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Thread: Lost & Found laws, what would you do in this case:

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  1. #1

    Mar 2007
    Salinas, CA
    Explorer II, Compass 77b, Tesoro shadow X2
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    Lost & Found laws, what would you do in this case:

    There's lost & found laws in all 50 states. Born out of wandering cattle laws, and usually stipulate a value of $50 or $100 or over, is to be turned in to police for proper repatriation efforts. And for good reason afterall: So no crook caught with a stolen TV can say "I found it". Or if the back door of a Brinks armored car flies open on the freeway, the next lucky passerbys can't scoop up cash and say "finders keepers".

    And while this presents problems for jewelry hunters (if you're trying to be in strict compliance), yet ... when it comes to old COINS, there has been a common answer of the fact that you'd go by the face value. Ie.: a dime (even if it's a 1916d in perfect shape) is worth ".10c", and so forth, right ? Ok, what do you do with the following true story from my area. Consider the following true story, and put YOURSELF in the shoes of the person who lost it:

    A 4th grader who was somewhat of a nerd/loaner brought his dad's coin collection to school for show & tell day. Was done without his dad's permission or knowledge. During recess he passes out the coins to fellow classmates to "make friends". The fellow kids, not knowing their coins, figured they were just like play money. And so they went about playing with choice bust quarters, seated halves, silver dollars, etc....

    Fast forward to a few months later, and a retired yokel in this area was out plying the sandbox at this school with his detector. The school only dated to the late 1930s, hence of no interest to normal hardcore md'rs. The guy finds 2 or 3 super old looking coins, which he figures are just some sort of tokens or fakes or something.

    Another month goes by, and a friend of his is over visiting his house one day. They're looking at the md'rs latest finds, and the md'r brings out the old coins. The friend is a bit of a coin-collector, and suspects the coins are real. But neither one can figure it out, since, obviously, the school isn't old enough to have coins in the sand box that are 100 yrs older than the school . But the collector realizes that they are not replicas. He asks his friend "which school?" and the two of them go over for some more detecting. Between them they get A FEW MORE choice early 1800's coins from the sandbox. WOW!

    Their minds race. How did they get there? The solution seemed simple: Obviously the sand in this box must've come from the ocean beach. This school is only a few miles from the beach, so the coins must've come in with the sand during the last sand replacement !

    They worked the snot out of every inch of that sandbox. Inn the end, had 8 or 9 choice early coins between them. One day, one of the men ventured out of the sandbox into the surrounding grass. He got a signal, looked down in the tall grass, and there, barely covered in roots, was ANOTHER choice early American coin. So the 2 of them started furiously checking all the surrounding grass, and added yet more coins to their growing total. I think they had 12 or 14 choice early American coins by the time they were done now So they came up with a new theory: Since some coins were in the grass as well, that this site must've been an emigrant camping spot before the 1930's school was built. They rationalized this since the old north/south thoroughfare was within a mile away afterall.

    On one such day, while one of the md'rs was plying his luck, a janitor saw him from the window. He came out to talk to the md'r. He said "hey, do me a favor: If you find any old coins.... and I mean OLD coins, let me know". The md'r said "why, what's up?". The janitor them told the story of the 4th grader who brought his dad's coin collection to school. When the dad found out what had happened, he marched his son down to school by the ear to the principal's office. The principal, in turn, marched the 2 of them over to the classroom, where the entire room was told to stand at attention. The principal and teacher announced that all the kids who had been given coins, were to return them to Mr so & so. Naturally, all the kids either denied having been given coins, or had lost them, etc... blah blah. The dad got a few of his coins back, but the rest were never accounted for.

    Ok, so put yourself in the shoes of the md'r listening to the janitor. Obviously you immediately realize that the coins you and your buddy have been finding belong to this man. What do you do ? What if your buddy or you already sold some of yours ? Do the coins belong to the man whose collection they came out of? Or do they belong to you? Were you "right" in keeping them because the face value was .25, .50, 1.00 and so forth? Or were you under an obligation to have turned them in? Because the collector value was obviously hundreds each ?

    If you were the man who'd lost them via the son, and if you got wind of the fact that someone in town had those coins now, do you think he has any right to come knock on your door to get the coins back ?
    Last edited by Tom_in_CA; Jan 14, 2016 at 05:14 PM.
    Honest Samuel likes this.

  2. #2
    Charter Member
    us
    Feb 2015
    Oklahoma
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    Now that is a hard dilemma to be in.
    AARC likes this.
    Tell me and I'll forget. Show me, and I may not remember. Involve me, and I'll understand. - Tribe Unknown. Those that lie down with dogs, get up with fleas. - Blackfoot

  3. #3
    us
    Jan 2016
    NW Arcanslaw / SW Misery
    Minelab X-Terra 705 Gold / Garrett PropointerAT.
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    Unfortunately that all comes down to if he can show some kind of proof that he owned the coins or that he filed some kind of claims report before the coins were found or bought. Anyone can try to claim something that has already been found. Proving it is another.
    If you are the one who found the coins it's a matter of your personal morals.
    If you were the one who lost them, it's a matter of proving ownership.

    The kid who stole the coins is the one who is responsible, the person who found them or now owns them didn't do anything wrong and acquired them fairly.

    Finders keeps laws as far as I know do not apply to coins in most instances because they are not traceable.
    Nitric, AARC, yodi and 1 others like this.
    “During the gold rush its a good time to be in the pick and shovel business.” Mark Twain

  4. #4

    Mar 2007
    Salinas, CA
    Explorer II, Compass 77b, Tesoro shadow X2
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    Good answers/thoughts icewing.

    And to address what you've mused: Let's assume for sake of argument that you DON'T KNOW either way, if the man has filed a police "lost/stolen" report or not. All you know for now is: You found old valuable coins. And as you can see in this case, you even have a theory (albeit false) that they came to be lost ~200 yrs. ago. You don't know if the man can prove they're his (perhaps he can, perhaps he can't). But it's all a moot point anyhow, since you, up-till-now, didn't know they were recently lost to begin with !

    So the question is not is it the kids fault, is the dad's fault, who can prove what with receipts, etc.... None of that is relevant. The sole question is: Is it your obligation to turn in those coins to the police ? Obviously they are worth more than $100 each (hence triggering the state's lost & found laws mandates). Right ? Or do you go by the .25, .50c, and so forth? So were you under an obligation to turn them in or not, is the only question. All the other questions of morals, blame, proofs of ownership, traceability, etc... are moot. The law makes no distinction afterall on how "traceable" YOU happen to think an item is (ring, phone, racing bike you "found" at the bike rack, etc..., wandering cattle, bundle of cash, etc...).

    And if you still say "I was under no obligation to report", ok, fair answer. Then I have to ask you: Would that be your legal analysis if that were your son and your coin collection ?

  5. #5
    Charter Member
    us
    WP

    Mar 2014
    Dallas,GA
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    If my son steals my collection? In that case, that is mine and his fault. Sry! Out of nice gesture someone might have the feelings and niceness to return them but not their problem and they took the time to find them. The dad could have found someone or rented a metal detector and looked for himself. Since the person that stole them is under 18, the parents are responsible for his actions, meaning his dad. Dad's fault he lost his coins!

    They were given to the other kids that lost them.

    I know someones not going to like that but it's the way I look at that situation.

    But!!!! I'm also thinking about what you said in the OP. If brinks doors flew open and I'm driving along and see a bag and pick it up? I can't really say what I would do unless in that position. It would be awful hard to give back, especially if it was a life changing sum. I have been in a similar position. I did notify the owner that it was found, but I was also trusted by the owner to look for it. So, that was a no brainer for me. To be completely honest though? The thought did cross my mind for a second. thinking,,,,,,"man...this could change my life, and no one would ever know." But when it came down to it? I couldn't do it! I think it was the trust part of it that made that easy.

    Plus....I'm a finders keepers type guy! Don't really care about it's past or what line there is. If I find it in a sand box? It's mine! What I feel like I should do after that? May depend on a lot of things. Most people can say what they want until that position comes about.

    I missed your last question.....Does the man have the right to come knock on the door requesting his coins? Sure! I probably would too! Does the person have to give them back? Not in my book! Even if the were mine that my son took! It would be a nice gesture, but I would not demand it. They are theirs now! I'll have to teach my son better, and lock things up, we just both learned a lessen of the "Real World".
    Last edited by Nitric; Jan 14, 2016 at 06:45 PM.
    Icewing likes this.

  6. #6
    us
    Feb 2010
    864
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    For me, up to the point of the janitor, they were fair game and I would have been enjoying my luck. After the janitor's story, Karma would have stepped in for me and I would have felt obligated to return them. But that's just me and I'd not be judgmental about someone who quietly kept them. Everyone needs to be comfortable with their own Juju.

  7. #7
    us
    Aug 2015
    South Florida
    Garrett GTI-2500
    651
    678 times
    Metal Detecting
    At the risk of totally butchering Immanuel Kant's "Categorical Imperative", you can only have the ethics that you can afford.

    So, that's pretty much the answer right there.

  8. #8
    us
    Feb 2014
    KY
    Whites 4000D Garrett ATPro
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    I would give them back to the poor dad who lost them ..... karma....always pays off.
    Icewing and dsrtdwg1 like this.

  9. #9
    Charter Member
    us
    Sorry Honey, I can’t. I’ve got plans with my metal detector.

    Nov 2013
    Ft. Myers FL
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    Another reason I don't hunt schools!
    Nitric and etex like this.
    I invite you to visit my profile, look what I've found!

  10. #10
    au
    Mr

    Jan 2016
    Canberra
    Nugget Snoop Pro, Garret Euroace
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    Agreed, tough one. My 2c? Up until the janitor, the mders were the rightful owners. After that, it's such a specific scenario in details that in my mind there would be no question that the cons belonged to the father. To argue otherwise, I believe, would be openly dishonest.

    What to do? As both a teacher and a parent I can tell you in no uncertain terms that kids do some WEIRD stuff. Not necessarily bad, just left-field. If you read into the neuroscience behind it their brains are literally wired differently to ours and contain a different ratio of white to grey cells than an adult brain (post-30s). I've got a few collections worth quite a bit, but none of them are locked in a safe. I like to touch them, look at them, tactile experience and all that. How many of you have your collectibles locked away in a safe all the time? Put these two concepts together and I can't blame the parent or the child for what happened - it just did. It should be a learning opportunity for the child (and no doubt was).

    SO, we know the coins belong to the father. Apportioning blame is inappropriate to say the least.

    What's left in the argument not to return them? I guess it boils down to whether there is an ethical (societal, legal) or moral (personal compass) decision to be made. The OP quite rightly questioned whether the coins should be valued at 'face' or 'collector' value (ethical --> legal decision). The mders were 'in the know' as to the collector value of the coins so I see little argument for the coins to be valued any other way. Should they have reported the find? Well, those coins in that environment (and I'm assuming in that condition) is odd to say the least. But here I must defer judgement as I'm not familiar with the site, perhaps on the ground the theories stated by the OP would make more sense. However, given the nature of the janitors disclosure it would seem clear that there was a legal obligation to report the find (at that point).

    Morally (re. 'finders keepers'...'karma'...etc.) other contributors are quite right, it's a personal decision and is situational. Personally, I would have given them to the father. If they were my coins that were found I would have given a finder's fee/reward. I could afford both these actions given my socio-economic status. On a deeper level, we spend out lives learning how to live with each other - be nice and hope for the same.
    Nitric likes this.

  11. #11
    Charter Member
    us
    WP

    Mar 2014
    Dallas,GA
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    Tom....I just remembered...I walk away still thinking about some of the threads as I'm doing other things...It hit me....I have 2 coins in my collection that I acquired as a kid by hustling the kids that brought their parents collections to school. Now....That was 30 some years ago, I do still remember their names? Should I call their parents?

    Not proud of being the school hustler by the way, but if you had something I wanted? I was going to work on it, lets make a deal! It's just business! Ya...I started young!
    Tom_in_CA likes this.

  12. #12
    us
    Jan 2016
    NW Arcanslaw / SW Misery
    Minelab X-Terra 705 Gold / Garrett PropointerAT.
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    Tom your questions are worded in such a way that a clear cut answer is not easily given.
    Does the father have the "right to come knock on your door to get the coins back", depends on if he is asking or demanding.
    Sure he has the right to ask, but not demand. If the coins are not returned then it becomes a matter of what legal evidence does the dad have that they are his. For example did he file any kind of report with the school or police documenting the lost coins (styles and years). If so, the coins should be returned, if not well then it's up to a judge after that.
    I personally would want them back if I lost them, but would also be willing to return them if I had found them.

    Clear as mud?
    “During the gold rush its a good time to be in the pick and shovel business.” Mark Twain

  13. #13
    Charter Member
    us
    Mar 2015
    Wisconsin
    Tesoro Tigershark freshwater...Excaliber 1000 Bluetube
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    I'm not sure..I see the moral dilemma in this case...

    Fact: items were "lost"
    Fact: items were "found"
    Fact: Items "ownership"...were established...in a manner of time.

    jmo...kids do silly things.... we all did. Given the "facts"...of the situation...I didn't "establish" ownership of the coins. I merely happened to possess them until they could be returned to the owner.

    I feel that I have a moral and ethical obligation, given THIS SPECIFIC set of circumstances....to immediately contact the dad and return them to the rightful place... but than again...I have to lay down and sleep with myself everynight and than look in the mirror every morning when I shave....jus sayin...

    Ag

  14. #14
    us
    Jul 2013
    OC, Calif
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    I would return them to the father if he could describe what was lost. C'mon, how else would they have gotten there?
    Everyone has to live with their own concious, I guess. I don't do this to get rich.

  15. #15

    Mar 2007
    Salinas, CA
    Explorer II, Compass 77b, Tesoro shadow X2
    12,297
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nitric View Post
    ..... They are theirs now! I'll have to teach my son better, and lock things up, we just both learned a lessen of the "Real World".
    Wow, that's an interesting answer. The average coin collector would INSIST IN A HEARTBEAT that the coins still belong to the original owner. Not the lucky finder. You're totally serious that you'd say "congradulations" and let the md'r keep your coins ? Wow

 

 
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