A Professional Detectorist…To Be or Not to Be!

On his Detecting US History Facebook page my good friend Stan Shoemaker posted the following:

“I’d like to take a moment to share how I feel about a few things about this hobby. First and foremost it’s strictly a hobby to me, to get me out and about in the woods or outdoors in general.  I personally have never met or even heard of a Pro detectorist. I’ve met and detected with folks who conduct themselves in a professional manner, but are merely enthusiasts the same as I.

I feel Detecting has been evolving as of late with new technologies available such as smart phone’s, sports camera’s, GPS and so on, but at its core it’s still just a pastime. There are those that spend a little more time than others doing it for various reasons but are still just enthusiasts like everyone else. I bring this up because I see so many folks claiming to be professional detectorists, and my question is, what qualifications does one have to have to be a professional detectorist? Is it years in the hobby? That can’t be because I know folks that have done it 20 years, that I wouldn’t be on the same property with just so I won’t get blamed for the damage they leave behind. Is it the amount of finds? Quality of finds? That can’t be it because I also know folks that have detected for less than a year, that have had mind blowing finds.

My point is, as a long time detectorist recently said, it’s not “rocket science”! This is in no way meant to slight anyone in the hobby but meant more so to warn new detectorists that anyone who claims to be a pro in this hobby, and you haven’t seen them on TV, to be careful following where these folks may lead you. Being humble and asking questions will take you further than following those that think they know it all. I’ve been an enthusiastic detectorist for many years and still ask questions and still learn many new things about the hobby daily. Just what’s been on my mind…..”


Stan “the man” Shoemaker

First let me say that I agree with Stan. Today’s technology aside, the internet has made it easy for a lot of people to claim professional status, not just in this pastime but in every walk of life.  Why I bet you didn’t know I was a “professional lawn mower guy” in my younger years and while I’ve done my best to hide this, I am also now a “professional wine drinker”.  No need to congratulate me…I am a humble guy.  In fact I am a top-notch, “professional humble guy”.

I have to say in all my 40 years of detecting I have never met anyone who was a professional, in he sense that they made their living swinging a coil.  Now there are certainly professional “treasure hunters” out there who have scads of money, investors and equipment, but even they are few and far between. They are also almost always heavily indebted to investors who seek a quick and reasonable return on their money.


Anyway you too can become a professional ‘anything you like’ online. I mean hell go for it.  Be whatever your little heart desires, but it might be nice if you backed your claims with statistics, not photos, videos or bullshit. As Joe Friday used to say “Just the facts, ma’am”….

Now because I doubt all this doesn’t make it so. If you just happen to be a professional detectorist, let me know and please share your story. I and I know many others would love to hear it. I mean you just might be able to entice a few others to quit their day job and join you. In the mean time I would urge you all to take what you see (as well as what you hear) on the internet with a grain of salt.

One more secret…were you aware that I am also a “professional archaeologist?  Yep!  In fact Wally and I were in the same fraternity….Phi Kappa Crappa!



Ken MacIntyre, summer of 2013

Ken MacIntyre, summer of 2013

Back in October of last year we (American Digger magazine and I), initiated a benefit effort/drawing for Ken MacIntyre, son of archaeologist Lisa MacIntyre.  Ken was diagnosed with cancer and facing a series of chemotherapy treatments, without any adequate insurance or monies to cover them. Thanks to the manufacturers, distributors, dealers, magazines and all of you, we were able to raise $7,200, which paid for all of Ken’s treatments.  Shortly thereafter Ken was declared cancer free! 

Unfortunately that’s not the case now….

Ken’s cancer has returned and it looks like he will be going through an even more complicated and time-consuming set of procedures this time around, including the potential for extended stays in the hospital. The family’s insurance situation is somewhat better this time around but I know he could use some cheer.  Please, when you have a moment or two send along your best wishes, thoughts, prayers, good vibes, a card, whatever.  I know he and the family will appreciate it.

Ken Macintyre
4335 Hercules Avenue
Jacksonville, Florida 32205

Email: kmacinty@hotmail.com



Treasure hunter locates Bronze Age settlement using GOOGLE EARTH – and digs up 5,000-year-old pottery and flint tools

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Filed under Metal Detecting

16 responses to “A Professional Detectorist…To Be or Not to Be!

  1. danhughes1

    I think you hit on it exactly, Dick – a “professional” treasure hunter would be a person who makes their living from selling the stuff they find.

    Folks like Charles Garrett and Ken White and Jack Gifford make/made their living by supplying hardware to treasure hunters, but I don’t think I’d call them professional treasure hunters.

    Maybe you could have called Karl von Mueller a professional treasure hunter (I’m sure HE did), but on the other hand, Hardrock Hendricks told me that Karl probably made more money painting houses than he did selling finds.

    I do like to imagine that there are a few successful professional treasure hunters out there, but we’ll never know about them because THEY KEEP THEIR MOUTHS SHUT! The whole point of being a pro, of making a living, is to remain anonymous. The ones who brag are the ones who just wish.

  2. wintersen

    I think that the term ‘professional detectorist’ needs some clarification. A friend of mine is very successful in the hobby and has been paid handsomely for his finds, all done legally, I may add.

    Long ago he gave up his job to spend his time detecting, I know that he has paid off his mortgage – I’m talking about a chap in his late 40’s – has been awarded nearly £30.000 for a coin he found recently and this week has purchased a second home.

    He also writes the occasional article about the hobby. His finds are legend and can be seen in local museums as well as the British Museum. I consider him a ‘professional’, but, I suppose, this might be an impossible scenario in the States.

    The information above should provoke at least a 1000 word essay from Wally. I’ll be disappointed if it doesn’t. In a masochistic way, I’m looking forward to a torrent of abuse. 🙂

    • Well you will have to tell me more about this gentlemen….envious. As for Wally, I am surprised and ashamed of you John. Have you no pity for the nerdy and needy among us?

    • Never mind the Warsaw Warbler, JW, he’s harmless but I expect your comment will be ‘spun’ to suit his view. 1k word essay? Nah…3K at least!

      Nevertheless, there’s nothing wrong with your pal making a living out of the heritage, none at all – archaeologists do it all the time! Even Wally did…albeit for the Polish communists. What’s good for the goose….?

      Finally, my very best wishes to Ken MacIntyre.

      • John hoping those that visit here will take the time to contact Ken and wish him well. The procedures he will be going through are long and arduous.

  3. Now that I am retired I have more time to detect but a ‘pro detectorist’, I am certainly not! Never will be do not want to be. Didn’t want to be when I was younger and certainly not at my age. I do love to get out and dig. I even bring home a little clad! Still wanting to find that cache.

  4. I am a professional human being, trouble is no one needs to know.

  5. Bob Sickler

    Speaking from those of us from metal detecting days gone by…. Stan… Thank you, never truer words written about our recreation!

  6. Big Tony From Bayonne

    Thanks for posting Stan’s dissertation on metal detecting. I enjoyed reading it and yes it is a hobby for most of us, relaxing and enjoyable. Although I do think that you (Dick) enjoyed it more because you are a professional wine drinker first then a metal detectorist but hey that is just my opinion

  7. Big Tony From Bayonne

    Yes, a sip or two helps get you through the night or day for that matter but I am nto buying the crying in my beer part.

  8. So the guys paid to be detectorists aren’t professionals? By definition Professional is defined as: “(of a person) engaged in a specified activity as one’s main paid occupation rather than as a pastime. ” There are some who qualify for that term. “Diggers” Ringy and KG come to mind. If they aren’t professional by now, they never will be. They aren’t the only ones paid to detect, there are those on archaeology digs who are paid for their services etc. BUT, he did say that he has never MET a pro detectorist, so I guess I can understand where he is coming from. His OPINION is his opinion, and he is entitled to it. 🙂

  9. supernova1c

    Hi Dick, I will send a message to Ken, a very worrying and trying time for him.

  10. Thank you James…you’re a good man.

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