Memorandum on Valuation of Treasure

A memorandum on the definition of 'value' as understood and practiced by the Treasure Valuation Committee

29 May 2012


The role of the Treasure Valuation Committee (TVC) in recommending a monetary value for items declared Treasure is defined in paragraphs 65-70 of the Treasure Act 1996 Code of Practice (CoP). This is for the purpose of paying a reward to interested parties for finding and reporting items of treasure.


Paragraph 10.(4) of the Treasure Act 1996 says 'The total reward must not exceed the treasure's market value'. To that end, the CoP tasks the TVC with determining the market value of a treasure find in the following way:

'to recommend to the Secretary of State valuations for items brought before it which correspond as closely as possible, taking account of all relevant factors, to what may be paid for the object(s) in a sale on the open market between a willing seller and a willing buyer' - Paragraph 65

The TVC understands market value to be most closely reflected in the 'hammer' price which a treasure might be expected to fetch at auction. This is because an auction represents an open market, and the hammer price is an agreeable figure for both the seller and the buyer. In drawing the parallel with an auction, the TVC does not include in its valuation consideration of a 'premium' which might be paid in addition to the hammer price in a real auction nor the vendor's commission.

This definition of market value is understood by the TVC to differ from, and to be lower than, a retail price. A retail price is the value that a retailer would sell an item for to a consumer, and is inflated by incorporating overhead costs and a margin, allowing for the retailer to profit from the sale. Items for sale on dealer's lists, in coin and antiquity fairs or in shops are usually offered at a retail price and references such as Spink's Coins of England and the United Kingdom or Benet's Artefacts of England and the United Kingdom also give valuations at retail price.



According to the CoP, 'the valuation will be as at the time of finding of the object and in the condition in which it was found (see also paragraph 47). It is expected that the Committee will be aware of the potential value of the object in its conserved state, after the deduction of notional cleaning and conservation costs' (para 66).

The majority of objects are not cleaned or conserved in any way prior to being seen by the TVC, but some items, such as coins, may require cleaning in order to be properly identified. In attempting to understand the potential value of an object in its conserved state, and the effect of this on the current market value, the TVC uses its experience and may call on the advice of professionals with respect to the ease or difficulty and the cost of conservation operations.

Export Licensing

The TVC will not take into consideration any possible impact on the value of the find resulting from the UK Export Licensing regime on the hammer price.

Guidance for submitting valuations to the Treasure Valuation Committee

The TVC asks the valuers that it commissions as part of the Treasure process to follow the criteria below. Valuations submitted by private individuals or museums will carry the most weight if they also adhere to these criteria.

Key criteria

  1. Valuations should be made in good faith, without conflict of interest and paying regard only to matters concerning the value of the object.
  2. Valuers should keep in mind that the purpose of valuations is to arrive at a fair ex gratia award for finders, landowners and other relevant parties.
  3. Valuations should be based on valuers' own commercial knowledge and experience in both domestic and overseas markets. Particular weight may be given to valuations from members of relevant trade associations or holders of relevant professional credentials.
  4. Valuations should reflect the price that would be paid for the object in a sale on the open market between a willing seller and a willing buyer, and should be expressed as such. They should correspond with the hammer price that would be expected to be received at a public auction of the object within the UK, exclusive of commission, premium and VAT, taking account of any prospective overseas interests and all relevant circumstances.
  5. Valuations should not be framed as 'offers to buy' on a private basis as these do not provide a rationale for the estimated market value of the piece. Any valuations other than on the basis of a sale by auction cannot be given the same weight as open market valuations and are not helpful to the Committee. A private buyer may be willing to pay a premium to acquire a piece that has not already been offered for sale. That does not reflect the 'open market' price.
  6. Valuations should reflect the 'as found' condition of the object at the time it was found. It is expected that the Committee will be aware of the potential value of the object in its conserved state, after the deduction of notional cleaning and conservation costs. The valuation of newly discovered objects from a previously examined find may take account of that previous discovery.
  7. Valuations should be supported by reasons. They should, wherever possible, refer to relevant comparable objects that have achieved an open market price at auction, to the values accorded to such objects and to any relevant distinctions between those objects and the object under valuation.
  8. When comparable objects or coins are referred to, valuations should also supply a copy of the reference from the catalogue or webpage where the information is drawn. This should be done in all object cases, and for cases involving coins with individual valuations of more than £500.
  9. In the past a small number of valuations provided have referred to the operation of the export licensing regime. However, the regime operates to allow a domestic purchaser for the item rather than restrict its export altogether and valuers should not, therefore, take into account the operation or otherwise of the export licensing regime when suggesting a value to the committee.
  10. Valuations should suggest a range of values (with approximately a 10% range), rather than a single figure.
  11. Valuers should use appropriate language, avoiding terminology that might reasonably be expected to occasion offence to finders or others, or which might unreasonable raise expectations of a substantial valuation. Specifically, they should refrain from being overly critical of an object in poor condition or excessively praiseworthy of an object in good condition.
  12. If a valuer thinks that a find has no commercial value, he or she should simply state that in the report, and not speculate on a figure for 'archaeological value' or make a suggestion for a nominal reward. The Committee can do that itself.
  13. It would be helpful if valuations did not refer to a price "less than £x" unless that amount is below £50 or within a range, say £x to £x. Any higher than that and an interested party will generally feel that anything below 10% of the sum picked by the valuer is unacceptable.


The inappropriate cleaning or other treatment of objects may adversely affect any award made by the Treasure Valuation Committee and may make it difficult to assess the value of the object in the condition in which it was found. Such cleaning or other treatment may also impair the archaeological value of the find and make it less desirable to potential acquirers.

See also the Treasure Act 1996 Code of Practice, section I: 'Valuation of Treasure'.