassing).”
A key question is who owns the land on which the metal detecting
activity is taking place.
It is generally legal to collect coins from the surface of private
property if you have permission from the landowner. Some states
require written permission from various state departments if you dig
for artifacts. It is generally illegal to dig human burial sites.
One usually needs a permit from a state department, often a
state’s department of natural resources, to conduct metal detecting
activities on state property. State property includes state parks,
historic sites, wildlife management areas, state forests, state
highway rights-of-way and navigable river and stream bottoms.
It is generally illegal to surface collect, metal detect or dig on
federal lands without a federal permit. The laws effectively limiting
metal detecting activities on federal property have been in place for
more than a century, as the Antiquities Act of 1906 became law on June
While the Antiquities Act is not a metal detecting law in its
language, it effectively limits metal detecting activities on federal
lands. In 1966 the National Historic Preservation Act and The
Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 further placed
boundaries on metal detecting enthusiasts.
A helpful online resource is a map by the Metal Detecting Hobby
Talk site at www.mdhtalk.org/maps/fp-map-regulations.htm that provides
Metal detector enthusiasts also note that actual practices in a
region may deviate from the regulations legally in place.
Coin World’s Readers Ask department does not accept coins or other
items for examination without prior permission from Coin World.
Readers Ask also does not examine error or variety coins. Materials
sent to Readers Ask without prior permission will be returned
unexamined. Please address all Readers Ask inquiries to
email@example.com or call 800-673-8311, Ext. 172.