The UK's PAS and Treasure Act are popular programs because they encourage the public to report coins and other ancient artifacts they find so they can be properly recorded. That which the government does not need for its collections is disclaimed, and returned to the finder to do with what he or she will. Moreover, the State pays fair market value for what it keeps, which incentivizes the State to only retain what it will properly care for, study and display.
What is the result of this win-win situation? The UK's Minister of Culture recently observed surprise, surprise, that incentivizing the public to report what they find has led to more finds being reported in England and Wales than anywhere else:
A little known fact I discovered this week – Britain tops the league table for hoards. I am told, we have more archaeological finds every year than any other country. Whether this is per square foot or per head of the population, I am not sure, but it is a good statistic so I’m going to use it.
However, the archaeological blogosphere does not celebrate, but rather condemns this news, claiming that the U.K.'s system encourages metal detecting rather than the recording of finds. Yet, take the case of Bulgaria. It has been estimated that 100,000-250,000 Bulgarians conduct illicit excavations, and little is actually recorded because all the incentives in that corrupt system discourage people to report what they might find. So, which system is better?
Clearly, the U.K.'s system, no? Yet, the archaeological blogosphere begs to differ. Instead, they claim that even the most common artifacts like coins should be left in the ground for some future archaeologist to find. But the reality is that archaeologists will always be few in number and it is highly unlikely any will ever actually tread where many of the artifacts reported by the PAS and Treasure Act are found.
Thus, one really must wonder whether the archaeological blogosphere is more concerned about preserving and recording the past or ensuring that cultural heritage is a union shop for card carrying archaeologists.