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99thpercentile

Full Member
Nov 2, 2006
146
107
Evergreen, CO
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Geonics EM61-MK2, Geophex GEM-3, GapEOD UltraTEM III, Minelabs F3, Foerster MINEX 2FD 4.500
Primary Interest:
All Treasure Hunting
I get requests on a regular basis to come help someone look for a treasure at my expense with me bringing all of the equipment. I am promised some share of whatever is found.

I regularly turn these offers down because they would constitute a fairly large expense on my part, with a low probability of success. I also would have the opportunity cost of not being able to do real paying work when I would be volunteering my time.

After filming a reality TV show last year where we didn’t find anything because we weren’t really looking, I had an idea.

I would love to get people to submit ideas for a treasure to look for to me. I would sign some form of a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with each submission. I would make a lost of all of the submissions that would be anonymized that could be shared with a lot of people. I would make a presentation on each potential target. Then there would be a voting period to rank the list.

We would then select the top ranked idea and do a 2-3 day survey on the site. The person who proposed the idea would be involved and 1-2 other people who voted could be selected to assist with the work. The work would be recorded to create a ~40 minute episode that could be posted on YouTube or something similar.

I would like to make it like Time Team was on the BBC. Each site visit was 2-3 days of field work. It was really entertaining to watch. Most of the reality TV shows about treasure hunting are stories that they try to drag on for seasons. I want each episode to stand alone and ideally find something.

My goals for this would be:
-Make an entertaining show that was also educational
-Demonstrate how to properly plan the project, perform the surveys, interpret the data
-Find something

Any feedback?
 

SD51

Silver Member
Aug 24, 2016
4,832
9,957
MI
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E-TRAC
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All Treasure Hunting
IMO the best chance for success in your endeavor would be the scenario when someone contacts you and says, "My father / relative hid Gold on their property and died before disclosing the location."
I say this because about ten years ago, I met a guy at our rod and gun club that said exactly that. His best friend's father had told him he hid Gold there, but died in a tractor accident.
I told him, typically, it's hidden in the house and he said he helped his friend search there without finding anything. I offered to look outside, but he never agreed to my suggestion.
 

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cyzak

Bronze Member
Jul 14, 2018
2,341
3,802
Mountains of Western Colorado
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Garrett, General Mathematics, Geometry,Pentax,,Do the math it's there.
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The major issue being most of the treasure is on government land were it can not be retrieved no one in there right mind would ever knowingly give this info of a location up.
 

sandy1

Bronze Member
Aug 11, 2010
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The major issue being most of the treasure is on government land were it can not be retrieved no one in there right mind would ever knowingly give this info of a location up.
Unless there is some way (that I don't know about) to actually dig up a 200 plus year old treasure from BLM land legally. Has anybody been successful in getting a treasure trove permit for BLM land?
 

cyzak

Bronze Member
Jul 14, 2018
2,341
3,802
Mountains of Western Colorado
Detector(s) used
Garrett, General Mathematics, Geometry,Pentax,,Do the math it's there.
Primary Interest:
All Treasure Hunting
BLM impossible, Forest its a gauntlet to maneuver thru takes years and no guarantees there.
 

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sandy1

Bronze Member
Aug 11, 2010
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So you want to look for treasure on the National Forest? No problem - looking is free, as long as you abide by the laws protecting archaeological and historic sites and artifacts. Recovering treasure, now that’s another story…. However, if that is your heart’s desire, I can tell y’all a few things that might make your application for a treasure trove permit a little less traumatic for some and, I suppose, really frustrating for others.

DISCLAIMER: nothing that I am about to tell you should be taken as an endorsement or encouragement of treasure hunting on the Forest; I already have enough work to do (including myself, I have three archaeologists to deal with three million acres on the Tonto – I think you get the picture). Though the Regs I posted a few minutes ago apply generally to all National Forests, they specifically do not apply to State or BLM, and certainly do not apply to Park Service land, although all the Federal land managing agencies have their own version of 36 CFR 296 which only differs by the number in the title. What I am about to tell you interprets these regulations into the way we do things here on the Tonto NF; I wouldn't necessarily expect you'll find the same details on other Forests, but the basics should be familiar...

First of all, the treasure trove permit is discretionary and the authority for its issuance in the Forest Service is delegated down to the District Ranger level. There is no necessity for us to issue such a permit if we don’t want to, no matter how compelling an argument the applicant makes. What that means is that there is no set checklist of information or activities and no standardized method for evaluating proposals. The only real standard established for the evaluation of a treasure trove permit is the “reasonable man” standard. This is usually taken to mean that the proposal must be logical, flow from verifiable historic sources, and have physical evidence to back it up.

The process of application is relatively simple – you can contact your friendly, if somewhat jaded and sarcastic Forest Archaeologist to talk over your theories or you can go straight to the Ranger District where you plan to search and attempt to obtain a permit application from the Ranger. There is a $200 non-refundable fee that will be due when you submit your application. If you plan on searching in several non-contiguous area, that might mean $200 for each separate area depending on the discretion of the District Ranger.

In your application you must disclose the exact location of your search area/discovery and what you expect to find there and explain exactly why you expect to find it, ie. the evidence that led you to that particular place. Once you have disclosed the location (on current USGS topographic maps, preferably with UTM coordinates on the NAD 27 CONUS datum), we are obligated under the National Historic Preservation Act to examine this location for the presence of historic or prehistoric artifacts and/or features. As you might imagine, given the workload we already have from planned activities on the Forest, treasure trove permits don’t get a very high priority – it can take weeks or months to schedule the time for this. Of course, you do have the option of hiring a qualified archaeologist to conduct a survey; they would then submit their report directly to us or you could include it in your application if you have it done beforehand. This costs money, of course, and you have to hire someone who holds a permit to conduct this kind of work on the Forest.

If we determine on the basis of either our own inspection or that of your contractor that there is nothing man-made or modified at your search location, that it is nothing more than, say, fortuitously suggestive erosion or just an intact natural landscape with no evidence of any of the activities specified in your application, we can do one of two things – issue the permit because we know that there is nothing there that will be disturbed (aka “archaeological clearance”); in other words, if we prove that there is nothing there we may issue you a permit to search there (Catch-22). On the other hand, we can always choose not to issue it because we don’t wish to have that natural landscape disturbed by your search and recovery activities. If we choose not to issue, you’re out your $200. If we do find evidence of prehistoric/historic activity at your location, you’ll need to prepare a plan for our approval that will allow you to conduct your search is such a way as to avoid disturbing or destroying any artifacts, buildings, ruins, or other man-made features. If this is even possible and you have provided sufficient evidence from historic documentation or other sources that we agree is valid, we may then issue the permit. Under these circumstances, however, there will be additional requirements to protect these resources from your search activities. We may require mitigation for any disturbance to archaeological or historic resources, including scientific excavations and other studies to be done prior to your search and/or requiring that a professional archaeologist be on hand to monitor your work and stop it if anything archaeological comes to light to ensure that no damage is done to any historic features or artifacts. Depending on your proposal, we may also require restrictions to protect certain plants (e.g. saguaro cacti) and animal habitats. The plan for conducting all of this activity will require consultation with the State Historic Preservation Officer and in some cases with those Tribes having historical connections to or interests in the area, a process that generally takes a couple of months to complete. Patience is a valuable asset in this process.

For the most part, if there is something historic or archaeological there, we usually just don’t issue the permit. The only time that we have gone through this entire process within the last couple of decades was for Ron Feldman’s treasure trove permit at Rogers’ Trough last year. It cost him a bunch of money and all he could claim for it was the confirmation of what we already suspected was a horizontal well that provided water to the mining camp and mill located just downslope.

Assuming that you have made it through this gauntlet and spent wads of cash on your search and you do actually find something that qualifies as a treasure trove, it is entirely possible that you may not be able to keep much or any of it. Basically, the only ‘treasure’ that you can keep would be a portion of any bullion, plate, coins, or unmounted gems, assuming that it clears escrow without any other claims of ownership. Any and all other artifacts are and will remain the property of the United States. Your portion of the trove would be determined as part of a negotiated settlement with the Federal Government. You would also have to declare this as taxable income.

Obviously, the process is not designed to encourage people to submit applications….

So, assuming that you want to go through with all of this, how can you maximize your chances of being taken seriously and getting a permit?

My first bit of advice is to be selective and do your homework (and fieldwork). Quite frankly, if someone comes in telling us that they deciphered some allegedly authentic treasure map they saw in a book or bought in a bar in Apache Junction and figured out right where the treasure ought to be but haven’t been there yet and so are asking for some huge search area to go fishing in, the chances that their proposal will be sarcastically dismissed and end up in the shredder are quite high.

My second bit of advice extends from the first and basically applies to all other parts of the process and this is: make sure that your research is unimpeachable. If you are looking for lost mines, learn the geology of your search area and the technology of mining. If you are basing your proposal on an historic incident, make sure that it really happened; provide original documentation from authentic historical sources and don’t fall for the idea that “every legend has a grain of truth in it.” For example, here in the Southwest many treasure legends are predicated on the idea that the Jesuit Order came rampaging through Sonora and Arizona locating and operating hundreds of mines that they worked for the sole purpose of accumulating wealth and that they were thrown out of the New World because of it. Yes, I know that this has become an almost mainstream assumption in Arizona history by virtue of constant repetition, but when you look at the real history, that dog won’t hunt. The truth is that the Jesuits – and there were never more than a handful operating in this area at any given time – came to convert the Indios. They established missions, taught the Indians how to farm European crops and raise cattle, and fought to prevent the virtual enslavement and actual mistreatment of the native population by Spanish colonists. They were dirt poor and built their missions almost invariable out of mud. The only recorded association between Jesuits and mining has to do with a campaign to stop the brutal treatment the Indians received while working at many of the mines in Sonora. The reason they were tossed out in 1767 had, in fact, nothing to do with anything they did here – it was the result of a political “disagreement” they had with the kings of France and Spain back in Europe. They explored the Southwest (well, a couple of them did) but never made it north of the Gila River. So, any treasure story based on the idea that the secretive and avaricious Jesuits had mines or hid treasure anywhere in Arizona is nothing but a myth and isn’t going to be an easy sell if your proposal is based on it. Pretty much the same goes for the so-called “Peralta” Stone “Maps” (see parallel thread in this forum) which neither mention the name Peralta nor contain any overt indication that they constitute a map. “Evidence” based on an interpretation of a fake map or a false history is hardly the basis for a valid claim - and yet I know that nothing I just said will matter to some people. The Jesuit/Peralta Myths will probably never go away no matter what I do or say and I’ll be hearing about “18 locations” and witches and hearts and churches buried by earthquakes until I wise up and retire from this job).

In addition to making sure that your story has some actual historical basis and providing the documentation to prove it, bring in some physical evidence to back up your identification. Now, by this I don’t mean that you should bring in artifacts that you find. For one thing, this would be illegal, not that I have ever busted anybody for bringing me artifacts. If you do, however, remember that I can’t give them back to you; they are the property of the US and so have to stay here. In these days of relatively cheap autofocusing digital cameras it’s actually easier to take a lot of photos. Just remember to take overviews with skylines and details/closeups with scales.

Actually, that’s pretty much it – Documented historical evidence, a logical story, and enough photography of the place you want to work to recover your trove that it can be recognized as something other than natural, and you will stand a much better chance of being taken seriously and maybe even getting that permit. Independent wealth is also a good idea considering that it will cost you money up front and may net you nothing on the other end even if you find something.

Anyway, that’s about it for now; I have to get back to work. Reports are stacking up on my desk even as we speak…
Great read Cyzak about forestry and by a guy who works there no less, from my understanding of his information if they/you do discover proof of any archeological discovery they will most likely turn your application/permit down to dig it up, however if you did get through all the hoops and get all the permits its entirely possible that you will only get a small amount or nothing from the treasure as it then belongs to the United States and they will decide what you will or won't get.
 

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Quinoa

Bronze Member
Nov 25, 2011
1,888
3,273
Purgatory
Detector(s) used
Garrett atx pi 12+20inch coil, Garrett mh series, Garrett 2500+t-hound attchmnt, fisher tw-6 two box, Pulsestar pro ii with various coils up to 98 inches, pulsemaster pro w/1.2 m coil
Primary Interest:
Other
Many states, even if you own the land , the state owns the treasure trove. Several years ago I talked with an old big game hunting acquaintance of mine, who is also an archaeologist and has actually done a tv show on the knights templar. I talked with him about trying to set up a tv series about treasure hunting like this, and he talked with a few producers he knew and referred their email to me so I could initiate contact. I ran the emails thru him first so they didn't sound "off the wall" expecting at least a response..

However, the producers never contacted me back thru email , and although I never pressed the issue, they actually were more involved with doing tv show on twins/siblings, since the producer had a twin sister herself. We did try to talk to a few others... but it's hard to even get an interview....and treasure hunting isn't as popular as you would think, it's more about how you can make a tv show and profit from it , rather than actually finding anything.....

Now it may have worked out in my home state, providing we got permission on several of the places I know of that are on private land, since in my state you keep it if it's on your land (so there would be contingencies) . Now my neighboring state just across a river boundary, the state owns the treasure trove, even on private land, and I do know of several sites over there....most of the big crypts I know about on the hill that overlooks our town are just inside the other state border as well.

It almost becomes an old episode of MASH , where a line of everyone had a favor of another for the very first task/favor to come thru...

To me this idea sounds like a good way to get arrested..you even sign papers of intent , which is in fact conspiracy to commit a crime , possibly a federal crime depending upon what land type it's on and the local laws...

I don't know how much this has been thought out, the property ownership is key , as well as the state laws on each individual site.

I will say it does look like you have some good equipment. I guess it depends what type of treasure you are after , and the land you are searching for it on.

Oh, one last thing, it was mentioned it is not illegal to just "search" for treasure on forest service or public lands...... That is incorrect... it is illegal to use metal detectors on many public lands for anything, and gpr's are illegal period.... because they think they can interfere aircrafts....
 

sandy1

Bronze Member
Aug 11, 2010
2,282
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I do know that when you own residential property in Arizona you do not have the rights to any buried treasure on your land, anything artifact wise dug up on your land belongs to the state, (basically they are only letting you live on the land for as long as you pay the taxes) the state keeps all the rights to the land.
 

Quinoa

Bronze Member
Nov 25, 2011
1,888
3,273
Purgatory
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Garrett atx pi 12+20inch coil, Garrett mh series, Garrett 2500+t-hound attchmnt, fisher tw-6 two box, Pulsestar pro ii with various coils up to 98 inches, pulsemaster pro w/1.2 m coil
Primary Interest:
Other
I do know that when you own residential property in Arizona you do not have the rights to any buried treasure on your land, anything artifact wise dug up on your land belongs to the state, (basically they are only letting you live on the land for as long as you pay the taxes) the state keeps all the rights to the land.
Yeah, that's what I've been trying work around for a long time...there is no work around really, it's just what you think you can risk....also why I've been so slow and trying to get permission where I can. Most places are on range land, so try and convince a rancher you want to maybe dig some holes where his cows are running.... let alone the whole story on why you think something is there....
 

Clay Diggins

Silver Member
Nov 14, 2010
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According to American Jurisprudence 2d, which all lawyers know is a prime source for a quick answer to a textbook question like this, is: the treasure trove belongs to the finder against all the world except the true owner.

It is legal to metal detect on Forest and BLM managed public land. On many of the eastern purchase units (forests) there is no right to metal detect or recover treasure because the US does not own the land (it is not public land).

There is no public land where it is legal to search for and recover treasure trove without a permit from the managing agency. It is never legal to metal detect National Parks, Monuments or Seashores.

The BLM does issue permits for proven treasure troves. There have been several. Other than the thrill of removing the treasure you discovered the experience will be a net negative because you have no right to the actual treasure - the US is the owner (see above).

It is legal to recover treasure discovered on land you own. Even native articles are fair game. Dinosaurs and other natural objects are also the property of the owner of the land.
 

sandy1

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Aug 11, 2010
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It is legal to recover treasure discovered on land you own. Even native articles are fair game. Dinosaurs and other natural objects are also the property of the owner of the land.
This is Absolutely 100% Untrue in Arizona as you do not own the land rights other than what you are permitted to build/place on it by the state and that definitely does not include disturbing/digging up archaeological artifacts. You can ask them they will tell you if you find something you are not to disturb it and report it to the state immediately so that they can get the proper people to investigate it. I know as this is what they told my parents.
 

Clay Diggins

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Nov 14, 2010
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Interestingly the myths continue. Here's the real scoop on treasure trove direct from the Arizona Supreme Court in the Spann case:

_____________________________________
Found property is categorized in one of four ways by common law. “Found property can be mislaid, lost, abandoned, or treasure trove.”

“Mislaid” Property – Property that the owner intentionally places somewhere and then forgets it. If you find mislaid property, you must turn the property over to the owner of the premises. The owner of the premises then has a duty to safeguard the property for the true owner.

“Lost” property – Property that the owner loses possession of unintentionally through carelessness or neglect. The finder of “lost” property has the right to possess the property against the entire world except for the rightful owner of the property. It doesn’t matter where the property was found.

“Abandoned” property – Property thrown away or voluntarily left by the owner. To abandon property, the owner must voluntarily and intentionally give up the known right to the property. Abandonment is the owner’s relinquishment of a right with the intention to virtually throw away the property without regard to who may get it. Still, as to abandoned property, the finder acquires possession of the property against everyone except the rightful owner of the property.

“Treasure trove” property – Property “verifiably antiquated” and has been hidden for so long that the owner is probably unknown or dead. Still, “the finder of lost or abandoned property and treasure trove acquires a right to possess the property against the entire world but the rightful owner regardless of the place of finding.”
_____________________________________


In Arizona if the native objects found on your private property are not human remains or funerary objects you own them lock stock and barrel.
 

sandy1

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Aug 11, 2010
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It would seem obvious the state employees (with what was told to my parents about not touching any artifacts on private property) have no intention of honoring the state laws about a persons rights to treasure trove on their own property.

Maybe someone who has found treasure on their property in AZ and let the government know about it would like to share their experience.
 

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Clay Diggins

Silver Member
Nov 14, 2010
4,885
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It would seem obvious the state employees (with what was told to my parents about not touching any artifacts on private property) have no intention of honoring the state laws about a persons rights to treasure trove on their own property.

Maybe someone who has found treasure on their property in AZ and let the government know about it would like to share their experience.

Read the Spann case. $500,000 cash found on their property. I already gave you the Supreme Court's take on Treasure Trove in that case. The State of Arizona never claimed any interest in the $500,000 cash in the Spann case or any other case I know of.

Your paranoia is showing. The State of Arizona has no interest in what you dig up on your property - unless it's a body. If you believe otherwise please show us a case where the State of Arizona claimed rights to a Treasure Trove found on private property.
 

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sandy1

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I told you exactly what happened my parents wanted to buy a peice of property that they were sure had a treasure buried on it but before buying they asked the State and like I said the state guy told them not to touch any treasure and to report it to the state immediately this has nothing to do with paranoia its a fact.

By the way I read your spann case of money in the walls and family members involved which is completely different than digging up artifacts a couple hundred years old in the ground which is what my parents told them they were planning to dig up as they wanted to do it legally.
 

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Peyton Manning

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Dec 19, 2012
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Sandshark
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I would join in a search in southern Florida waters for the legendary mermaid princess, said to have an emerald encrusted gold crown
 

kingskid1611

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Feb 23, 2015
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Oklahoma
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So what is the opinion of a great case study follow up. Inquiring minds wish to know.
 

megghegg

Tenderfoot
Jun 29, 2023
5
5
I get requests on a regular basis to come help someone look for a treasure at my expense with me bringing all of the equipment. I am promised some share of whatever is found.

I regularly turn these offers down because they would constitute a fairly large expense on my part, with a low probability of success. I also would have the opportunity cost of not being able to do real paying work when I would be volunteering my time.

After filming a reality TV show last year where we didn’t find anything because we weren’t really looking, I had an idea.

I would love to get people to submit ideas for a treasure to look for to me. I would sign some form of a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with each submission. I would make a lost of all of the submissions that would be anonymized that could be shared with a lot of people. I would make a presentation on each potential target. Then there would be a voting period to rank the list.

We would then select the top ranked idea and do a 2-3 day survey on the site. The person who proposed the idea would be involved and 1-2 other people who voted could be selected to assist with the work. The work would be recorded to create a ~40 minute episode that could be posted on YouTube or something similar.

I would like to make it like Time Team was on the BBC. Each site visit was 2-3 days of field work. It was really entertaining to watch. Most of the reality TV shows about treasure hunting are stories that they try to drag on for seasons. I want each episode to stand alone and ideally find something.

My goals for this would be:
-Make an entertaining show that was also educational
-Demonstrate how to properly plan the project, perform the surveys, interpret the data
-Find something

Any feedback?
H 99thpercentilei, You are suggesting the type of business partnership that is entirely reasonable. I would be interested in discussing my current project with you. There is no guarantee of success, but from my experience I feel the odds of success are high,. and the potential reward to be very high.
 

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