A Treasure Hunter’s Treasure Hunter…

It has been quite some time since I’ve heard from Richard Ray.  Emails and messages went unanswered, and I became a little concerned. Yesterday I found out that Richard passed away January 16.

Treasure hunter, Richard Ray

Treasure hunter, Richard Ray

I knew Richard was having medical problems, but this still comes as a shock.  More so I think because his death seems to have escaped everyone in the treasure hunting community, and that’s sad.  Very sad.

I first met Richard in 1986. He was to give a seminar at a FMDAC convention in Atlantic City.  He was scheduled to give his presentation Saturday afternoon. He never showed up, but on Sunday he introduced himself on the beach, asking “what time do I talk?” That was Richard Ray in a nutshell.

For those of you who have not had the pleasure of knowing Richard, I’m sharing an earlier 2011 post he did for my website. Richard was a traveler, a story-teller, a businessman, and without doubt a treasure hunter’s treasure hunter.  He was also a gentleman and he will be greatly missed. Why his passing has escaped so many is sad and so wrong. He deserved a better send off….

RIP my friend.



by Richard Ray

I started treasure hunting at 10 years old with my father, who believed in dowsing and following un-researched treasure leads or stories. He never found a single thing by this method.

As a teenager, after digging holes all over North Texas and South Oklahoma, I decided there had to be another way. Although I really loved the thrill of the hunt, I had to find other methods to improve the success rate. By my late teens, I’d followed my father to many places in Arizona, New Mexico and even into Mexico. Seeing metal detector ads I convinced him to go by the White’s factory in Oregon, and Gardiner (which at that time were bring built in his home) in Phoenix.

After graduation and marrying my high school sweetheart, Frankie, I parted ways from my father to pursue my own life and earn a living (which I’d been doing from an early age by working in the fields and orchards).

Upper right, Richard with Abe Lincoln, right with Paul Tainter, and bottom left a more recent photo of Richard.

Upper left, Richard at early Treasure Expo with Abe Lincoln, right with Paul Tainter (photos courtesy of Paul Tainter). Bottom left a more recent photo of Richard

When I took a job at a major oil field supply company in Houston, my interest in treasure hunting lingered very deep in my heart and mind. I begin reading everything about treasure hunting, modern methods and research. I decided this was the path for me. I bought a Garrett BFO in 1965 or 66, and that was my start with a commercial metal detector.

After some success with coin hunting, the lure of hunting old houses and historical sites took over. Likewise scuba diving became important to me. I actually started snorkeling at 13 when I found several pieces of lost jewelry in the bottom of a lake while on a school field trip.

After a dive on the Confederate blockade runner Acadia, my fate was sealed as a treasure hunter. Soon every spare minute was spent hunting, diving or doing research. Even on training/school trips for my company, while the other men were at the local bar, I was at the local library or outside with my metal detector. My finds soon out weighed my job income, and the decision was made to make treasure hunting my vocation rather than an avocation.

Over the years Frankie and I raised five good children, several grandchildren, and I always managed to put beans on the table from my treasure hunting efforts. Expeditions lead me to a lot of exciting places and into adventures I never dreamed of.


Richard’s late wife Frankie…

Because of all my research and my testing all the various metal detectors, I helped a few companies develop several models. My daughter and I also produced a metal detector under the name “Phantom”, and also the first multi-frequency detector. It is still considered by many to be a top of the line detector. Also about this time a couple of colleges asked me to teach treasure hunting and gold recovery classes (I’d developed my own gold panning method which lead to my winning several national and international competitions.

Starting in 1970, Ken Doe of Jess Publishing (Treasure, Treasure Found, etc.) asked me to put some of my adventures down on paper. Before long he made me “contributing” editor and regularly printed my stories. This also led to writing under different names for several magazines and newspapers as well as doing freelance stories.

Soon I begin writing “story lines” for a well-known television show and shot a pilot for my own series called “Hunter of Mystery”, which never made it to television. I did appear however on many television programs including PM Magazine (3 times), Good Morning America (also 3 times), Kid’s World, Scuba World, Noonday Report, Art Pender’s World, Bill Burrud’s World of Adventure and several local programs. Speaking engagements took me to New York, Los Angeles, Kansas City, Chicago and well as other major cities. I was asked to be on the Tonight show where they wanted me to do a gold panning skit with Johnny Carson, also the program “To Tell the Truth” asked me to appear.

For a time in the 1980’s I operated a 50ft plus boat called “The Finders Keepers, we mounted a small cannon on the bow. In another vessel we worked off Marquesas Key close to Mel Fisher’s boat. We talked every day via marine radio. However, We kept our mouths shut concerning our efforts, not seeking publicity, after all we were not seeking investors. It was my policy to never talk about any major project for at least five years. The publicity received was always behind our efforts OR was about the lesser projects we were working on.

Richard Ray, way back when

Richard Ray, way back when

My income at this time was pretty good so we decided to build a resort in Costa Rica (after a very successful hunt there). All total, I invested over half a million dollars, and six years into the project. Clearing away the jungle and hauling supplies by boat proved to be very costly (we even had to build our own boats). After ten years the Costa Rican government stepped in and passed a law forbidding non-residents from owning beach front property. That was the end of our venture. We left Costa Rica, and lost about $400,000, as well as our entrepreneurial spirit.

Returning to basics we searched for and found several caches (the largest was over 80 pounds of silver dollars and half dollars). Tiring of the constant airline travel, TV, newspaper interviews and the Houston humidity, we bought a small farm in far Northeast Texas, started raising exotic animals, and dropping out of sight away from the treasure hunting scene.


Richard’s Phantom was a damn good detector!

In 1995 a major company asked if I would consider a temporary job for five weeks, and fifteen years later I retired from my duties as a “Nuclear Tech”. My wife and my long time love Frankie passed away in 2007 due to a heart attack. A stroke hit me in 2009.

Yes I’ve been in trouble with the authorities over the years. I’ve been hauled into Federal Court by the US Customs Department, been hounded by the Texas Antiquities Department, but have won on all accounts. I’ve never been arrested nor jailed. I feel very fortunate that my vocation lead me to many states and countries. Treasure hunting is hard work, requires a great deal of study, time and dedication in order to be successful.

Richard Byrd Ray


“Death is a distant rumor to the young”– Andrew A. Rooney




Filed under Metal Detecting

14 responses to “A Treasure Hunter’s Treasure Hunter…

  1. Paul T

    Golly that was a shock to view your blog and find out that Richard Ray had passed just recently. Richard was a main speaker at our Treasure Hunters Expo here in Fremont, Neb. several times. He and his wife Frankie were also our house guests. I remember the year when Richard, and Abe Lincoln were guest’s at our home and boy were the treasure stories flying then….if I had only placed a recorder in that room that evening. It would be GREAT listening. Those were the days Dick, and I am so glad that you could take part in the Expo’s when you were with Garrett electronics.. Paul T.

  2. RoyR

    I last talked to Richard in November of last year.Talked about old times and some of the places we had been. Richard will be missed. I met Richard many years ago and went to several of the hunts he put on in the Houston area.

    His wife Frankie was a very sweet lady. I went to the shop he had in Manvel,Tx many times.I did meet several of his children. Buddy was the one that I saw the most often.
    I also made two trips to Costa Rica with Richard. He had a great place down there. It was picture postcard perfect. Birds, monkeys and butterfly’s everywhere. You would go to sleep at night listening to the Tree frogs. Nothing like traveling down a river in CR in a 30 foot long dugout canoe. When the sun went down, it was like flipping a switch. It did get dark in a hurry when there is no electricity..

    We used the detectors he made and looked for coins lost when Drake was on the pacific coast of Costa Rica. .Also did a little gold panning down there and did find a little color.

    The old timers are fast leaving this world. I do hope they find a better place.

  3. Very sad to hear that Richard passed away! I was completely unaware of it too… Probably haven’t talked to him in over a few years, and the last time I did he told me he was dealing with some health issues, and eventually the emails stopped.

    I can remember years ago when I first started getting serious about Treasure Hunting, and I would hear stories and read about this guy named Richard Ray, and think to myself wow this guy is a true Treasure Hunter….the real deal, unlike a lot of these people today who claim to be Professional Treasure Hunters! I was kind of skeptical on some of his stories at first, but soon found out they were true by a mutual friend of ours that we had in Texas! Finally got the privilege to talk to Richard and as any newbie/green Treasure Hunter I had a tons of questions for him…. long story short … Richard would always answer my questions and give me advice too…. he was always a nice guy and very knowledgeable!

    His daughter was helping him write a book but not sure if they aver finished it. Would have been a great read! For those who do not know Richard I encourage you to read up on him! One of my favorite stories was “The media/news was doing a story on him and he told a reporter to go outside and hide something, so the reporter went outside as they kept Richard inside so he would have no idea what or where it was that they were hiding. The reporter took her small gold wedding ring off and stuck it in the ground before the interview, Richard grabbed his detector and not only found it but called out gold ring before he even dug it up. By the way, it would not have mattered if it was a coin, silver, gold, etc…. Richard always called what it was before he even would dig it up. The only bad thing was he found it so quick that the camera men and reporter did not have time to get set up, so they had to do it again”. Richard will truly be missed!

    • Thanks Ed. He also told me about the book he was writing, and what a book it would be. Let’s hope his daughter will share some, if not all of his past experiences.

  4. Coin25

    My condolences to his family.
    Thank you Dick, for this posting and bringing back memories of those stories that got me and many others involved in detecting. The stuff that dreams were made of were in those early tales.

  5. wendell

    Sorry to hear of Mr. Ray’s passing, but he lived a life we all dream about. He and his beloved wife are together again and I would have loved to meet these two treasure hunters. Maybe his daughter can finish the book…

  6. Mike Smith - Theodore, AL

    Thanks for posting about Richard passing. He truly was one of the greats in treasure hunting, with many stories about his adventures.
    Condolences to his family.

    • Hi Mike. Good to hear from you. As I said earlier, hoping some of Richard’s past will be documented and shared.

      Hope all is well in your neck of the woods….

  7. Packrat

    Only met Richard once at the Garrett Hunt in 79. Was a very nice man who was fun to listen to…great stories. Followed him through the stories in eighties. Sorry to hear another great has passed. There has been alot in the last few years.

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