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Finding Roman coins in Scotland

I have the Rick Steves Audio Europe phone app, and during one of the segments on Scotland, Rick was speaking to a B&B owner in Glencoe. The owner (I can't recall his name) says that his grandson has a metal detector and that the 2 of them would go coin hunting where old Roman roads crossed creek, streams, and such. They would occasionally find old Roman 'mites', the smallest denomination of the Roman coins.

I was curious if anyone had an idea of where to find out where these old Roman roads once ran, and where they crossed water like this? It would be fun to find a few old coins on a trip :)

Thanks all,


Posted by
26087 posts

Just wondering -

are you planning to take your own metal detector over with you in your luggage? Or buy one in Scotland? Or meet up with the person in the podcast and borrow his?

If you will be looking in river beds have you got a special waterproof metal detector which works underwater?

Are you aware that Treasure belongs to the Queen?

To find ancient locations, roman roads, and water courses the best aid would be Ordnance Survey maps of the areas you will be in.

Posted by
2722 posts

I share your love of ancient Roman coins. But, as Nigel said, found treasure in Great Britain belongs to the Queen. The British Museum, London, has a special staff dedicated to cleaning, identifying, and cataloging these finds. They are housed in the basement of BM, and are known as the Portable Antiquities Scheme. I signed up to receive their weekly updates and Flickr photos.

It is my understanding that all finds should be turned over to the local finds officer in the county in which you find it, or you should contact the British Museum and tell them what you've found and where. Not doing so would put you in the category of nighthawks, who dig up finds from historic sites around Britain and sell them on the black market. These people, when caught, serve jail time and pay hefty fines.

This is because important history is lost when someone digs up coins or small Roman statues, and doesn't report their find. Your treasure will be given back to you; you have rights as the finder. It's important the authorities record all finds, because it adds to the understanding of the history of the area.

That said, I wish you good luck, but do report your finds.

Posted by
4537 posts

Treasure Trove operates rather differently in Scotland compared with the rest of the UK not least because its legal underpinning is Scots common law rather than statute. It comes within the responsibility of The Queen's and Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer although finds can be reported via the local Procurator Fiscal, the Treasure Trove Unit or the National Museums of Scotland. The QLTR will provide ex gratia compensation of the value of the item if it isn't returned, so long as it was properly declared & looked after.

Regarding coins single isolated finds from after 1707 do not need to be reported; neither do very common low value coins such as bawbees and turners from the previous 100 years. Declare anything else.

Posted by
5370 posts

In addition to the rules that would apply to anyone who finds antiquity and the required reporting, there are then additional problems for a visitor that then wants to remove items from the country. Even buying at an auction or store can run afoul laws when you intend to take the item out of the country.

Posted by
179 posts

Per Nigel - 'Are you aware that Treasure belongs to the Queen?'

The Queen has the BEST bits! And she frequently shares them with the public via the Queen's Gallery.

Posted by
11798 posts

Coin dealers do have a lot more Roman coins than you can find here. In general, they aren't rare or expensive.

Posted by
278 posts

Unless the Time Team people are wrong, you only have to report a find of 10 coins or more, which would constitute a hoard. However, I am sure the rules for taking anything out of the country require more paperwork.

I am hoping to find any pottery at all when we go to Ireland next year, so I know what it is like to want to find something that is really old! ("Old" being a relative term; in Chicagoland, anything that predates 1871is ancient!)

Posted by
4537 posts

Yes Time Team if they said that about finds in Scotland were wrong. Treasure Trove Scotland explicitly requires all coin finds to be reported with the exceptions which I summarised above.

In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the ten coin rule is only relevant for coins with less that 10℅ gold or silver. With gold and silver the number is two.