Antiquities Buying Guide
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Antiquities Buying Guide


To prevent illegal sales of antiquities on the eBay marketplace, members should ensure that they have fully understood their obligations to report many antique items under the terms of the Treasure Act. eBay works closely with the Portable Antiquities Scheme (funded by the The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) and run by the British Museum) to stop the sales of such items. We have got together to create the following guidelines to help you have a safe and successful experience when buying or selling antiquities on eBay.

Advice for Selling Antiquities Safely on eBay


Advice for Selling Antiquities Safely on eBay

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland there is a legal obligation to report Treasure finds: under the law of Treasure Trove if found before 24 September 1997 or under the Treasure Act 1996 if found after that date. 

Although there is no legal obligation to report finds from England and Wales unless they are Treasure, the Code of Practice for Responsible Detecting recommends that all finds are reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme so that the information can add to our knowledge of the past. Visit www.finds.org.uk for details of your local Finds Liaison Officer, who will also be happy to advise you on the Treasure Act.

In Scotland there is a legal obligation to report all archaeological finds as Treasure Trove. In Northern Ireland there is a legal obligation to report the discovery of all archaeological finds and these should not be purchased without proof that the discovery has been reported. If it is established that items of Treasure for sale on eBay.co.uk have not been reported and a disclaimer issued by an appropriate body for them, listings will be removed from the site as they are in breach of our policy on Artefacts, Antiques, Cultural Items and Grave-Related Items


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How Treasure is Defined by Law


How Treasure is Defined by Law

1. Any metallic object, other than a coin, provided that at least 10 per cent by weight of metal is gold or silver and that it is at least 300 years old when found. If the object is of prehistoric date it will be Treasure provided any part of it is precious metal.

2. Any group of two or more metallic objects of any composition of prehistoric date that come from the same find (see below)

3. Two or more coins from the same find provided they are at least 300 years old when found and are composed of at least 10 per cent gold or silver (but if the coins contain less than 10 per cent of gold or silver there must be at least 10 of them). Only the following groups of coins will normally be regarded as coming from the same find:

  (a) hoards that have been deliberately hidden,

  (b) smaller groups of coins, such as the contents of purses, that may been dropped or lost, and

  (c) votive or ritual deposits.

4. Any object, whatever it is made of, that is found in the same place as, or had previously been together with, another object that is Treasure.

5. Any object that would previously have been Treasure Trove, but does not fall within the specific categories given above. Only objects that are less than 300 years old, that are made substantially of gold or silver, that have been deliberately hidden with the intention of recovery and whose owners or heirs are unknown will come into this category.

Note: An object or coin is part of the "same find" as another object or coin if it is found in the same place as, or had previously been together with, the other object. Finds may have become scattered since they were originally deposited in the ground. 

All finds of gold or silver found before 24 September 1997 should have been reported as Treasure Trove. All Treasure finds found after that date should have been reported under the Treasure Act 1996.

In Scotland there is a legal obligation to report all archaeological finds, no matter when they were found. Likewise in Northern Ireland there is the legal requirement to report all archaeological finds found after 1926.


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What to Consider When Listing Your Item


What to Consider When Listing Your Item

To reassure buyers that the item you have the right to sell the item you have listed on eBay.co.uk, we recommend taking the following steps when listing your item:

1) Sellers should say in their listing that they have reported the items that they are selling to the appropriate bodies and that they have been given permission for re-sale. Sellers should include details about disclaimer documentation in their listing

Note: There is a legal obligation on sellers to report archaeological finds. These obligations depend on where in the UK the item was found:

  • for items found in England and Wales, sellers should be able to provide proof that items found before 24 September 1997 were reported under Treasure Trove or under the Treasure Act if found after that date. Sellers should be able to provide Crown Disclaimer documents

  • for items found in Scotland, sellers should be able to provide a disclaimer certificate that shows items have been reported and that they have been given legal entitlement to be sold

  • for items found in Northern Ireland, sellers should produce certification to show that the items have been reported to the Northern Ireland Environment and Heritage Service or to the Ulster Museum

2) Be prepared to answer questions from buyers. They’ll want to be reassured that the item is yours to sell (or whether you’re selling on behalf of someone else), why you’re selling it, and if you operate as a business seller, your location, company number or whether you have shops on the High Street.

3) To save time answering buyers questions, you could create a list of frequently asked questions, which will be displayed to buyers when they click on the Ask Seller a Question link from your item listing. You’ll be able to display up to 15 FAQs as well as any questions (and answers) that you’ve already posted in your listing.

To customise your Ask Seller a Question page, go to your Preferences in My eBay. In the Selling Preferences section, click on Show next to Ask Seller a Question. From there, click simply click Edit and begin customising.

4) If you sell the object abroad then you will probably need to obtain an export licence for it. All archaeological objects found in the UK that are more than 50 years old need an export licence. Licences are issued by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.


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Advice for Buying Antiquities Safely on eBay


Advice for Buying Antiquities Safely on eBay

To minimise the risk of buying an antiquity that has not been reported, you should take the following basic steps.

1) Read the item description very carefully and make sure that you know exactly what you’re buying. If you’re unsure, ask the seller to explain the description. Sellers are normally very happy to help you if it means they will get a sale. When it comes to antiquities, there are a series of questions that you should always ask:

  • Where Was the Item Found? If it was found in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, make sure the seller got permission from the person who owned the land on which it was found to sell the item. If the object has been recorded with the Portable Antiquities Scheme then you can have more confidence that this will have happened.

    If the item was found in Scotland, make sure that the item was reported under Treasure Trove

    Ask the seller to sign a statement verifying their account of provenance and their legal title to sell

  • Ask for Documentation. You should ask the seller to provide all written documentation relating to reporting of finds under the procedures required by the country in which the item was found

      For items found in England and Wales, sellers should be able to provide proof that items found before 24 September 1997 were reported under Treasure Trove or under the Treasure Act if found after that date. Sellers should be able to provide Crown Disclaimer documents

      For items found in Scotland, sellers should be able to provide a disclaimer certificate that shows items have been reported and that they have been given legal entitlement to be sold

      For items found in Northern Ireland, sellers should produce certification to show that the items have been reported to the Northern Ireland Environment and Heritage Service or to the Ulster Museum

  • Learn as much as you can about the seller. Check their feedback – not just the score, but also dig deeper and look out for some of the following things:

    a) Whether the person has been buying a lot of low-value items, (they may have done so to build up their feedback score), and is now selling large numbers of high-value items

    b) The kinds of items that they have been buying or selling – make sure that the person’s eBay record makes them look like either an established antiquities dealer or a private individual selling the odd find

    c) How long they have been registered on the site – if they have been trading for a reasonable period of time, with a positive feedback score, they are more likely to be a safer bet to buy from

    These factors do not necessarily mean that someone is selling an antique that they are not allowed to, but they should alert you to do some further research before you buy.

  • Ask the seller questions.Make sure that it is their’s to sell, ask them why they are selling and if they are a business ask them where they are based, whether they have shops or what their company number is. Unscrupulous sellers will tend not to answer such questions or their answers will be evasive.

2) If you are buying, make sure that you are paying with PayPal. It is a much more secure way of paying on eBay than any other because it offers purchase protection to buyers. If anything does go wrong, using PayPal means that we’ll have the seller’s contact details (address, financial details), so will be able to work with law enforcement to track down the seller.


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Useful Sources of Information


Useful Sources of Information

There are a series of websites and resources where you can find information about your obligations when selling antiquities. Because different organisations are responsible for this area, the organisation you need to consult will depend on where the item that you are buying or selling was found:

If you want to know about exporting an antiquity or require an export licence , consult the Acquisition, Export & Loans Unit of the The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.


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Buy with Confidence


Buy with Confidence

Before buying any antiquities on eBay.co.uk, make sure you know exactly what you’re buying, research your seller, and understand how eBay and PayPal protect you.

Know What You're Buying

Read the details in the item listing very carefully.

Remember to include delivery costs when you calculate the final cost of the item. If you spend a lot of money on an item, make sure the seller will insure the delivery of the item.

If you want more information, ask the seller. Use the Ask Seller a Question link under the seller's profile.

Always make sure you complete the full transaction on eBay, with a bid, Buy It Now or Best Offer. If you complete the transaction directly with the seller (ie: off eBay), you will not be covered by eBay protection programs or policies.

Never pay for your eBay item using instant money wire transfer services such as Western Union or MoneyGram.

The use of instant money transfers as a method of receiving payment, via companies such as Western Union or Moneygram, is not allowed on eBay.co.uk. We have banned the use of instant money transfers as a payment method on the eBay.co.uk site to protect members, because in the past some sellers have exploited instant money transfers in order to defraud buyers.

Know your seller

Research your seller so you feel positive and secure about every transaction. Use the following questions as starting points:

  • What is the seller’s Feedback rating?

  • What is the seller’s Feedback rating? What do buyers say in their feedback -- did the seller receive praise? What percentage of positive responses do they have?

  • How many transactions have they completed?

  • Do they accept returns? What are the terms and conditions?

Buyer protection

In the unlikely event that a problem arises during your transaction, eBay and PayPal are there for you.

Pay safely with PayPal: PayPal enables you to pay without the seller ever seeing your bank account or credit card numbers

eBay Safety Centre: Visit the Safety Centre to learn how to protect your account and use eBay’s quick and efficient resolution tools.


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