On the Beach With Bubba…

John Howland, the big Bubba from Bournemouth, is taking center stage this time around, and if you are into hunting the sand and surf, you just might find this to your liking. Incidentally if you ever have questions for John about anything he writes you can submit them via the comment section below.


by John Howland

There’s a colossal fortune of unimaginable wealth in lost coinage and it’s up for grabs – quite apart from all the jewellery – hidden beneath the sands of the world’s beaches simply waiting discovery by anyone sufficiently savvy in the art of treasure hunting with a metal detector.

In the UK alone for instance, official Government figures confirm that between 1983 and 1993 (when the last survey was done) 1,161.6-million £1-coins were minted. During that decade, 191-million of them went AWOL, all classified as “wastage,” meaning they went out of circulation for any one of a number of reasons. In its January 1995 report titled Economic Trends No. 495, the UK Government’s Central Statistical Office, attributed the “wastage” thus; “…they may be dropped in accessible places, taken abroad by foreign tourists, converted into souvenirs, put into permanent collections or lost in a number of other ways.”

If just 1/100th of the 191-million coins were lost on the UK’s beaches, and continue piling-up at the same rate as the ten-year study (1983 to 1995) then 1.91-million x 32 years (1983 to 2015) equates to 61.12-million £1-coins just waiting collection. US Treasury figures will be even more mind-blowing.

Therefore getting your hands on even a wafer-thin slice of this incredible stash largely depends on using the right kind of metal detector over the ground to which it is best suited, in much the same way that few self-respecting golfers would handicap their game play by using only one type of golf club.

Where to start then? Firstly consider Benjamin Franklin’s 250-year old political maxim, “Don’t think to hunt two hares with one dog,” is as good a piece of advice as you’ll find anywhere. Ideally, you’ll have a low-frequency metal detector operating around the 6.5 to 17 kHz frequency and a selection of coils: Standard, Sniper, and Large Diameter (for ground coverage over low tide wet sand). What follows will sound like a commercial for the US firm, Garrett Electronics Inc., and I make no apology for that whatsoever. I use their products and fully recommend them.

Arguably one of the very best metal detectors in terms of performance and price, is the Garrett Ace 250 (the World’s best-selling metal detector) fitted with the larger coil it easily outperforms many others (save another Ace 250 perhaps) costing twice the price. Some of the so-called ‘reviews’ of this little gem (along with some others) in parts of the detecting press beggar belief, scribbled by numbskulls who don’t know their arses from their elbows evidenced by the crap they’ve committed to paper and very wisely write under pseudonyms.

Given the fact that seawater holds all kinds of mineral in dilute form, including gold and silver, detecting in or over seawater-soaked sand is akin to trying to locate valuable targets against a vast sheet-metal background. But with the inexorable advance in electronics technology, this sheet-metal background can be filtered out allowing access to the coins and jewellery.

Without going into the rocket science of ‘treasure-onics,” pulse-induction machines have the overriding advantage of being unaffected by saltwater, punching their signals deep into the wet sand and because of this, many beach hunters own two machines; a pi, and a VLF. However, with the new emergent technologies coming onto the market, VLF’s are fast approaching pi performance, except perhaps for Garrett’s new ATX Extreme Pulse Induction model, a beast of a machine if there ever was one. I’ve not used one over wet sand (yet! Ahem, Garland) but it has an iron audio type gizmo.

Above the High Water Mark, in the dry sand areas where iron bottlecaps are over abundant, and bearing in mind the pi’s super sensitivity to all things ferrous, this is definitely not the best environment for the pi. Here VLF’s holds court, especially those machines equipped with ‘Iron Audio’ where wasting valuable hunting time by digging bottle caps becomes a thing of the past, and this is one of the reasons I use the fully water and dustproof (all terrain) Garrett ATPro International along with a selection of coils.


My Arsenal…

Where there’s muck there’s brass…

…Is an old saying meaning where there’s muck (of any kind), there’s money (brass). Now comes the difficult bit and no amount of engineers-in-white-coats, nor technology, can help – you are on your lonesome! And now for the obvious: No matter how thorough or forensic your search patterns, grids, circles or whatever else, you won’t find what’s not there; though some people actually believe a two Grand jobby will do just that!!! There’s no short cut to knowledge.

Working the cut....

Working the cut….

But to get you on your way first recognize and note the popular parts of the beach. Work the same beach day in, day out. It’s almost a living thing with its own moods and every visit will produce if you take the trouble to understand those vibes. Then recognize that people bring rubbish of all kinds, ring-pulls, bottlecaps, soda/beer cans et al ad nauseam. Because of this abundance of buried junk, most hunters give these places a wide berth and fortunately spend their time hunting for other stuff further down the less polluted beach. Now, if you remove your ‘standard’ coil, and clip on a Super Sniper coil of around 4.5” diameter, you are about to get rich.

Love my Super Sniper...

Love my Super Sniper…

On one of my local beaches certain areas are designated for BBQ’s and these places are crammed full with junk and crap of all kinds. The key to unlocking the vault where people play, get drunk, lose their coins, phones, and jewellery is the Super Sniper coil – it cuts through garbage as a hot knife through butter.

Once you have unlocked the secrets of your beach; direction of longshore drift; how the sands and pebble move; which winds denude the beach, the beach will be yours, and yours alone, forever.


Roman dupondius minted in Rome around 64 AD…

And it’s not just modern coinages that come within range either. The oldest coin I’ve found on a beach came from a Cornish cove, was a 2,000-yrs old Roman dupondius minted in Rome around 64 AD.    This indicates to me that more are out there probably washed in from a Roman wreck. Why did I find it? Because I can read a beach and can spot the natural coin traps. This ability is not some kind of powerful ju-ju, just raw experience.

Enjoy your local stretch of coast.


A good treasure hunter knows the law; a great one knows the Coroner.



Arkies and Tekkies are working together on an archaeological excavation, when one of the arkies accompanied by a Tekkie, walk down to the nearby village bakery.

On entering the bakery, they notice that the cakes and cookies are very expensive so the arkie whips three cookies off the counter and into his back pocket with such lightning speed that the baker doesn’t even notice.

The arkie whispers to the Tekkie, “You see how clever we are? You Tekkies can never outsmart us!”

“Really? Watch this,” says the Tekkie. “Any Tekkie is smarter than any arkie and I’ll prove it,” and says to the baker, “Gimme a cookie, and I’ll show you a great magic trick!” The baker gives him the cookie, which he promptly eats.

Then he says to the baker, “Gimme another cookie for my magic trick.” The baker is getting suspicious, but he gives it to him anyway. The Tekkie eats this one too.

Then he says to the baker, “Gimme one more cookie.” The baker is starting to get angry now, but hands one over. The Tekkie eats this one too. Now the baker is really mad, and he yells, “OK! So where is your famous magic trick then?”

The Tekkie says, “Look in his trouser pocket!”


It was so cold today I saw an arkie with his hands in his own pockets.



“Strategy is buying a bottle of fine wine when you take a lady out for dinner. Tactics is getting her to drink it”……Frank Muir

I’ll see y’all in the bar


 John Howland – 2012 Garrett video



Filed under Metal Detecting

10 responses to “On the Beach With Bubba…

  1. Agree with your statements on the Ace 250. I’m not arguing that other machines that cost more are not better machines but would like to see more actual tests. Tests where a higher dollar machine hits on a target and then the Ace is swung over that target to see if it hits also. It would be interesting to see to what extent the higher dollar machines find those targets that the Ace would not.

    Liked your ” Strategy-Tactic ” joke. Ha.

  2. I agree the ace 250 can work on wet sand but it is very limited in my opinion. There are too many factors involved to say that it is one of the best detector for beach detecting. Firstly each and every beach is different, I believe a lot of your beaches down south are quite steep and a lot of shingle beaches which allow the water to drain away much more efficiently. Where as up here on the north east coast of the UK our beaches are all flat and suffer terribly for very wet and highly mineralised black sand, so what works down there doesnt up here. Also the ace 250 has no adjustable ground balance which is a big disadvantage whilst beach detecting with a VLF type machine. In my opinion there are better machines for the beach on the secondhand market that will easily out perform the ace if you don’t want to be digging lots of holes for nails with a pulse induction detector. Just my tuppence worth 🙂

  3. Hi Andy & Gary:
    You make good points and in the main I don’t disagree….but ….my comments relate to the seven miles of golden sands here in the south on one of the Country’s top tourist beaches.

    Sure the ACE250 lacks a GB mode, but for the price it’s a great piece of kit and the SENS control is a great tool if anyone has the know-how and confidence to use to it’s best effect. In all the years (36) I’ve hunted beaches I’ve yet to find a ring or coin over saltwater sand deeper than 6″…however BS abounds on the forums so don’t get sucked in! In my experience, most gold and silver is not in the wet, but up in the dry amongst the junk.

    Oh, you’re not wrong on one thing Andy, there ain’t no best machine…it’s horses for courses. BUT, if you KNOW your beach, and KNOW your machine, then almost any detector will give up the goodies. Some people handicap themselves by throwing away good money on arm-and-a-leg jobbies in a false belief. You can’t blame the manufacturers’ blurbs…. they’re in it for the money after all and rightly so.

    The beachcombing Rule-of-Thumb is if you can reimburse the cost of your machine plus 25% in one season, then you have got it about right. The machine ought to pay for itself (+25%) in one season, meaning that if it doesn’t, then either you’ve overpaid, or, you ain’t cutting the mustard or both! Judge your performance accordingly.

    Most hunters I see down here trying their hand, are inland hunters. They haven’t got a clue, but what the hell…they’re on holiday, the sun is out, and they might pick up the odd £1-coin. Good luck to ’em I say, and enjoy the sands.

    Good luck for the future.
    John H

    • You know I used hunt the beaches when I lived in New Jersey, and we just went and detected. Never gave much though to ground conditions, minerals, salt, or for that matter wet or dry sand. Our machines were mostly VLF, and worked fine. We ground balanced and went at it. Of course we could only detect the water up to about a foot or so because our detectors weren’t water proof.

      If I remember right the first “waterproof” detector was the Garrett AT3, although I can’t swear to it. I had one and it too was just a VLF detector.

      I understand all the various environments you may have to deal with when detecting. I just think sometimes we over analyze and make it more complicated than it is. I know I found a lot of neat things on Atlantic beaches, as did my friends.

      • Ricardo:

        Yes…the AT3 was the first ‘All Terrain’ and a decent machine too. I’m just surprised your memory stretches back that far, yet when it comes to $20 bills loaned in an AC bar…zilch!

        As I recall in AC in 1986, “Don’t hunt under the boardwalk,” you warned, “Lots of winos,” but a couple of them said to me, “Welcome, any pal of Dick’s is welcome here. Ask him if he can let us have back that $20 we lent him.” They lent you??? Huh?

        I’d sure like to try the beaches along the Eastern Seaboard, though I did manage a few coins on AC’s beach back then. One was the 1913 Liberty Head Nickel which you offered to buy off me for $20.


      • I got Your $20. RIGHT HERE!

    • Cheers for replying John 🙂

      I would love to give it a go on you southern lots busy beaches one day as they look very productive. I have been lucky in my beach hunting time having managed to enjoy the gold and coin rush of 2013 at filey beach in north Yorkshire, it was epic. The rough seas took all but 3 inches of sand away leaving the base clay sitting right under your feet. For 4 weeks there were as many as 20 detectorists hammering that beach for pre decimals, rings and also Celtic stators and Roman broaches. The sand soon started piling back on again and the last time I went there I dug a test hole to see how much sand was there on top of the base clay, I dug down two foot and still didn’t reach it, I have not been beach detecting since haha.

      I would like to recommended the makro racer to anyone who does both land and sea though it deals with mineralisation really well and is mid range on price.


  4. That would make a change on a Friday night 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.