Old, Does Not Necessarily Mean Obsolete!
By Joe Patrick
Today’s high-tech metal detectors are certainly amazing and have made many detectorists believers in their enhanced capabilities— even basic “beginners models” are “light years” ahead of their older contemporaries— especially in how many features you get at such low cost.
I have to admit that for the most part, newer detector designs are more sensitive and detect deeper, have more and better discrimination possibilities and their recovery times are faster—meaning a better chance of success when searching trash-filled sites
I currently own several of these newer, “advanced” metal detectors and while I use them often, I still continue to use some “old-time” favorites that even after decades of time still provide a high level of performance and are actually quite enjoyable and “reminiscent” to use.
Many readers of this article may know me from my many years of involvement in the metal detecting hobby and industry. To those who may not, a search of YouTube™ will turn up some videos of myself and a recent personal interview. I have been involved in this avocation for over 30 years now as a detectorist, metal detector dealer, designer and manufacturer of detecting accessory products, author/writer/columnist and a metal detector field tester.
Joe Patrick, circa late 1990’s
All of this “exposure” and experience has fortunately enabled me to own and use many different brands and models of metal detectors of which I’ve had some personal favorites.
This article is to pass-on to readers what I consider to still be some quite-worthy metal detectors even though some may now be considered quite old or even outdated “antiques” by some. So, my point being, “Old, Does Not Necessarily Mean Obsolete!”
Back in my early days of metal detecting, my first good metal detector was a Garrett. Back then, I had “green blood” flowing in my veins! I was a die-hard Garrett ADS II user and fan. But as good as that detector was, at the time, one of my all-time favorite Garrett’s since was the GTA-1000 and later the GTAx-1250.
The GTA-1000 was truly a revolutionary detector and a joy to use. It was extremely versatile and super easy to learn and use. Its only drawback – in my soil – was limited depth in the discrimination mode – the improved GTAx-1250 had slightly better depth. Today, the GTA’s can be found in used condition for very reasonable prices and I would not hesitate to recommend or use one for sites that do not have super-deep targets. I used mine with the 5” x 10” DD elliptical coil and really liked and recommend that setup—as it covered a lot of ground and provided very good pole balance.
Back in the 1980’s and beyond, I was selling Tesoro detectors, a brand that I still consider the metal detectorists’ “workhorse”—affordable, well made and no-nonsense features and performance. Tesoro’s have stood the test of time. I would not hesitate to recommend any Tesoro model and many of them are favorites of mine. But if I had to pick one, it would be the original Bandido or one of its newer versions. It is fairly lightweight and has great sensitivity, depth and discrimination. It has been well-proven for relic, coin and jewelry hunting.
White’s is probably the best-known metal detector company and they have certainly contributed much over the years. They have produced many outstanding metal detectors but perhaps none had/has as many loyal users as the 6000 series does. There were many versions manufactured in this series, so look for a model that offers target ID and other features that you may want. A good 6000 can still hold its own as compared to many detectors on the market today. I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to buy or use one!
Compass metal detectors are perhaps a name that many new detectorists are not familiar with, but I can tell you that in their day, they were a force to be reckoned with! They made some outstanding metal detectors and had many loyal users.
Though big and heavy, my all-time favorite Compass “machine” was the X-100 Challenger. What a “Challanger” it was! It was the “Cadillac” of Compass metal detectors and one that can still hold its own in the field today—I preferred the black control box color scheme over the green.
Just take a look at one sometime. I am certain that you will be very impressed by its many features and versatility. It had the best all-metal depth of any detector I had used up to that point in time and its target ID was excellent! The only drawback to owning a Compass detector today is that the company is no longer in business, so service may be a problem if needed.
Then there was the original Teknetics company! WOW, is all I can say! A true innovator that made detectors that just made me drool! I’ve owned and used many of their models and while I prefer the Mark I overall, it just didn’t work as well in my mineralized soil as did the 8500B.
If you have low-mineral ground, I highly recommend a Mark I, but if your ground is mineralized, stick with the 8500(B). Both were and to some extent still are outstanding. I prefer the hip-mounted versions in both models as their control boxes are somewhat large and heavy, especially when loaded with the 14 “AA” batteries required to operate them.
Back in the 1980’s, Teknetics acquired the Bounty Hunter Company. Under Teknetics engineering, several innovative models were produced with the Big Bud and Big Bud Pro being my favorites. If you can locate a clean, used, Big Bud Pro do not hesitate to buy it as many detectorists who own one are reluctant to sell theirs. For being a single-frequency VLF detector it is a still a “quite capable” detector, as compared to many of today’s comparable single-frequency VLF’s.
The original Fisher Company was the “world’s oldest metal detector business” and produced many types and models over their long history. Perhaps my all-time favorite was the CZ-5—a very simple to use, uncomplicated metal detector that offered great performance and depth.
You may have noticed that I said the CZ-5 was “Perhaps my all-time favorite Fisher”? Well, that’s because I also hold in very high regard any of the 1260 series detectors—the 1260, 1265 and 1266. These three can still run circles around many newer detectors as far as actual in-the-ground performance is concerned.
One drawback to most vintage Fisher’s though is that they “like iron” and do not discriminate it well due to the detector’s high-gain sensitivity. Still though, I can highly recommend them and they can often be found at very reasonable prices.
One of my personal “oldies but goodies” that I have owned and used for many years is my trusty Pillar 4 metal detector. A Pillar what, you ask. Yes, it is one of those brands that most people have never heard of. From what I’ve been told, it is a slightly modified original-model Tesoro Eldorado that was produced under private label by a “spin-off” Tesoro company for Pillar.
The Pillar 4
Compared to the Eldorado, it is slightly more compact. I have extensively used both the Eldorado and the Pillar 4 and find the Pillar 4 to have slightly better iron discrimination—either of these two vintage metal detectors can provide hours of enjoyment and “have the goods” to produce outstanding finds. I can highly recommend either one. Note: I converted my Pillar to a hip-mount and it is super lightweight and comfortable to use! I use it primarily for “wood’s hunting” where I usually “run” low discrimination, do not need target ID and dig all targets. In its hip-mount setup, the pole and coil only weigh about 1.5 pounds, which is extremely lightweight
and comfortable to swing… Even all day!
I want to preface this next recommendation by saying that for me, my ground and the types of metal detecting that I do my personal all-time favorite metal detector is the Minelab Sovereign. Now 20+ years old, the Sovereign (and its various versions) has served me extremely well! I can highly recommend any model Sovereign that you can get! Whether it be coin, relic, jewelry or beach hunting the Sovereign does it all and very well.
I have extreme confidence that no matter the site, type of detecting or conditions “my” Sov’ will come through—twenty-plus years of using it has proven that out time and time again. If I could own only one metal detector, the Minelab Sovereign is it!
The above article is based on my 30+ years of experience and exposure to many brands and models. It is impossible for me, in this very limited-length article, to mention the many other great, vintage detectors. There are so many! Do not be reluctant to try one.
My purpose in writing this is to just raise awareness that though many of these vintage models may be long forgotten, they are still quite capable of locating plenty of “treasure” for any current user.
With many new detectors now costing well in excess of $1000+ dollars, those detectorists with limited resources may well look to some of these excellent older models and their reasonable prices. Most of these vintage detectors sell for far less than $500, with many in the sub $300 price range.
So, don’t ever assume that old and vintage means outdated or no longer worthwhile. Just pick up, use and learn to operate one of the above, or other comparable vintage “machines”, and be prepared to be amazed while having some great fun!