We Are All Hat and No Cattle!

It’s once again John Howland’s turn to bend your ear…

His “For Whom The Bell Tolls” concerns a topic he and I have conversations about almost daily, and given the less than stellar performance of our big three national organizations, it’s a conversation we ALL should be having!  Right now we are “all hat and no cattle!”

“In skating over thin ice, our safety is in our speed.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson


….John Howland


Over thirty years ago metal detecting in Britain reached crisis point; the arkies compared to hobbyists came across as generally brighter, glibber, better-educated, and generally on the political Left. Their case for the outlawing metal detector use along with the nationalisation of all antiquities, sounded to the casual observer, convincing.

Of the many academics advocating the Robin Hood approach to private property that of ‘robbing the capitalist rich to feed the Marxist elite,’ one an archaeologist, with impeccable ‘Hard Left’ credentials, demonstrated his Socialist principles by living in fine, baronial splendour that wouldn’t have disgraced the worst excesses of a medieval Robber Baron. One of his less-well off subordinates described him to me in rhyming slang as a ‘Merchant Banker.’

During the hobby’s battle to exist over a protracted period of in-fighting, eye-gouging, and fighting ‘blind side’ of the Referee, the hobby won its freedom. It took time, money, and a deal of hard work by volunteers. We had some very shrewd operators on our side who stymied the European Council’s directive to limit the hobby across Europe when they turned up at the hearing – Chaired by Liberal MP, Alan Beith – where a heavy archaeological presence dominated the proceedings. After a deal of haggling, the metal detecting representatives from the Detector Information Group (DIG) were finally allowed in much to the irritation of those already present who’d imagined it was all a done deal. Strangely, no-one had thought to invite DIG to the meeting. Odd that!

Some European delegates winced and shifted in their seats somewhat awkwardly when DIG gently pointed out to the assembled throng that the attempted outlawing of the hobby in France was based on an un-repealed 1942 law brought in by the Nazi Occupation of that country. Oh, dear!

Nevertheless, European countries are slowly coming to realise the UK’s Portable Antiquities Scheme, along with its 1996 Treasure Act, is the way forward and that they’ve been taken for a ride by the men in trenches.

In the UK finders are fairly rewarded for their honesty by reporting finds as opposed to the European alternative of unrewarded, state confiscation. In the UK instances of looting are less than the number of convictions for cycling without lights. Small wonder then, that some single-issue, compulsive obsessives, campaign vigorously against the PAS and ever eager to concoct untruths to undermine it, or to fabricate databases based on speculation. The infamous and now widely discredited Artefact Erosion Counter is one such example. I am told by some in the archaeological community that one infamous archaeo-blogger along with his bullet-makers are a severe embarrassment.

Threats to the hobby also exist in the US where influential lobbyists are spoon-fed a diet amounting to an unbalanced meagre gruel; the main ingredient being the amount of exaggeration supplied. When pressed, the ‘evidence’ is always clichéd and hackneyed. Nevertheless, the diehards are constantly probing for a way through. By comparison with hobbyists, these politicos’ while lacking apathy, are fanatically driven, and it surely can’t be long before they deliver the final coup de grace in one or more States. Ask yourselves…who comes over as the more convincing…a smart-suited, narcissistic, clean-shaven, expressive arkie/lobbyist, or, someone who looks and talks like an extra hot from the cast of Duck Dynasty? You choose.

Many experienced metal detecting commentators know the US will only get the hobby it deserves – no fight, no hobby. While UK hobbyists enjoy multi-million pound government funding in the shape of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, the US is letting in through the cat-flap, hoary socialist dogma in the form of antiquities nationalisation. On present form, the US metal detecting hobby lacking eloquence at the top end, and where no-one is prepared to pick up the gauntlet, the future ain’t that bright.

Part of the overall degeneration seems to be a famine of club newsletters and a lack of inter-club communications whereby a ‘bush telegraph’ warning of impending legislative problems can be quickly shared and remedial action taken.

Maybe, what the US hobby really needs is a paid-for-by-subscription organisation staffed by skilled people well able to represent the many thousands of decent folk who want to follow and enjoy a wholesome, healthy, and educational hobby, at State and Washington level. Only you can supply the answer. Good luck.

Remember….Time is running out. Fast!


“We cannot do everything at once, but we can do something at once.”- Calvin Coolidge 



…John Howland


No doubt about it, angling is therapeutic and frees its adherents from Life’s anxieties which according to the old maxim that goes…“The man hasn’t been born who can fish and worry at the same time.” As a lifelong angler I can attest to the saying’s accuracy. Perhaps an additional phrase could be inserted here….“Or, metal detect….”

I’d go further and say that while virtually hermetically sealed from the outside world cocooned in headphones, detectorists’ concentration is focussed in anticipation on the signals coming up from the coil. But there’s more to metal detecting than uncovering lost coins, just as there’s more to fishing than catching fish.

Firstly, there are the health benefits to consider. Apart from getting its practitioners outdoors into fresh air, there’s the exercise of bending to dig, walking and clambering, all of which improves both mental and physical health. The more hobbyists get out and about the more we absorb our surroundings. Ours is a continual learning curve not only about metal detector’s performance but absorbing the facts behind the history of what we find.

It’s also a truism that hobbyists are often anglers – or former anglers – and here’s the connection. Experienced anglers know precisely where the fish lie in the river and the riverbank features that draw the fish to that to that particular spot. They ‘read’ the river. This uncanny ability is present in experienced detectorists.

I know hobbyists who can ‘read’ a landscape and pick out the features where they ‘know’ they’ll find coins or whatever and often from a particular era. Beachcombers show the same ability to ‘read’ a beach or shoreline. Some years ago I discussed this phenomenon with an archaeologist friend (who’s since climbed high up the greasy pole of archaeological promotion) who admitted forthrightly that few archaeologists have the ‘gift’ adding that for many, it was a simply a job to be left behind when the whistle blew at knocking-off time and get down to the pub.


He accepted some hobbyists often possess a superior knowledge of history than many of his colleagues especially those who ‘pontificated’ rather than get their hands dirty in the trenches. “I don’t what this lot,” he said, thumbing in the direction of a couple of senior CBA types, “Have got against you all. We should be welcoming and capitalizing on their expertise and knowledge.”

Today in the UK the Portable Antiquities Scheme is producing superb results as the foundation for academic research. Unfortunately, a tiny minority of yappy Luddites exist on the fringes of archaeology dedicated to sabotaging the PAS. This species often found herding with the ‘pontificators’ are readily identifiable by their unexceptional, even undistinguished, archaeological ability. For anyone even loosely connected with archaeology to set out to denigrate this superb research tool, is a heritage vandal of the worst kind and just as damaging to the heritage as clandestine excavators. Their words and actions speak volumes – not about the PAS – but about them.

Nevertheless it’s imperative that records of finds are kept – whether in a private finds diary or passed on to the relevant data collators such as the PAS. There is nothing inappropriate about selling finds provided a written record exists of the find-spot. Even historic finds found on a beach should also be recorded. This coin found by me might signify an offshore roman shipwreck, for it’s unusual to come across this class of ‘find’ on a beach.


Dupondius. Rome mint. Emporer Domitian. Circa AD 85. Found with Garrett ATPro and Super Sniper coil in among an exposed low-tide, rocky reef.

Despite what the empty-headed and mouthy critics yelp, the number of class and wedding rings, medals, lockets, and badges of sentimental value that are returned to their original owners through sheer detective work by hobbyists rarely ceases to amaze, or indeed, the local media. Apart from the usual twaddle of the pompous grousers, treasure hunting/metal detecting has added a million times more to the common record that it has ever taken away. The number of fabulous hoards and treasures brought to the light of day by detectorists – all properly recorded – is evidence of the fact and the inspiration for dedicated television programmes. The Archaeo-Luddites are left coughing in the dust as the caravan roars on.

When I spoke with my archaeologist friend those years ago, neither of us could have imagined that so many people in archaeology would owe their livelihoods to this hobby of ours. The PAS is both inspirational and world-class, and UK Culture Minister, Ed Vaizey, is to be heartily congratulated for his achievements.

I’ll see you in the bar…



Filed under Metal Detecting

21 responses to “We Are All Hat and No Cattle!

  1. Interesting blog post John. It is easy for us detectorists here in the UK to take the superb PAS for granted and the amazing work the finds liaison officers do. I wish our friends across the pond the best of luck in trying to get a similar model sorted for them selves.


    • Ps, John have you seen the new sock puppet on Barfords blog? Sam offnet, best mates with farmer Silas brown I believe !

      Its a crazy world.


      • Our friend always relies on fiction! The failed and dismal AEC is ample proof of that!. His ‘fame’ comes from his yapping abuse at anyone connected with collecting or detecting. He is a household name though: As in, “Phone the plumber, the Barford’s blocked again.”


      • And the word “Barford” is going to take a backseat here on Stout Standards. I am sick of hearing it and I am sick of him.

  2. When a group of well educated people take up a cause against a lesser educated but well meaning group, it is often the better educated that tends to understand what they want and how to go about obtaining their goals. In our favor we have the numbers. I would wager their are a lot more detectorists than archeologists.

    What is required is organizational expertise to bring us together. A common voice speaks clearly. What we need is a fair definition of treasure that both protects the hobby while insuring the preservation of history. I see all to often the face of the archeologist in a mean spirited advance toward our group. Hoarding away relics is not the answer. Where would you put away everything discovered. What happens when historical societies and they museums loose funding? Where do they store it? Do they sell it? I bet if we were to say that we want restrictions placed upon how antiquities are governed for storage and future usage as in, you can’t sell it or get rid of it once you own it, and it must be catalogued and displayed in a given time frame, then museums would not want half of what is found. If it is purely educational why do they sell so much of it between sites. I’m blathering on but maybe more of us need to take your stance John. As a hobbiest I have a full time job, the archeologist well they get paid to do what they do.

  3. coin25

    Hi John, you are right the hobby in the US is stuck on posting the latest finds on internet media….yikes! There is none at all…inter group communiques….no group of outstanding folks to take the reigns. People like the group that Dick was a part of ….have not come forth, yet. You would think that a benefactor with interests in the hobby would retain several of these types to go forth and multiply…I could go on about clubs, hunts, meetings from coast to coast but I don’t want to bore you any longer with this subject. You said it simply it’s not there and we may suffer in the future for it.

  4. coin25

    John, on your secomnd note about folks abilities to reads a stream, landscape or a beach, as there is more to this hobby then finding coins, same as in fishing and finding fish!

    Let me point out that an instrument is only an extention of the person using it. Be it a rod or a detector shaft, if the person doesn’t have a feel – it will not work and end up in a closet – thereby off to another hobby. When you get the feel you cast over your shoulder or to the left …then wham a whopper hits your bait…..when you get a feel and suddenly go left …wham you dig up a Brittish round ball near where folks talk about an possible encampment that isn’t documented in a history book. Maybe you get a feel and go on a 45 degree angle towards a tree to your left up slightly up a small grassey area and wham you dig two gold rings and a gold earring in a park that was hunted by yourself and many who you knew…..

    It’s not the detector or fishing rod, no one these opccasions and many more…it’s you!

    Stay in shape not like me but I will c u in the bar….

  5. coin25

    wow there are a few typos in there and I wasn’t in the bar…..it’s not the detector or fishing rod, on these occasions and many more like those….it’s you!

  6. coin25...aka Bigtony

    I met a heart doctor in a hospital elevator and and I asked him about the medical advice …two drinks a night is fine..14 drinks a week that is if you can count…he said he drinks more than that amount and still gets up at 5am to do heart surgery…go figure…

    Sorry for getting offtrack but we in the US are stuck in Posting Mode. We post our finds and talk about them on internet sites, but we don’t communicate or do anything about our situation. Very much the same thing for our local, state and federal gov’ments, we talk about things but don’t go to the meetings to give our opinnons and ask for better results.

  7. Tony, hold a relic hunt in Virginia and hundreds of people are willing to travel long distances, pay money they don’t have, to hunt and socialize. Ban metal detecting in a major metropolitan area and no one gives a damn.

    John wrote above “By comparison with hobbyists, these politicos’ while lacking apathy, are fanatically driven, and it surely can’t be long before they deliver the final coup de grace in one or more States.”

    Is that what it will take before we all wake up? A statewide ban somewhere? Think it can’t happen? Really?

    • Hi Tony:

      None of this is intended as criticism of our US colleagues, I hasten to add. I and others are simply passing on experience from hard won battles. There is no communication channel (that I know of) between US and UK hobbyists apart from forums such as Stout Standards.

      My guess is that if a future ban comes to fruition it will be enforced in Florida, not inland, but on the beaches.

  8. Bigtony

    John, I too am not criticizing anyone, here or on your side of the pond. I am stating facts – a metal detector, fishing rod or an archie’s trowel are an “extension” of the person using those items. These instruments are useless in the hands of the unknowing or experienced. Archies, as do inexperienced metal detectorists, come to this site or or FB to learn the basics and pick up tips to achieve what other’s have done with ease or natural ability.

    Folks gathered together a few years back and spoke up for the hobby. Nowadays it doesn’t seem they are out there in force but they probably do exist in some numbers – not revealed to us at this date. We have lost State parks and their beaches (during swimming season). We have lost certain counties entirely (in NJ anyway) due to local governments. There are also closings strictly for the local park ranger’s friends…..

    I sad too much again… Dick will not credit me here – only wish I went away…..
    Closings are here – growing like crab grass (wide leaf grass that spreads over the areas to engulf entire lawn), it is a matter of time as you say to have possibly entire states closed.

  9. Bigtony

    Dick, you reference the bar stuff but I too am still waiting for that bottle to arrive…

    So we all want to know what happened to the benefits of the Manufacturers to the folks who are fighting our fight? Why don’t they at least send letters to be read aloud at these MD Hunts in Va or other States? An letters with meat inside those words to the MD Community? Why don’t the national organizations do the same? Communicate with the clubs or folks in general? Today with Social Media and Cell Phones – things have to be easier to words out!

    Don’t get me wrong or tell me that I had too many coolades but there are good folks out there fighting the fight for our rights, but it does seem that their information about issues has simmered. Maybe it’s our fault for not asking at any chance we get. We can log into internet shows and call in to the moderator and ask what they have done to secure a better future for our hobby.

    When I ask for an update at the club that I belong to sometimes I get an answer or sometimes they will check their sources and get back to the club at the next meeting. Why the next meeting I ask – what about email? Dick, I know you have asked and sent out communications in the past, and I thank you for that, but we need new ideas on attacking this beast. I hope those that view your site will chime in and give some fresh new ideas for our plight of metal detecting rights for all, freedom to dig and cover our holes.

    • Tony, the manufacturers will support any worthwhile effort to save and promote our pastime. Is there one out there now? I haven’t seen one. I had hopes for the Task Force but they can’t seem to find the time to share what is going on. Likewise I thought perhaps the FMDAC was getting its act together when they finally put up a decent website. That was six months ago and so far…nada! Nothing!

      As for fresh ideas…hell yeah, bring ’em on. I know my ideas are old, and tired. Trust me, I want nothing at all to do with organizing this pastime again. I’ve been there, done it and I am just too old for all that. I harp on it because it seems we are losing ground here, there and everywhere, and all people are interested in is posting YouTube videos and creating new Facebook pages, as if we didn’t already have a million of them. Jeezus, nobody seems to give a crap. Sorry I just don’t get it.

  10. Bigtony

    Dick and all, I just looked up ECRDA on FB – they posted that Task Force will have a call in show on Feb 12th, on the 1000 mikes channel. Here is what I found —————

    Paul Havemann‎East Coast Research and Discovery Association (E.C.R.D.A.)
    February 14, 2014 ·
    Detect America : LIVE
    Join Us tonite Friday 2-14-2014 with Our Guest Avery Marder of TASK FORCE FOR METAL DETECTING RIGHTS FOUNDATION. We will ask the RIGHT questions and get answers from the guy who knows … Where we can and where we can’t .. What are your rights as a detectorist and what can we do to help … PLUS we …

  11. Bigtony

    Oh and Dick, stop with the old fart stuff…..get up and move about – do the hokey pokey and swing yourself about! That’s what it’s all about

  12. coin25...aka Bigtony

    Dick and all, and I wasn’t at the bar but that Task Force show on 1000 mikes was last February.
    I feel terrible now – I’ll have to get new reading glasses tomorrow.
    My apoligies to all

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