AskDefine | Define trove

Dictionary Definition

trove n : treasure of unknown ownership found hidden (usually in the earth) [syn: treasure trove]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. A treasure trove; a collection of treasure.
Practise note: If you were lucky enough to find a trove, in English Law, you would be obliged to report it to your local coroner.

Extensive Definition

A treasure trove may broadly be defined as an amount of gold, silver, gemstones, money, jewellery, or any valuable collection found hidden underground or in places such as cellars or attics, where the treasure seems old enough for it to be presumed that the true owner is dead and the heirs undiscoverable. However, both the legal definition of what constitutes a treasure trove and its treatment under law varies considerably from country to country, and from era to era.
The term is also often used metaphorically. Collections of articles published as a book are often titled Treasure Trove, as in A Treasure Trove of Science. This was especially fashionable for titles of children's books in the early- and mid-20th century.


"Treasure trove", sometimes rendered "treasure-trove", literally means "treasure that has been found". The English term "treasure trove" was derived from the Anglo-French tresor trové, itself from the Latin thesaurus inventus. In 15th-century English the Anglo-French term was translated as "treasure found", but from the 16th century it began appearing in its modern form with the French word trové anglicized as "trovey", "trouve" or "trove".
The term "treasure trove" or "trove" is often used metaphorically to mean a "valuable find", and hence a source of treasure, or a reserve or repository of valuable things.


Roman law

In Roman law treasure trove was called thesaurus ("treasure" in Latin), and defined by the Roman jurist Paulus as "vetus quædam depositio pecuniæ, cujus non extat memoria, ut jam dominum non habeat" (an ancient deposit of money, of which no memory exists, so that it has no present owner). R.W. Lee, in his book The Elements of Roman Law (4th ed., 1956), commented that this definition was "not quite satisfactory" as treasure was not confined to money, nor was there any abandonment of ownership. According to Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius (1583–1645), as the feudal system spread over Europe and the prince was looked on as the ultimate owner of all lands, his right to the treasure trove became jus commune et quasi gentium (a common and quasi-international right) in England, Germany, France, Spain and Denmark.

English common law

It has been said that the concept of treasure trove in English law dates back to the time of Edward the Confessor (c. 1003/1004 – 1066). Under the common law, treasure trove was defined as gold or silver in any form, whether coin, plate (gold or silver vessels or utensils) or bullion (a lump of gold or silver), which had been hidden and rediscovered, and which no person could prove he or she owned. If the person who had hidden the treasure was known or discovered later, it belonged to him or her or persons claiming through him or her such as descendants. To be treasure trove, an object had to be substantially – that is, more than 50% – gold or silver.
Treasure trove had to be hidden with animus revocandi, that is, an intention to recover it later. If an object was simply lost or abandoned (for instance, scattered on the surface of the earth or in the sea), it either belonged to the first person who found it or the landowner according to the law of finders, that is, legal principles concerning the finding of objects. For this reason, the objects found in 1939 at Sutton Hoo were determined not to be treasure trove – as the objects were part of a ship burial, there had been no intention to recover the buried objects subsequently. The Crown had a prerogative right to treasure trove, and if the circumstances under which an object was found raised a prima facie presumption that it had been hidden, it belonged to the Crown unless someone else could show a better title to it. The Crown could grant its right to treasure trove to any person in the form of a franchise. punishable with fine and imprisonment. The coroner was required to hold an inquest with a jury to determine who were the finders or the persons suspected to be the finders, "and that may be well perceived where one liveth riotously and have done so of long time". as the coroner generally had no jurisdiction to inquire into questions of title to the treasure between the Crown and any other claimant. If a person wished to assert title to the treasure, he or she had to bring separate court proceedings.
In subsequent years the legal position became unclear as a series of English and American cases decided that landowners were entitled to buried valuables. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court reconsidered the rule in 1908. The case before it involved three workers who had found coins while digging on their employer's land. The Court decided along the lines of the 1904 Idaho case and awarded the coins to the finders. For the next 30 years, the courts of a number of states, including Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio and Wisconsin, applied this modified "treasure trove" rule, most recently in 1948. Since that time, however, the rule has fallen out of favour. Modern legal texts regard it as "a recognized, if not controlling, rule of decision", but one commentator has called it "a minority rule of dubious heritage that was misunderstood and misapplied in a few states between 1904 and 1948".
To remedy the faults of the old treasure trove regime, the Treasure Act 1996 introduced a new scheme which came into effect on 24 September 2007. Any treasure found on and after that date regardless of the circumstances in which it was deposited, even if it was lost or left with no intention of recovery, belongs to the Crown, subject to any prior interests or rights held by any franchisee of the Crown. The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport may direct that any such treasure be transferred or disposed of, or that the Crown's title in it be disclaimed.
The Act uses the term "treasure" instead of "treasure trove"; the latter term is now confined to objects found before the Act came into force. Objects falling within the following definition are "treasure" under the Act: it must be at least 300 years old and at least 10% precious metal (that is, gold or silver) by weight.
  1. If the object is a coin, it must either be:
    • one of at least two coins in the same find which are at least 300 years old at that time and are at least 10% precious metal by weight; or
    • one of at least ten coins in the same find which are at least 300 years old at that time.
  2. Any object at least 200 years old when found which belongs to a class of objects of outstanding historical, archaeological or cultural importance that has been designated as treasure by the Secretary of State. As of 2006, the following classes of objects had been so designated:
    • Any object, other than a coin, any part of which is base metal (that is, not gold or silver), which when found is one of at least two base metal objects in the same find which are of prehistoric date.
    • Any object, other than a coin, which is of prehistoric date, and any part of which is gold or silver.
  3. Any object which would have been treasure trove if found before 24 September 1997.
  4. Any object which, when found, is part of the same find as:
    • an object within head (1), (2), (3) or (4) above found at the same time or earlier; or
    • an object found earlier which would be within head (1), (2) or (3) above if it had been found at the same time.
Treasure does not include unworked natural objects, or minerals extracted from a natural deposit, or objects that have been designated not to be treasure by the Secretary of State. Objects falling within the definition of wreck are also not treasure. Anyone finding an object he or she believes or has reasonable grounds to believe is treasure must notify the coroner for the district in which the object is found within 14 days starting from the day after the find or, if later, the day on which the finder first believes or has reason to believe the object is treasure. Not doing so is an offence. Inquests are held without a jury unless the coroner decides otherwise. The coroner must notify the British Museum if his or her district is in England, the Department of the Environment if it is in Northern Ireland, or the National Museum Wales if it is in Wales. The coroner must also take reasonable steps to notify any person who appears may have found the treasure; any person who, at the time it was found, occupied land which it appears may be where the treasure was found; and any other interested persons, including persons involved in the find or having an interest in the land where the treasure was found at that time or since. However, coroners still have no power to make any legal determination as to whether the finder, landowner or occupier of the land has title to the treasure. The courts have to resolve that issue, and may also review coroners' decisions in relation to treasure. to the finder or any other person involved in the finding of the treasure, the occupier of the land at the time of the find, or any person who had an interest in the land at the time of the find or has had such an interest at any time since then. If the Secretary of State determines that a reward should be paid, he or she must also determine the market value of the treasure (assisted by the Treasure Valuation Committee), the amount of the reward (which cannot exceed the market value), to whom the reward should be paid and, if more than one person should be paid, how much each person should receive. Non-treasure finds remain the property of their finders or landowners, who are free to dispose of them as they wish.


The Treasure Act 1996 does not apply in Scotland. Treasure trove in Scotland is dealt with under the common law of Scotland. The general rule that governs bona vacantia ("vacant goods") – that is, objects that are lost, forgotten or abandoned – is quod nullius esfit domini regis ("that which belongs to nobody becomes our Lord the King's [or Queen's]"), and the law of treasure trove is a specialized application of that rule. As in England, the Crown in Scotland has a prerogative right to treasure trove for it is one of the regalia minora ("minor things of the King"), that is, property rights which the Crown may exercise as it pleases and which it may alienate (transfer to another party).
To qualify as treasure trove, an object must be precious, it must be hidden, and there must be no proof of its property or reasonable presumption of its former ownership. Unlike under English common law, treasure is not restricted to only gold and silver objects. In 1888 a prehistoric jet necklace and some other articles found in Forfarshire were claimed by the authorities though they were neither gold nor silver. A compromise was eventually reached, and the find was deposited in the National Museum of Scotland. Further, the requirement that an object must be "hidden" means no more than that it must be concealed; it refers to the condition in which the object was found and does not refer back to the intention which the owner of the object may have had in hiding it. Finally, the requirement that there must be no reasonable presumption of former ownership means that it must not be possible to trace the ownership of the object to a person or family currently existing. Even if an object does not qualify as treasure trove, it may be claimed by the Crown as bona vacantia.
The Queen's and Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer (QLTR), an office held by the Crown Agent who is the senior officer of the Crown Office in Scotland, is responsible for claiming bona vacantia on behalf of the Crown in Scotland.
The Panel also recommends to the QLTR a reward for the find based on its current market value where appropriate, and the most appropriate museum in Scotland to allocate it to. The TTU then contacts all museums which have bid for finds to advise them of the Panel's recommendations. The museums have 14 days in which to accept or reject the proposed allocation and reward for the find. If the QLTR accepts the Panel's recommendations, it will notify the finder of the amount of any reward being paid and the museum that the find has been allocated to. The QLTR also asks the museum to pay the finder's reward. Finders may elect to waive their rewards. Rewards are not paid for finds occurring during organized fieldwork. Paper money is also deemed to be treasure trove since it represents gold or silver. On the same reasoning, it might be imagined that coins and tokens in metals other than gold or silver are also included, but this has yet to be clearly established. The object must be concealed for long enough so it is unlikely that the true owner will reappear to claim it. The consensus appears to be that the object must be at least a few decades old.
A majority of state courts, including those of Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Oregon and Wisconsin, have ruled that the finder of treasure trove is entitled to it. The theory is that the English monarch's claim to treasure trove was based on a statutory enactment which replaced the finder's original right. When this statute was not re-enacted in the United States after its independence, the right to treasure trove reverted to the finder.
In Idaho and Tennessee courts have decided that treasure trove belongs to the owner of the place where it was found, the rationale being to avoid rewarding trespassers. In one Pennsylvania case, a lower court ruled that the common law did not vest treasure trove in the finder but in the sovereign, and awarded a find of US$92,800 cash to the state. However, this judgment was reversed by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania on the basis that it had not yet been decided if the law of treasure trove was part of Pennsylvania law. The Supreme Court deliberately refrained from deciding the issue.
Finds of money and lost property are dealt with by other states through legislation. These statutes usually require finders to report their finds to the police and transfer to their custody the objects. The police then advertise the finds to try and locate their true owner. If the objects remain unclaimed for a specified period of time, title in them vests in the finders. New Jersey vests buried or hidden property in the landowner, Indiana in the county, Vermont in the township, and Maine in the township and the finder equally. In Louisiana, French codes have been followed, so half of a found object goes to the finder and the other half to the landowner.
Finders who are trespassers generally lose all their rights to finds, unless the trespass is regarded as "technical or trivial".
Where the finder is an employee, most cases hold that the find should be awarded to the employer if it has a heightened legal obligation to take care of its customers' property, otherwise it should go to the employee. A find occurring in a bank is generally awarded to the bank as the owner is likely to have been a bank customer and the bank has a fiduciary duty to try and reunite lost property with their owners. For similar reasons, common carriers are preferred to passengers and hotels to guests (but only where finds occur in guest rooms, not common areas). The view has been taken that such a rule is suitable for recently misplaced objects as it provides the best chance for them to be reunited with their owners. However, it effectively delivers title of old artifacts to landowners, since the older an object is, the less likely it is that the original depositor will return to claim it. The rule is therefore of little or no relevance to objects of archaeological value. and other persons working in law enforcement occupations, and armed forces are not entitled to finds in some states.
By the Archaeological Resources Protection Act 1979, finds more than a hundred years old on government land belong to the government. There is analogous state legislation. Special rules also apply to grave goods from Indian burials discovered on Federal and tribal lands under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act enacted on 16 November 1990.





  • Attorney-General v. Moore [1893] 1 Ch. 676
  • Attorney-General v. Trustees of the British Museum [1903] 2 Ch. 598
  • Attorney-General of the Duchy of Lancaster v. G.E. Overton (Farms) Ltd. [1982] Ch. 277, C.A.
  • Lord Advocate v. University of Aberdeen 1963. S.C. 533
  • R. v. Thomas & Willett (1863) Le. & Ca. 313, 12 W.R. 108

Further reading


United Kingdom

  • Treasure Trove and the Need for Reform.
  • Treasure Trove and Title to Discovered Antiquities.

United States

  • Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers.
  • Identity and Cultural Property: The Protection of Cultural Property in the United States.
  • Note, Property Owners' Constructive Possession of Treasure Trove: Rethinking the Finders Keepers Rule.
  • Keep or Weep?.
  • Treasure Trove under Anglo-American Law.
  • Annotation, Modern Status of Rules as to Ownership of Treasure Trove as between Finder and Owner of Property on which Found.


United Kingdom

  • The Romance of Treasure Trove.
  • Treasure Annual Report
  • Valuing Ancient Things: Archaeology and Law.
  • Treasure Trove in Law and Practice, from the Earliest Time to the Present Day.
  • Review of Treasure Trove Arrangements in Scotland.
  • Treasure Trove in Scotland: Annual Report by the Queen's and Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer.
  • The Reform of Treasure Trove Arrangements in Scotland.
  • British Archæology: Its Progress and Demands. (The Law of Treasure Trove: How Can It be Best Adapted to Accomplish Useful Results?). 2 pts.
trove in Russian: Клад

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

agglomeration, aggregation, amassment, bonus, bringing to light, buried treasure, casual discovery, catching, chance discovery, collection, colluvies, conglomeration, cumulation, detection, determination, determining, disclosure, discovery, distinguishment, espial, excavation, exhumation, exposure, find, finding, finding out, foundling, gravy, hoard, invention, locating, location, lucky strike, recognition, rediscovery, revelation, serendipity, spotting, strike, treasure trove, trouvaille, uncovering, unearthing, waifs, waifs and strays, windfall, windfall money, windfall profit
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