Not everything is black or white….

I have thought about bringing up the following topic for sometime now, but always talked myself out of it, thinking I might come off as bigoted or racist.  I can assure you, I am not! I want to present it now, and hope that I can do it in a thought provoking way, and that you will consider taking part in the discussion  by replying via a response on my blog. It’s a topic I never hear discussed, and I think it’s for no other reason than “It’s just the way it is!”

I have been metal detecting now for almost 40 years, and I have yet to see any reasonable number of African Americans involved. In fact I can remember only two.  One in New Jersey and one in Texas. My question to all of you is WHY?

Metal detecting is an inexpensive hobby, not difficult to learn, it’s relaxing, often profitable and a great outdoors pastime. It does not demand being physically fit in the sense that youngsters, handicapped and senior citizens participate (okay fellow seniors, blast me on that one). So why has it become a “white man’s” pastime?

A few thoughts that come to mind, and I hope I am not being presumptious here….

Black people are not exposed to it early on, and they probably never see anyone with a metal detector in their neighborhood (many live in the inner cities, and  often in poorer neighborhoods). They also do not see it advertised on television, and as a result it is not something they think a great deal about.

Next, it’s pretty much a hobby lacking the need for extraordinary physical skills, and when I say that I am comparing it to sports like football, basketball, baseball or soccer.  I believe many black children grow up idolizing people like Michael Jordan, LeBron James, or Derek Jeter, and as a result focus on those sports at an early age, whereas  metal detecting will never make anyone a “super star”, nor will it provide you with enough money to live on (those that tell you otherwise are lying).

So tell me. Are there more black detectorists out there that I am not aware of? Please share your thoughts on this by commenting here or email me at, and please no  racist comments or jokes. I don’t find them funny all, and never have….



It’s been three days since Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast, but things are still not good. Millions are still without power, and many are without  homes. The death toll as of Thursday was 56. While help is on the way, the sheer number of those affected means it will take time, and that has to be demoralizing….

My family in New Jersey, while living about 80 miles inland, is still without power, and they have been told it will be another 7 to 10 days from today before they  see it. Likewise, those with generators, are having to wait in lines at gas stations to fill their cans, hoping and praying that the station doesn’t run out before  it’s their turn at the pump.

Most of the treasure hunters on the East coast are finding that things were not as they hoped, and many coastal towns are still closed to visitors, and in  some instances, to those who live there. Those that have been able to detect are not making finds close to what they anticipated, with a lot of the sand having  been pushed inland, and then pushed back out by those repairing the areas. The damage caused by Hurrican Sandy was much more severe than anyone had predicted.

One bright note is this photo from Paul Ribble, South Jersey detectorist, who lives in Ocean City, New Jersey. While Paul’s home was damaged by the storm, he still  had the levity to share the following photo (and yes, that’s sand in his basement).

Paul Ribble detecting in his basement

Here’s hoping that the days get better and brighter for all of those affected by this devastating storm…..



Filed under Metal Detecting

33 responses to “Not everything is black or white….

  1. … I have been detecting for over 42 years and in all of that time..I have only met one black detectorist and I know that in his case he had a miliary maybe that influenced him…….for all of the other African Americans for not partipating….I really do not know…….I have worked in the Medical field for over 11 years and do know that most of the blacks that I know are well educated and emphasize to their kids education and their careers….I guess that digging for coins one at a time just does not appeal to them……..Joe

  2. You pose an interesting question there, Dick. We have the same situation in the UK, but I don’t understand why it should be …

  3. Lenny C.

    Hello Mr.Stout
    You are Right MR.Winters interesting indeed
    in my years detecting i have meet about 4 in total.??
    Humm Know I wander too..

  4. Great post, and good question! I only know one black detectorist, he is gung ho for Civil War relics, especially Confederate. Strange, huh? He gets into great sites in Atlanta, btw. But the only thing I can think of is that the hobby is not presented to blacks enough in a positive light, plus the “race” card which some play whenever the Civil War is mentioned. Well, that takes care of relic hunting…as to o other forms, I don’t have a clue!

    Butch Holcombe, Publisher
    American Digger Magazine

    • Butch, thanks for the reply…had never given the Civil War thing a thought. Then again there are so many other areas of detecting that defy a good explanation? Perhaps we may never know?.

  5. Paul Tainter

    Hello Dick:
    We used to have two black treasure hunters come into the Exanimo Shop at Ames,Neb. They were from the Omaha area and were good coin hunters. We had several black treasure hunters that used to attend our Treasure Hunters Expo that we held annually in Fremont, Neb. and they always enjoyed the Expo.
    Paul Tainter, Publisher Treasure Hunters Express

  6. I have had maybe a dozen black customers over the years, and 2 current ones. While 95% of my customers are Civil War relic hunters, these two are coin and jewelry hunters.

    One of the best hunters I have ever seen happened to be black and became a good friend of mine. His name was John Jackson from Fairfax, Va. He used an old Garrett Competition Master and hunted with the front of the coil angled to the ground. The coil would wear our in a few months time and would have to be replaced. I have seen him do the impossible with his detector. In the 80’s, he let us plug a dual phone jack into his unit to see if we could hear what he heard…..nada.

    It was not his detector, he had uncanny hearing. He could not read or write yet learned to play a guitar from listening to songs. He was pretty famous also as he released around 7 albums and once played for the Queen of England.

    Sorry to rant on. I could tell you stories about him that you would not believe but I will save that for another time. By the way, John died a few years ago. He was so well known in our area as a great relic hunter that the North South Trader honored him with a memorial write up in their magazine soon after his death.

    As to your question, I really have never thought about why there aren’t many blacks in the hobby but would love to hear opinions from others.

  7. Bob K

    Mr Stout Thats a great question Have not seen any blacks nor any middle eastern.

    Have thought about it a couple of times, and just thought maybe it was just because of the area that l live in. All the reasons given so far are good but none stand out as to the answer.

  8. I have thought and thought about this question and can not come up with a good answer. The only guesses I can offer are possibly because of the common stereotype that this is an old white mans hobby.

    It may also be an image thing, Image is very important to some races and the fear of not being accepted or ridiculed might be the reason.

    I knock on a lot of doors to ask permission and usually get it. I suspect if an African American were to knock on the same doors and asked the same question they would be turned down the majority of the time due to the view that a lot of people have towards African Americans.

    It shouldn’t surprise anyone that we still have a problem with race in this country and it goes both ways.

    This question is very hard to respond to because I don’t want to come across as an individual who stereotypes people but maybe subconsciously we all do at some level.

    • Don, thank you….appreciate your thoughts and comments. I also tend to agree with you about the knocking on doors and and the view that many might have towards African Americans, and indeed we do still have a problem with race. Let’s hope that maybe we detectorists can help to change that. Have a feeling that coin in the ground is color blind.

  9. Diane Toogood

    That is very interesting Dick. That thought never occured to me. I have many people who are black come up to me on the beaches and ask what I am doing and they always say, ” I have to get on of those, That looks like fun.” They seem to find it fascinating as we all do. That is a very good question Dick:)

  10. This is a reply from a close friend, and one that I have a lot of respect for. He preferred that his name or email address not be shared here…


    There is a disparity between races in clubs and in the usage of metal detectors in the field, but I believe that has at least three causes.

    1.) Clubs are generally in white neighborhoods, comprised of whites and for the benefit of whites. This does not imply that those of color are not welcome nor are they “encouraged” not to return.

    2.) Someone once said “Location is the key.” And, those that attend are generally friends and have hunted together long before becoming members of a club. They probably live in a fairly well-defined geographic area.

    3.) That same someone probably said “birds of a feather, flock together.” Say what one will, there is not as much association between the races, on many levels. One of the most common is one’s “way” of life or culture. Metal detecting is not in the same activity realm for those of color, any color, as it is for whites.

    The other side of this same question is that I am aware of a number of clubs that have membership comprised of many races, and they would likely scoff at this subject being an issue. In those clubs all are equal. Race and gender are non-issues, as they should be. However, that is not always the case in the “Traditional Metal Detecting Club.” Most often women are there because of their mates’ membership and generally take a less than active role in the business of the club. Perhaps that should the subject of the next blog….

    In my experience there are few differences between metal detector operators/hunters/users. Those that think there are should re-examine their priorities. Perhaps they are more of the problem. Any individual, regardless of race, gender, or physical problem, should be welcomed into club membership. That same person should also be encouraged to become an addition to the general metal detecting experience between friends.

  11. raymond salmons

    when you think about it ,not many blacks drive racecars either !

  12. Joey Ortega

    Hi Dick,
    Funny It never dawned on me to ask my friend Fred who is black that Q. He’s 80 yrs old and taught me the ropes in waterhunting….he has 20+ yrs in detecting. I only get to see him in the summer. Next time I see him, I’ll put that Q to him. Great topic Dick!

  13. In our club with a membership of about 120 members, we have five African American members*. My thoughts on why there are not more African Americans that participate in the hobby of metal detecting:

    -While it is a rewarding hobby as far as getting out in the fresh air and getting excercise, it is not necessarily that rewarding from a monetary standpoint-one has to be interested in the historic knowledge that can be gained from it. I am not sure that this is something African Americans look to doing.

    -I believe that from the beginning, the hobby has had mostly white people who participated and, as such, it is a hobby that did not become of interest to the African Americans.

    -From the beginning, metal detectors have been a somewhat expensive device to purchase and since the monetary reward from finds was minimal, African Americans could not afford to buy detectors and could not justify the expense of the hobby.

    -As times improve and those who may not have been able to afford a detector become more affluent, one may see an increase in the number of African Americans who join the hobby.

    -And one more basic fact; there are just some interests that African Americans do not wish to participate in the same as whites do, and so it just never happens and may never happen. This also goes the other way; there are African American activities and interests that whites do not participate in, or participate minimally in, and probably never will.

    *Typically they participate in our informal monthly group hunts and our fall hunt, but don’t atttend meetings on a regular basis.

    Roger Horrom
    Midwest Coinshooters and Historical Club

    • Roger, thank you for taking the time to respond. You may have hit the nail on the head, and just perhaps there are things that will always be simply “black and white”.

  14. Mike Smith

    That is a good question! I have lived in many locations in the U.S. and overseas over my lifetime, right now in Mobile, AL, that is roughly 49/49% caucasian/black with the other 2%, other races. Now I have only been here a little over 5 months and joined the local club but I have not seen any blacks out detecting, which kind of amazes me because of the ratio here.

    The reason I got into detecting is the love of history and the love of exploring/discovering. Some have pointed out maybe it the economics but that can’t be because a lot of detectorist come from poverty/poor family backgrounds. Who really knows the reason but we should encourage and welcome all, no matter what the color.

    We could also question as to why this “hobby” is made up mostly of old folks! I am only 52, a youngster in the hobby since 1984, but most of the clubs I have belonged to over the years the members were usually in their 60’s, 70’s and 80,s. The same aged blacks grew up with different lifestyles/opportunities/racism so maybe this will change in the coming decades.

    • Thanks Mike, even if you just called me an old folk. Not sure sure that it’s really that bad. Most that I see now are much younger. As for race? Perhaps like I said in the original post…. “it’s just the way it is!”

  15. Dave Perry

    While attending the Super Mt. Vernon, IL hunt last month I noticed a colored gentleman in our ranks. I thought to myself the same question posed by Dick. Why aren’t there more people of color in the hobby? I don’t have an answer.

    At our annual St. Joe School hunt we have kids of all races and nationalities, and sometimes their moms or dads attend. We promote the hobby to all the kids and parents in attendance but few actually pursue the hobby. Our local club has dis-banded due to lack of membership, as have many of the smaller clubs around. We do have dealers that support our small hunts like the one at St. Joe and some will go to the dealer and pick up the hobby.

    I will keep this issue in mind when promoting the hobby through the Southern Indiana Treasure Fest, and am sure the other Huntmasters that see this article will think again and try to market our hobby to the minorities.

    Thanks Dick for putting this issue out there and getting a discussion started.

    Dave Perry

  16. Robbie

    Being in the hobby for 43 years, that is a very good question. I have seen possibly 5 in all the years I have detected. Having worked 30 years of auto parts sales,and many more years of my interest in cars, most African-Americans have different hobby interests they would rather spend their extra money on.

  17. Glenn Clifton

    An interesting question I have often pondered myself. I have been a member of the same detecting club for 20 years and can only remember seeing one black guest in all that time. It was just a few months ago and he explained that that he was ex-military and looking for a hobby to help get over his PTSD. Never saw him again after that night. I have often thought how cool it would be to have a black buddy who was into detecting. He could help get permission to hunt some of those great old places that are in the black neighborhood where a white face is often looked at with suspicion and distrust.

    • Hi Glenn, Never thought about that aspect, but you are correct. Many of us don’t venture into black neighborhoods because we are, at that point, the minority, and having said that, it kind of brings all this full circle doesn’t it? Great response, and look forward to hearing from you again.

  18. Jim Fielding

    I’ve been metal detecting since the mid-60’s and have never run into an African-American metal detector operator. I have to take slight umbrage with your comment about detecting is an “inexpensive hobby.” A good detector, pin-pointer and digging gear can set you back at least $500…to me, inexpensive would be $29.99 or less. Maybe I’m just being a curmudgeon here. Anyway, believe it or not, my detecting club at our last meeting in October has garnered our very first African-American member! Nice guy too…brings his family with him in meetings and on club hunts. It was really refreshing to see that, and I’m hoping his example will bring in more people of color…they are very interesting in their view of detecting and are a welcome change in membership!

    • Hi Jim, thanks for replying, and you can most certainly take umbrage to anything I say. My wife does it every minute of every day…

      I guess by inexpensive I was thinking in terms of around $200 will get you a decent machine to start with. No question the more hooked you get, the more you spend.

      Glad to hear about your new member. Hope he has a lot of success, and spreads the word. Likewise I hope you will keep checking back here, and sharing your thoughts.

  19. Dave McCarthy

    Not trying to stereotype here, but some of those inner-city neighborhoods have the oldest parks and oldest homes in town. If I could go in there and not draw attention to myself .. I would be all over that !

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