Cold metal had been his life, and it was amazing.
Man had decided on the value of things long before he was born – he was just playing at an ancient game of human nature. But soon, he was going to exchange an amazing type of metal for a new, devastating one that would dictate the rest of his life.
George Powell breathed in the fresh, early-morning air. He and his co-hunter, Layton were already feeling the rush of excitement that came any time they picked up their metal detectors.
There might have been over 20,000 detectorists throughout England and Wales, but George and Layton were different.
They always made sure they asked permission before searching on other’s properties, and all the other nonsense that came along with their hobby.
George was also an adamant historian. So when it came to the possibility of local treasure, he didn’t mess around. This particular site they were now scanning was the final X at the end of a very long academic exploration.
England, like all of Europe, is ripe with history, and all the riches that went with it.
Remnants of fallen crusaders, sneaky thieves, and pillaging Vikings could be hiding right under their feet at any moment. So, when a loud beep filled the calm countryside, George couldn’t help but smile.
He held the detector above the ground to pinpoint the metal and called his friend over frantically. “I’ve got something!”, he shouted.
Layton ran over to him and grabbed a pair of shovels from the trunk of the car. He tossed one over to George and they started to dig. Unaware, that they were digging their way into a whole lot of trouble.
The chill in the air and sweat beading down his forehead didn’t bother George. He would keep digging until the beep was explained and payday arrived.
At first, nothing seemed to be there, but the metal detector was still beeping, and so they continued to dig deeper and deeper into the damp soil. George had never dug this deep before. Usually, his finds were closer to the surface. But this wasn’t any ordinary discovery.
It was one of the most lucrative finds of the century. Enough to make both George and Layton millionaires but they made one crucial mistake that would haunt them for the rest of their days.
George was a man on a mission. He dug with a sense of dedication Layton had never seen in him before. He was sure something big was down there. And he was right. First, came a clink, then came a dazzling flash of light.
The first glint of gold knocked the air from his lungs. He bent down and picked up the small pieces he could see. He picked them up with mud-ridden hands and showed Layton.
His joy dropped as he soaked in their unusual detail. These weren’t any ordinary coins. Suddenly, he pointed to George’s feet and gasped, “oh my god! Dude, look!”.
George was standing on a bed of ancient, buried gold. No wonder the metal detector was picking up such a strong signal even though it was laying far beneath the ground!
Both men fell to their knees. As history buffs, they knew what a discovery of this scale meant. Financial freedom was well and truly within their grasp, which is why they couldn’t bear to follow the books.
Along with the huge stash of coins, they also found a silver ingot, dragonhead bracelet, pearl pendant, and gold rings. It was an incredible find. And one they to be from the 18th century – the time of the Vikings.
George knew his hard work would eventually work out! But there was just one problem. If they wanted to keep their riches and make some real money off of this find, they needed to keep quiet. It was a decision that would come back to bite them.
A few years back, Britain put in place the “National Treasure Act”.
It was an act designed to keep historical items from ending up on the “black market”, but all George saw was a greedy government trying to steal money from the little guy yet again. It was time to call a friend, a specialist in historical finds who also owned an antique store.
Georg had speculated that the gold coins came from the 18th century but now he needed proof. But from someone he trusted, who wouldn’t declare his national find to the authorities.
A specialist with the same mindset as George looked over a dozen coins with an unhinged jaw. He knew they would get nothing if the government took the horde, which he didn’t think was fair either. But then he realized just how much George’s find was worth.
The expert confirmed George’s suspicions. The coins and gold he’d collected looked to be no other than a Viking treasure hoard, which they typically accumulated by ransacking monastery vaults.
With excitement coursing through their veins, they prepared to leave but not before noticing a nosy customer who lurked in the back of their friend’s store. George had no idea that his brilliant plan would soon come crumbling down.
Little did the men know, this customer was also a history buff who followed the law to a T. He also had a particular interest in the Viking era. He asked the men could he see their discovery.
The preface of the encounter was that George and his friend had found the buried pieces separately. They only brought a few coins to the store for inspection. The rest were a secret.
Instantly, the stranger’s eyes went from awe to suspicion. He saw how both coins had the same wear-and-tear and “must have come from the same location”. He looked at the men with shroud eyes.
George snapped the treasure back and stormed away. But when he got home, his stomach twisted into an enormous knot. The cops soon came knocking.
They handed them a search notice and got to work immediately. They had been reported. There was no way out of this. George’s heart pounded and his palms grew wet with nerves.
“This was ridiculous!”, George exclaimed. He went into his kitchen and came back out with the gold. “I found it so I should get reimbursed!”. In his eyes, the government were the thieves! But they didn’t want to hear it.
The officer shook his head and let out a long sigh with a chuckled attached to the end. George wanted nothing more than to punch him, but knew violence would get him no where.
But the next words out of the guy’s mouth made him even more furious. “You know, all you had to do was report it. You did everything else legally. Do you know how much you would have got?”.
“It would have been half of the value. Worst-case scenario? You guys would have ended up with a third. But no. You got greedy.”
The weeks stretched into months. And as the lawyers presented their case to an indifferent judge, the total value was finally announced.
They demanded George and Layton tell them where they found the invaluable treasure and declared it a treasure of the state. They needed to tell them where it was so that they could check the area for more.
George drew a rough map for the authorities to follow. He thought he had taken everything, so he didn’t mind giving its location away. But yet again, George was wrong.
The ordeal ended up with George and Layton feeling the cold, hard metal bench in the local lockup and tasting two-day-old coffee while a snide officer went on and on about treasure laws.
The cops found more coins in the area of the original site. It was the land that kept on giving, but for George and Layton, their luck was running out.
George’s horde was worth over 12 million pounds! He seethed as they kept saying he “would have got an easy three million if he had just followed the law.”
But the police still didn’t get it. It could have been a share of over 20 million pounds to private collectors and a payday of way more than 3 million if he did things his own way!
Of all the discoveries George found and dug up over the years. Of all the years he followed the rules and played a good citizen, he had never seen a fair return of investment for his work in restoring the national treasure fund.
Just this once, he wanted to see what would happen if he played by his own rules. After all, isn’t that what he deserved? That’s why he had something else hiding up his sleeve.
There was at least one pot of gold at the end of their dark and frustrating rainbow. Both he and Layton had made a pact.
They didn’t bring out the entire stash – only a few pieces for appraisal. The rest was hidden and reburied. They both kept the location a secret until their dying breath or their eventual freedom. Did they get caught?
Conspiracy to conceal is no light verdict. They both spent years behind bars before they could taste freedom again. But there were mixed views online.
Some thought the punishment was too severe, while others thought it was just right. But what did they think? It was a lesson learned the hard way, that even finders cannot be keepers. Yet, they still managed to outwit the law.
What do you think? If you were in George’s position would you hand your find over to the government or would you feel conflicted?
Not every country has the “National Treasure Act” so do you think it’s fair? Either way, George and Layton did their time, although, we’re not sure they learned from it!