Some detectorists hang on to all their finds; this, of course, can only be done with the consent of landowners. Whist some landowners want to see and sometimes keep everything, others aren’t particularly interested. I once offered a couple of decent Roman bronzes to a landowner and he said I had found them so I could keep then. He then looked down into my open finds bag and his face lit up; he reached in and took out a brass nut saying: “Great stuff, this will come in really handy.” To me two Roman bronzes were wonderful but to the landowner a brass nut was much better.
Anyway, some detectorists hang on to their finds but a high percentage sell some or all their finds. So, what are their options? Avenues include sale by auction, eBay, other internet sites, car boot sales, or selling to their detecting colleagues or to private collectors. Firstly, much depends on what is being offered for sale. If it’s a group of nondescript items then don’t expect it to sell for a good price. Go back 50 years and Roman brooches, medieval buckles and decorated spindle whorls were all rare but today all are very common. Therefore, whilst these can be sold at car boot fairs, through eBay and to colleagues, prices will be very low. It’s only 20 years since that small silver annular brooches dating from the medieval period could sell at auction for £100+; today they can be bought for around £20, purely because the market had been flooded with examples. When it comes to coins, there is a strong market for specimens in good condition but groups of 50 hammered silver in poor condition can sell for £100 or less.
For artefacts and coins that are rare and in outstanding condition then sale at auction is usually the best option. At the top end auctioneers will offer special terms and today the market is international, with bids coming in from all over the world. A good tip if you are selling items in good condition but they aren’t particularly scarce is to sell through a provincial auctioneer; this is because items that don’t look particularly good in London can look really good in the provinces and can fetch better prices. However, don’t forget that most auctioneers charge vendors a commission rate of 15% plus VAT and buyers have to pay an extra premium of 20% plus VAT; therefore, the difference between what the buyer pays and what the vendor receives can be over 40%. This is an enormous difference but, as mentioned above, for outstanding items all auctioneers will offer special terms.
So, selling can might not be as straightforward as you may initially think. I’d recommend that you take advice before deciding what to do.