Code of Ethics

By R. Neil Simmons
From page 16 of the November issue of Lost Treasure magazine.
Copyright © 1999, 2000 Lost Treasure, Inc.

In order for any profession or group to rise to the top of their field and remain there, the individuals involved must conform to standards of conduct that sets them at the, top of ethical behavior. Treasure hunters and detector users must abide by the highest standards of behavior if we are to have the continuing right to practice our hobby and profession.

As detector users we must have the consent and permission of outside agencies to practice and pursue our interests. Those agencies range from the federal government through state, county and city governments , to private groups and individuals. In order to receive cooperation from all of these entities we must prove to them that we conform to the highest examples of behavior. To guide us we must have a code of ethics. The “Treasure Hunter’s Code of Ethics” exists in various forms but they are essentially the same. In order to better understand the “Code Of Ethics” lets review them and look at the reasons behind them.

“I Will Respect Private Property And Do No Treasure Hunting Without The Owner’s Permission.”

In the United States of America we believe in the private ownership of property. Although it is not specifically stated as a right in the U.S. Constitution, private property ownership is recognized there. Along with the ownership comes the right of “no trespass,” the reasonable expectation that the owner holds all right of entry and can allow others on the property at their discretion. The owner also has the right to bar anyone from entering the property, along with the expectation that no one will enter without their permission, explicit or implied.

Respect, in this case, means to honor the rights of the owner and to hold them in a high enough regard to abide by all the expectations, privileges and legal claims that accompany land possession and title. Obtaining permission to enter any private property shows respect. Conversely, entering any property without permission is trespassing, shows disrespect, and is subject to all the laws pertaining to it. Bottom line is, obey the rules and ask permission.

“I Will Fill All Excavations”

Digging holes is an essential part of recovery. Whether you cut a flap in the turf to retrieve a coin or dig a large hole, you have excavated. Filling excavations restores the lawn, pasture or field to its original condition. As conscientious hobbyists it is in our interests to obey this ethic.

“I Will Appreciate And Protect Our Heritage Of Natural Resources, Wildlife, And Private Property.”

In today’s world movements are sweeping the globe to increase awareness of the importance of natural resources and the protection of wildlife. Often for the same reasons, private property rights are under attack. All are equally important and it is our obligation as responsible hobbyists and professionals to educate ourselves and others in the appreciation of these significant resources. It is also our responsibility to protect natural resources and wildlife, not only because of their intrinsic values, but so others can use and enjoy them like we do. Private property and the rights of the owner are just as important and must be respected and supported if we are to have continued access to hunting sites.

“I Will Use Thoughtfulness, Consideration, And Courtesy At All Times.”

Thoughtfulness is a key ingredient of both consideration and courtesy. When showing thoughtfulness for others you anticipate their needs and wishes before you act solely for your own gratification. If you’re not thinking as a treasure hunter you’re probably not going to be very successful and could end up with a lot of difficulties.

Consideration comes into play as you think about what affect your actions will have on others. When coinshooting in a park you have the choice of filling your recovery holes or leaving them. If you leave the holes open it won’t be long before authorities close the park to all detector users. Consideration for others will lead you to care for the park, cover the holes, and return the ground to the same, or better condition than you found it so others can experience the same pleasure, beauty, and relaxation there.

Courtesy is simply polite and gracious behavior. Courtesy manifests itself in the way you treat others, how you treat their property, and the respect you show their rights and wishes. Treating people the way you would ideally prefer to be treated is courtesy.

“I Will Build Fires In Designated Or Safe Places Only”

This is self-explanatory. The reasons behind it are vital to the well-being of the hobby and the environment. Controlled fires are one of the most important tools of humankind, but uncontrolled fire becomes one of the most destructive forces imaginable. An untold number of towns have been destroyed and countless lives have been lost because of carelessness with fire. On federal lands and in many states, if your carelessness results in fire you may be held responsible for the entire costs of fighting the fire. Always follow this ethic.

“I Will Leave Gates As Found.”

This one speaks for itself If you enter through any gate leave it open if that’s the way it was. If it was closed when you arrived, close it when you pass through it. There are many reasons a landowner or agency will leave a gate open or closed. If someone else left the gate unlike they found it, that is their responsibility and unless you are an extremely gifted psychic you have no way of knowing how it was before your arrival.

“I Will Remove And Properly Dispose Of Any Trash That I Find.”

No serious detector user wants to find the same piece of tinfoil or the same bottle cap over and over again. To just leave the trash is irresponsible. It is in the hobby’s best interest to keep trash in proper disposal containers, not on or in the ground. To leave it might constitute littering, and that ties in directly with the next ethic.

“I Will Not Litter.”

DON’T DO IT! Anything you leave laying around is litter. If it doesn’t belong there, pick it up and pack it out. As treasure hunters, we don’t need the reputation of contributing to the problem, especially with negative images about our hobby that currently exist. If we pick litter up and aren’t shy about letting people know it, that is one small step toward a positive image.

“I Will Not Destroy Property, Buildings, Or What Is Left Of Ghost Towns And Deserted Structures.”

Property and buildings fall under the first ethic of this code that involves property rights. If it belongs to someone else respect their rights. Furthermore, if it doesn’t belong to you, leave it as it is. Deserted towns and structures are deteriorating fast enough from the natural elements without aid from visitors. When you visit sites think about the enjoyment you derive from them. Then, take a moment to consider the enjoyment others could experience. If you take one little piece, then the next person takes one little piece, and everyone after you does the same it won’t be long before everything is gone. Combine that with the destructive forces of nature and it disappears even sooner. Before long no one will have the pleasure of experiencing the old towns and structures. If you want to take a piece home with you, bring your camera and take a picture. It’s a lot easier to carry out and store. Remember, if it is on private land it belongs to someone else. If it is on public lands, it belongs to us all, not just to you. Respect private property rights and public property rights.

“I Will Not Tamper With Signs, Structural Facilities, Or Equipment.”

Tampering with anything that doesn’t belong to you could be dangerous and is just plain wrong. Signs are erected for specific reasons; as warnings, for information, to designate private property, or many other purposes. Changing them, removing them, or destroying them is unethical and may be illegal. The same can be said for structural facilities and equipment. If they are there, it is for a reason. When they are tampered with and destroyed you deprive someone else of their full use. Again, it returns to the principle of respect. Respect for others, for ownership rights, for the law, and for society. If it isn’t yours, have enough respect to leave it as it is.

That’s a quick look at the Treasure Hunter’s Code Of Ethics. If our hobby is to survive and prosper it is necessary that each one of us follow the code. Our hobby is under attack by professionals who resent it, by groups who misunderstand it, by governmental agencies that are misinformed, and by individuals who want control over everyone and everything. It behooves us as treasure hunters and detectorists to behave in the highest ethical manner in order to continue to enjoy our wonderful, informative, and educational hobby.


  1. Lost Treasure magazine, Club Notes by Della Ruth Huntley; “Treasure Hunting Ethics;” March, 1988.
  2. Constitution Of The United States Of America.

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