From the Dark Recesses of an Old Brain…


Not too long after I left Garrett Electronics, the late Ron Mack, owner of Compass Electronics, called me at home, and wanted to ask a favor. He wanted me to call Charles Garrett and ask him if Garrett Electronics was for sale.

At the time Compass was floundering, and virtually out of business. Sad too because they made a quality product, and Ron Mack was a quality guy.  Anyway Ron claimed a group of investors from Japan was interested in buying Compass, but would only invest if they could add one of the other major players to the deal.  He called me, thinking I was on good terms with Charles (I was not, having just lost my job), and asked if I would talk to him directly about selling.

Because it was Ron, I called Charles but couldn’t get past his secretary (pretty sure he wasn’t keen on talking to me either). Anyway I was able to leave a message on his answering machine, telling him that there were people wanting to buy the company if he was interested.  I left it that if I didn’t hear back from him within two weeks time I would assume the company was not for sale.

Exactly two weeks later, Charles called and left a message.  He said the company was doing exceptionally well, and that he was not interested in selling.  He thanked me for my interest, and wished me luck in my efforts to buy another company.  I almost fell on the floor laughing.

After passing this information along to Ron I got a couple of calls from people in the industry, wanting to know if I had hit the big one. The reality was I didn’t have two nickels to rub together, nor  a pot to piss in, but for that one very brief period I was a big player with money to spare….

Sadly, Compass was not able to recover and went out of business. Ron Mack passed away about ten years ago.



Back in 1987, when I was planning the 2nd FMDAC Treasure Weekend, I received a call from someone, wanting to know if I was interested in having a future Treasure Weekend on TV.  I do not remember his name, but he said he and another producer wanted to discuss it with me.  I remember thinking that it had to be a scam of some sort.  TV?  Metal Detecting? Nah…

Anyway they wanted to know if I would be available to talk in Atlantic City, during Treasure Weekend.  I responded in the positive, and sure enough on the very first day they showed up on the beach, dressed in sport coats, and very much out of the norm. They had apparently witnessed an organized hunt before, and had this vision of putting them on TV, with clubs competing against one another and winning big prizes. They also wanted the FMDAC to be a co-sponsor or host.  I said I would have to know more before committing, and they promised to draw up a formal proposal and send it to me the following week.

The TV producers, or so they said....

The TV producers, or so they said….

Not surprisingly that was the last I heard from them. Something just didn’t jive, but I often wonder just what might have been if it had been legit….



Thanks to Andy Baines for sending along the following…. Sad story for sure.


And another thank you goes to Gary Kilmer for sharing the following…..




Allyson Cohen, a.k.a. the Detecting Diva, recently shared an interview she did with Eleanor Hube.  During the course of the interview the topic of probing came up, and you already know how I feel about the subject.  It’s a lost art, but not one that can’t be resurrected. Eleanor and I come from that era where probing got you access to a lot of areas that otherwise would have been off limits.

Then, just this morning Dan Hughes sent me his latest podcast and the subject was, you guessed it, probing. Dan even explains how you can make your own.  I hope you will take the time to read Allyson’s interview with Eleanor and listen to Dan’s podcast.



While I doubt it will happen I would love to see today’s detectorists learn to use a probe. It’s not that difficult to do and it would be a big plus when it comes to how others view us.




Filed under Metal Detecting

19 responses to “From the Dark Recesses of an Old Brain…

  1. bigtony

    Dick, I always knew you were a mover and shaker, great story.
    When I started detecting I used a screwdriver to probe out my targets. I became proficient but I knew I was missing coins on edge or very deep. That took real skill and patience. It did make me one hell of a coin shooter – no brag at all – that is just what happens when you use this method. Fast forward to today – I carry one for surface coins, one to three inches….it beats cutting a plug for those.
    Many folks today will pass those up and only go for the five inches or deeper targets and in this case a probe is a bit slower for the newbies

  2. Yo Ricardo:
    I reckon ‘What might have been’ better suits the Garrett/Compass story.
    As I recall the Compass 77b was THE machine to use in the UK back then, especially on roman and Celtic sites and they uncovered some spectacular finds.
    ‘Probing’ has never really been popular over here, mainly because there is/was a widespread belief that high value coins could be scratched of defaced by the process. How about you or Big Tony explaining the technique in full? Might be useful.

  3. we covered coin popping as well July of 2014, I agree, it’s a lost art that needs to be used more often! My friend Phil demonstrates the art in the second video. 🙂 Enjoy your blog bud!

    • Thanks Rob. Good examples though still not what I am talking about. The second video was close but the screwdriver was not rounded and he use another tool to pry the coin.

      I use a probe, lightly touch the target, lift up a little, make an eight or ten inch slit from north to South, and then from East to West. Next put your probe under the coin or target, and “gently” lift up. You may need to change directions to get under the coin, or to maneuver it up, but that’s why you made the “X”…

      Maybe I can talk Tony into making a video….

      • I’m not good at it… guess I need practice… either that or I’m just lazy and gung ho…lol

      • No Rob, both of those videos were very good and very close to what I had in mind. The second more so because there was only one tool used, and that technique can also be used for deeper coins. It does take a little practice and getting used to. I guess it has to do with the era or period you got started detecting. It was pretty a pretty common way to retrieve coins in a manicured area. Thanks again for sharing…I appreciate it.

      • It’s a fading art form that needs to come back. 🙂

    • I find it interesting that you would take the time to write a piece on popping but won’t mention it where it could do some good. I believe you have 5 posts on the thread I talk about here (on a forum) and haven’t mentioned it. If the person that was confronted by the coach would not have had a shovel with him things may have been different.

      You’re not exactly known to be ” social ” there. Thanks for coming here and preaching to the choir though.

      • Appreciate you trolling my blog in an effort to put me down. I am positive I have done more good for the hobby than you have regardless of how social I am. Popping coins does good everywhere, I figured that was a given. Anyway, glad to know I was on your mind today and that you felt compelled to try and insult me for bringing awareness to coin popping. Did you have an article or couple hundred I could read of YOURS where you do anything to benefit the detecting community.

      • Sorry for the confusion, my comment was to @GaryKemper

  4. Coin popping ? Sounds good but I doubt there will be much interest. Here is my latest adventure into youtube land. I only got called one name so I let the guy have final say. If things change I may be interested in a half dozen of those poppers though.

    Gary Kemper 13 hours ago
    I don’t MD at night. That is not the alternative to detecting a park with up to 6 people as you say you do. People that call people names might not be suited to MD parks in groups of 6.
    Reply ·

    ( name edited by Kemper ) 11 hours ago
    I’m quite sure you don’t Gary…it was sarcasm. Suited or not…I detect parks in groups and will continue to do so.

    • Gary, maybe it’s me but your comments always leave me baffled…. Likewise if forums become war zones or members become combative, do what I do…..just don’t go there.

      • My last comment didn’t involve a forum but rather a youtube exchange. On your point though, forums will always be ” combative ” if people address the issues that are hurting our hobby. Forums can be a good place for other things and there is nothing wrong with that.

      • Gary, you can sometimes find useful information on forums, but for the most part they are social gatherings. Post anything of major importance or a request to help someone facing a detecting ban, and you will be lucky to get even one reply. If it doesn’t affect them, they don’t care. End of story.

        I do visit the forums to see what’s going on, but hardly ever comment or post. I found this works for me.

  5. bigtony

    There has to be YouTube videos out there for coin probing. It’s not rocket science – pin point your target, and then use a probe to locate it. Some probes have brass tips to prevent scratches. I used a worn out screwdriver – after awhile the tip wears down on it’s own. Once you touch the target as Dick said – back off and insert the probe on an angle then push the target up to the surface. Start with surface coins – they are the easiest ones to probe. US Dimes are the toughest to hit – they ara smaller than most coins, but it can be done with patience and practice.

  6. Yeah Dick , you may be right. Probably best not to mention popping versus a shovel there.

    I’m waiting to see if anyone tells my friend here that the shovel might have given a bad impression. From today—
    “I had my Sampson cause I found out if you need to go 4″ or more that thing is nice and makes a better plug. I got a nice sounding target @ 2” so I dropped the Sampson and grabbed my Lesche. The guy and kid acted like they were walking past me but when I knelt down the guy said. “DO YOU MIND NOT DIGGING HOLES IN OUR SPORTS FIELD!?” I looked up and realized this guy was a football coach. Those that know me well, know I have a problem with confrontations, a hair trigger and will fight at the drop of a hat. ”

    ” I was diagnosed with “intermittent explosive disorder” three years ago and the detecting has helped with it a lot but I keep failing these tests that get thrown my way. ”

    Luckiiy, I’m kicked off there so it won’t be hard for me to take your advice– “Gary, maybe it’s me but your comments always leave me baffled…. Likewise if forums become war zones or members become combative, do what I do…..just don’t go there. “

  7. bigtony

    Don’t fret when asked to leave. I don’t – I get up turn off my machine and say sure thing with a smile.
    I know that I can always come back another time if I feel that spot is worth it. After all – we all pay the tax man and contribute so I feel we have paid our dues.
    What gets me is folks don’t complain about aminals and or folks who chip and put with golf clubs. These two items are by far worse then a MD person who covers his holes….nuff said

    • You must be mellowing Tony.
      Just imagine if Mr Capone or Mr Moran, or Mr Diamond, or Mr Dillinger had taken up treasure hunting….the parks would be free to hunt and no-one would bother you if your detector case was violin shaped. Jeez, imagine who would have featured on the membership list of a club hunt??

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