Bob Sickler, the Detectorist…

Bob Sickler, with custom made Nautilus, circa 1993

Not sure how many of you know the name Bob Sickler, but those of us who have been around the hobby for anytime certainly do.  Bob’s background, accomplishments and contributions are well known and his book “Detectorist” is without a doubt one of the best metal detecting books ever written.

I’ve known Bob for over 30 years and whenever I ever had questions about how a metal detector worked (or didn’t work) I would pick up the phone, call him and get the answers.  I’m tempted to share more here but I will let Bob do it via the following Q & A session….hope you enjoy!

BOB SICKLER –  THE INTERVIEW

Q. Bob, I know you live in New York state, but are you able to tell us what part?

A. My family ancestors, originating in Germany, have lived in New York’s Hudson Valley since 1730. That makes my lineage older than most coins and relics I’ve found! I love it here, we never wanted to leave I guess.

 

Q. I also know what you do for a living, but would you be kind enough to tell those reading this?

A. I’ve been a graphic artist in many forms for most of my life. I’ve worked for several ad agencies until 1996 when I became a full-time, self-employed graphic designer. I also have an engineering degree and have worked many years as an electro-mechanical draftsman as well. My preference though has always been to work in picas rather than thousandths! My first job was commercial sign painting at age 14.

 

Q. Way back when you did a lot of work (in many areas) for the manufacturers. Can you tell us a little about it?

A. I’m a bit foggy on the exact time (my guess 1980) I started mixing my writing ability with my artistic skills, but my work attracted the attention of Jim Lewellen, then president of Fisher Research Laboratory in Los Banos, CA. Jim hired me to write and illustrate my target retrieval techniques to share with his customers and the rest of the metal detecting community. I’m very proud my work has been used as well by other manufacturers and clubs as a retrieval standard. Jim was a visionary who was very concerned about the image our hobby presented. Jim would later offer me a position at FRL as advertising director, but my affinity for my NY roots and family would get the best of me keeping me home where the older coins are.

I would go on to work free-lance in the capacity of graphic designer, illustrator, field evaluator and design consultant for other manufacturers like Compass, Garrett, Nautilus, Pillar, Tesoro, and many distributors and dealers of metal detecting equipment as well. Dick, I even designed and illustrated your caricature for your FMDAC column header in Western & Eastern Treasures magazine (see below)! Mixing my livelihood with my hobby has always been a great joy for me. The value of friends made during this time was priceless.

 

Q. Aside from your artistic talents, you were a prolific writer and field tester in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. How did that come about and did you ever keep track of how many detector models you reviewed?

A. I never knew I could write and influence anyone until I wrote my first article for ICD’s World of Treasures magazine in 1981, titled “New York’s Forgotten Picnic Groves”. I was researching picnic groves as hunt sites back then and found a memorable one. My hunting partner Chris and I were using Garrett Groundhogs at the time, and a writer named Charles Garrett, was to be my mentor. Like him, I wanted to share and teach people how to use a metal detector and show just how important historical research is to our hobby/sport.

An antiquated “selfie” (film camera on a tripod) for the article. My partner Chris Costello and I hunting an amazing picnic grove found through research and an interview with a man who was there as a child during its time of use.

That magazine article attracted the attention of its sister publication Western & Eastern Treasures magazine who later began asking me to do metal detector field evaluations. I went on to write field tests and how-to articles for 23 years. I also served as Field Test Editor for the magazine’s Buyer’s Guide for a while. I publicly tested about 16 metal detector models if my memory is correct.

A self-caricature for my magazine department head. The depiction of my hunting style was quite accurate!

 

Q. Okay, was there one particular review that sticks out in your mind and why?

A. That would be my first public metal detector review titled, “Fisher’s 1260-X: Sophisticated, Yet Simple” published in 1983. I’m probably a gadget person like everyone else in this hobby, but I’ve always believed the measure of device sophistication is how simple it is to operate effectively. The 1260-X at that time was indeed a prime example of that. You didn’t have to swing it very fast or manually balance ground minerals (a procedure that mystified many detectorists back then) to get good depth in iron mineralized ground. It had two independent levels of adjustable discrimination you could analyze a target simply by using a trigger switch instead of rotating the discriminate knob all the time. Although quite noisy, to the tune of “Snap, Crackle and Pop”, it possessed reasonably fast recovery speed and was quite adept at separating target from trash in the day. Fisher electronics engineer David Johnson gets praise and honors for that detector!

 

Q. Curious… Was there one particular detector that really impressed you and if so, why?

A. I’ve always been a Garrett and Nautilus metal detector user for the most part because of their strong designs, quality construction and reliable performance, but a new company and engineer caught my attention in the mid 80’s. The company was Teknetics and the electronics engineer was George Payne. They introduced a new detector called the Mark I. It had audio tone ID and metered visual target ID combined with the ability to interpret target depth, all within a deep-seeking, slow-motion, synchronous phase discrimination context. It was the beginning of what I still deem critical attributes of my hunting technique, even today. George and the team at Teknetics really set the metal detecting world on fire for the better.

 

Q. I remember many of your reviews/field tests and you always told it like it was. Did it ever get you into trouble with any of the manufacturers? When exactly did you stop doing the field tests and why?

A. Ooooh yeah! It was 1985, my daughter would arrive in 1986, and I was working insane hours beforehand to prepare for the precious event. I was working a full-time agency graphics job, writing how-to articles, free-lancing graphic projects for the metal detector industry and doing magazine field tests.

I had been using White’s metal detectors also for several years. My old non-motion Coinmaster 4/DB found a lot of silver back then for me. That year I would be curious about a new White’s detector being introduced called the Liberty Di. I think it might have been the first small packaged metered visual ID detector. Naturally I wanted to be the first to test it!

The magazine was giving me about three White’s detectors to test simultaneously during this tough work load period in my life and I was a little frustrated I wasn’t getting the newest White’s to test. So I wrote directly to the manufacturer and expressed my frustration by complaining, “Why don’t you send me something new and exciting instead of last year’s units with new paint jobs!” That wasn’t exactly true, and I was spread thin enough to stupidly say that. Well… White’s complained about my audacity to the magazine and threatened to pull advertising. The magazine needed to fire me to keep their major advertiser happy and their operating revenues intact. Being so burned out and ready to quit before all this happened anyway, I stepped aside for the good of all.

No one ever knew or bothered to ask why I wanted badly to test the new White’s detector… It had the true beginnings of improved feature innovation in the industry. I later apologized to White’s and made my peace with them. They make a great detector and their customer service, like Garrett’s, is second to none. At that point I decided to say goodbye to field testing publicly at the end of 1986.

During the majority of my field reviews, I used to offer constructive criticisms whenever I found or foresaw problems for all manufacturers. One such example was the Teknetics Mark I which had a single plastic mounting projection on their searchcoils like their earlier models. Any swinging in high grass and weeds might render it broken in short order. I mentioned this in my published report which happily resulted in the manufacturer later making a change to the stronger standard two projection mount.   

Metal detector manufacturers and magazines have always had a very symbiotic relationship with the field reviewer “walking the plank” in the middle. I’ve always tried to make a point of giving my readers something generically hidden between the lines for their benefit.

 

Q. Back to the beginning… What was it that got you interested in metal detecting?

A. I read Treasure Island as a child just like everyone else I guess, but I’ve always been more interested in history and people before me, not so much in what things are worth. If I may partially quote the preface of my first book Detectorist, “… Being the first person since the last to touch something more than two centuries later… These are the joys of metal detecting for me, my link with the past. The metal detector is my vehicle back through time.” Truth be told, as a child, I wanted to become an archaeologist, but never could because of financial constraints.

 

Q. When exactly did you start detecting and what was your very first machine? Do you remember your very first signal/find? Good or bad….

A. The year was 1968, I was 16. I researched the subject of metal locating in my local library and found plans to build a Beat Frequency Oscillator (BFO) circuit metal detector in a Radio Electronics magazine article. I can remember following a schematic and soldering components onto an experimenter’s breadboard purchased at a local electronics supply company. I crudely wound the searchcoil wire around a small garbage can for the required diameter. Amazingly it worked and off I headed to the woods behind my grandparent’s home. There I found the remains of an old barn with lots of horse shoes, barrel hoops, window sash weights, old broken tools and all other things rusty! My first buried signal was a horse shoe which I would later interpret as my “good fortune” for many years to come. I would be, and still am, fascinated by the induction balance principle!

 

Q. What was it that made you purchase a particular brand/model?

A. After spending countless hours in the beginning digging a lot of iron discards, I wanted to find something with a date on it. Like everyone else, at first, I gravitated to something of monetary value… Naturally coins!  In 1978, I would read a book titled “Successful Coinhunting” by Charles Garrett. I found him to be a good honest writer, thinking hunter, and most of all proud pitch man for his own creations. After several home-made metal detectors, my first commercial metal detector would naturally be a Garrett. Years later I would meet the man I admired and we became friends at a club hunt speaking engagement I had in New Hampshire. Charles was everything I expected him to be… Kind, intelligent, quiet, almost shy, and a man with a big heart towards everyone. He would become my mentor in all things metal detecting. I’m proud to say he later gave me a little spotlight in his book, “Treasure Recovery from Sand and Sea”.

Meeting Charles Garrett for the first time in 1987

 

Q. Okay, what was your very first good or decent find?

A. I still consider everything I find to be good no matter what it is. That means I am still healthy enough to walk, see, smell, and enjoy the great outdoors. My best treasure in the beginning would be in the form of friends, my hunting partners. What I found during my early years was not so important, having someone to share those finds and history with was, and still is, more important. I’ve had only four great hunting partners over the years, Rich Ross, Chris Costello, Dick Scull, and Gary Storm. Gary and I are still going strong at it! Having great friends to share great finds with has no rival.

 

Q. When you started did you concentrate on one particular treasure? i.e., did you hunt for coins, relics, jewelry…

A. After getting my first Garrett and Nautilus metal detectors, I spent time traveling to private sites in the South to hunt for Civil War relics. I had two family members who fought in the Civil War from 1862 – 1865, so that naturally would be my impetus for doing so. I made a few good finds during that time, but nothing in the amount compared to other hunters who live and hunt regularly in those areas. The steady increase in my career work load would later prevent me from having the time to make such memorable trips to those sites again. I would eventually settle on being a hunter of coins and colonial era relics in my own “backyard”.

 

Q. How long did it take you to find your first silver coin and do you remember what it was?

A. Shortly after purchasing the Garrett Deepseeker, my first silver coin (remembered) entered into my log book was a 1964 Roosevelt Dime in EF condition found in a recreational area near my current home, September 1978. Two months later I would find my first old silver coin, an 1875 Liberty Seated Dime in a park near my boyhood home. More exciting silver coins awaited me!

 

Q. How long did it take you to find your first ring and do you remember what kind of ring was it?

A. I think it was a silver ring found in a school yard about 6 months later. I never was really interested in jewelry unless it had some historical significance… A year later, after switching to a Garrett Groundhog in the end of 1979, I found a special small gold ring on the edge of an old hand dug, stone lined well. It once had three small embedded Emeralds, two were missing. The inside of the band was finely engraved with the sender’s and recipient’s initials followed by the date, “Sept 25th 1875.” That date was 100 years and two days earlier than my own wedding. My wife is the caretaker of that keepsake now. Years later I would find many more rings with the “Hog”, but those that couldn’t be returned would be sold to invest in my hobby.

Quite a valuable women’s ring given the time period. It may have been a wedding ring

 

Q. Did you spend a lot of time researching in the beginning and if so how did you go about it?

A. Yes, the old fashioned way, called “BT”… Before tube! One technique was to read old newspapers on microfilm at my local library and look for special community outings… The years before, during and after the U.S. Centennial celebration were especially active. I used up a lot of my free time doing this and hunting the sites… So much so my wife referred to herself in polite conversation as the “Metal Detecting Widow”!

 

Q. What would you consider to be your best find after so far?

A. The best “find” would be a stellar day in 1980 shared with my second hunting partner, Chris Costello. We would take turns alternating researching and gaining permission, and that day it would be a site he researched. It was a religious camp meeting grove that went way back in time. Large Cents of many types came out of the ground in numbers like Wheat pennies used to in parks! It was also home to a lot of .22 cal. long and short bullet casings!

I had just recovered an 1819 Coronet after several Draped Bust in an area of a dried up stream bed. The soil was very sandy with few rocks. The deep signal had a small audio similar to the shallower shell casings and it was difficult to know the difference without a conductive readout back then. I was getting tired of digging shells and one more might have made me try a new location… But the voice within said continue. Pinpointing carefully and pushing down deep off to one side with my old Wilcox hand digger, I pried upwards and the soil exploded quickly. With my partner standing close nearby, we watched as a large silver coin came tumbling upward. Chris grabbed it from mid-air… His numismatist eyes were as big as the coin he was looking at… His mouth uttered, “1827 Capped Bust Half-Dollar in near perfect condition!” That old Garrett Groundhog still holds the record for my best coin found, even to this day.

I never get tired of looking at this beautifully designed coin and remembering the day I found it

Later in the day found us headed towards each other in an old dirt road. The spot where we would have met would cause frequency interference between our two “Hogs”, so I moved aside to let him continue through… I felt a little embarrassed to make such a killer find in a place he did the most work for. As we passed, he stopped dead in his tracks on a signal we both will never forget… He unearthed a 1796 Draped Bust Dime!! Even though I surmised this coin was lightly cupped by a wagon wheel and quite worn from circulation, the book value at the time was over $1000! My near perfect half came in at only $60! The real value of the finds was our skill to locate and secure a great site and our ability to use our equipment to its best advantage. Even after Chris would leave the hobby for more important things in life, our friendship and memories of that day will last indefinitely.

 

Q. What is your weirdest find to date?

A. There have been so many it is tough to remember the early ones, but recently a cell phone buried in the snow near an old house foundation is quite an irony and is right up there with the best of the weird! Possibly the young lady who owned the phone tripped and fell while hiking and lost the phone. It had been there for quite some time as the display was cracked and the phone corroded. I was successful in extracting the SIM card and finding photos of her and family that might be precious to her. I tried my best to get the service carrier to locate her by the phone’s serial number. I wanted to let somebody know I wanted to return her property. The carrier said they relayed the request, but the owner of the phone never contacted me beyond 30 days, so I properly disposed of the phone. Such a sad world we have today with nobody trusting anyone anymore.

 

Q. What is your “oldest” find to date?

A. That is really hard to say because I have so many early copper coins that are worn beyond recognition and did not survive the ravages of oxidation. Of the ones readable, I have a 1738 British Half Penny, many “eighteen O” Draped Bust Cents, an 1807 Draped Bust Half Cent, and I’ve already mentioned one of my better early silver coins. Perhaps my oldest find found while metal detecting is not metal at all. It is a chunk of salt-fired (possibly) clay with a human hand print embedded in it. It appears to be the lower part of the hand opposite the thumb. It was found along the banks of a river near my home. These are the finds I wish could talk!

 

Q. How much traveling do you do when you go out detecting?

A. Generally I try not to go beyond a 20 mile radius around where I live. I find it more efficient and productive to spend my time reading and swinging rather than steering and paying for gas.

 

Q. You’ve met a lot of the treasure hunting greats/personalities over the years… Who stands out the most and why?

A. Wow, here goes…Obviously the late Charles Garrett heads my list for all the reasons stated earlier, but I also became friends with Ron Mack of Compass, Jim Lewellen of Fisher, Jerry Tyndall of Nautilus, Gary Bischke of Outdoor Outfitters and many other people I can’t do justice to in a limited space. Sadly all named above are no longer with us. 

Ron was just a real great person to know. He tried his best to keep his company in business under great odds. He was always very complimentary of my work and wasn’t afraid to trust my skill and judgment. He genuinely paid attention to what I had to say about his detectors too. I remember him calling me “genius” for taking the old Compass needle logo and placing it inside the “O” of the modern Compass logo. I was just doing my job!

Jim I already talked about earlier as well. He was truly generous and tried his best to entice me into working for FRL. I remember creating a little detailed sculpture for his desk as a joke for an advertising idea after my job interview. He loved it, it gave him laughs, and anyone who came into his office I was told. Jim would have made Dr. Gerhard Fisher very proud!

A fun little art project made for to a man I admired and respected.

Jerry Tyndall became a close friend. I admired him greatly for his simple approaches to complex problems. He loved animals with a passion which I also admired. We would talk hours on the telephone about all things metal detecting. One of the highlights of my hobby was traveling to visit him finally after being long distance friends for so long. I got to see the modest factory that produced his highly competitive detectors which have become legendary among relic hunters.

My first meeting with Jerry Tyndall, inventor of the Nautilus metal detector.]

Gary Bischke loved life and he enjoyed every minute it seemed. He created one of the most successful multi-line distributorships in the industry and he was a very skilled water hunter. I met him at a club hunt near my home. He was on the sidelines listening to me help a few people with their detectors. He later grabbed me aside and asked if I would travel to his next hunt and speak generically, no reference to him or the detectors he sold. He paid my way and expenses and never asked for any favors in return. He promoted me for the betterment of his customers is all. He was unselfishly responsible for getting me started publicly in the hobby and would inspire me to write my book “Detectorist”.

Rest in peace all!

My first book “Detectorist” started in 1990 and was published in 1993

Five more people I should praise, four very much alive and one deceased, are my friends: Rich Ross, my first hunting partner, Joe Patrick, co-author of my second book, “Metal Detecting Advice & Tips”; Gary Storm, owner/originator of DetectorPro; Dick Scull – beloved hunting partner; and the person bringing you this interview, Dick Stout!…

Rich and I traveled South as many times as we could together to explore the Civil War with our detectors. As Civil War reenactors, we met at a local regiment meeting in 1977. We discovered we also had in common our love of metal detecting. We also found time to hunt for colonial relics together in our own area and there are many fond memories of all those days. Rich would move away from the area and unfortunately we lost track of each other as life became more complex. Hopefully someday we will find our way back.  

Joe and I often joke that we were twins separated at birth because we have so much in common in life and in metal detecting. Joe operated a successful business you may remember called “Patrick Electronics” for many years. He is also a great article writer and field tester in his own right. Besides metal detecting, we both enjoy being guitarists, doing electronic projects, writing, and doing home improvement projects.

My pal Joe Patrick and I taking a break after chasing coins and buttons

Gary and I have been close friends and hunting partners since the early 80’s. He has also been a loyal client of mine as well. He is responsible for all the great Gray Ghost and Jolly Rogers line of headphones we all use. He is the innovator of DetectorPro Underwater detectors that feature their electronics in the headphone cup making one of the most comfortable swinging detectors you will find. We often joke, wheelchairs or not, we will be swinging coils together for years to come!

My “buddy” Gary Storm and I getting the jump on early season metal detecting in the beginning! Or, how to stretch a 1260-X

Dick Scull was a beloved friend and hunting partner for 20 years who passed away unexpectedly while metal detecting in 2003. The one day we would not be together hunting. He was a phenomena, a genuine “silver magnet”, tough to keep up with, and a laugh-and-a-half to be with in the field. He was the guy who jumped out of the car, walked 10 feet and dug up a silver half on the first signal! Rest in peace dear friend, save me some silver up there!

Looking like a Tesoro commercial… (L-R) Dick Scull, son “Richie” Scull, family friend Chuck and the fourth Musketeer (me) behind the camera

Maybe some of you don’t know, but my friend who calls himself the “Old Beeper”, Dick Stout, was a real knight in shining armor for our hobby many years ago. He was the co-founder and president of the national Federation of Metal Detector & Archaeological Clubs (FMDAC). He was instrumental in waking up legislators to our rights as hobbyists. If it weren’t for his efforts, we might all be just dreaming about metal detecting in public areas today. Reverence and a big stand up cheer is due this man and his hard working compatriots.

department head I designed and illustrated for a most honorable special friend

 

Q. What detector(s) are you currently using and why?

A. I’ve been very pleased for many reasons to be using only the Garrett AT-Pro now for almost 4 years… Loyalty, admiration, and history associated with the brand (add nostalgia), quality in design and construction, and it exemplifies my “simplicity is true sophistication” ideology.

I like the fact I can operate all the many functions of the detector directly from the thumb accessible display panel… No menus to cascade or settings to program… I like the feel of a soft tactile button rather than a pad… Excellent digital audio that reminds me of the old analog Groundhog audio… No annoying VCO pinpointing!… Four batteries used efficiently instead of eight… Having your settings remembered after battery removal… Waterproof! When it rains I keep hunting and not running for the cover of trees or scrambling with a plastic bag to protect my electronics… When I get home and it’s time to clean the detector, I simply take the garden hose to it without fear… I like 2D configured searchcoils and Garrett’s 8.5 x 11″ is a nice design… Lighter weight! It is way less tiring than other detectors I’ve used given I normally hunt all day… Using the smaller accessory coil you can literally hunt all day effortlessly… I wouldn’t be true to myself if I didn’t say I do find the display a bit small to read, but after double cataract surgeries in 2015-2016, I’m doing fine now… Three piece breakdown for backpacking into remote sites… I could go on, but I’ll stop! As of this writing, I think shortly Garrett will be giving us a new surprise in the evolution of the AT-Pro!

 

Q. Can you share a little about your settings, programs, etc.?

A. Ever since the Teknetics Mark I, I’ve been spoiled into using several forms of target information. With that said, I like to run my AT-Pro “wide open” so to speak and reap the efficient benefits of target ID. I set the High Resolution Iron Discrimination at 30 to remove square nails if I’m in a brutal scenario, but for the most part I turn the Iron Audio ON to hear all the low tones alerting me to iron, thus no discrimination to lose depth and mask targets. When you search the woods for foundations, it becomes very apparent you are getting close by hearing the iron discards in advance. I use no notch discrimination unless I’m in an area that has repetitive targets in excess like screwcaps and pull-tabs. But nowadays, I try not to hunt those areas anymore!

So no discrimination of conductives at all for the most part. I use the tonal ID to know the conductive strata of each target range and more specifically use the numerical ID to add a little more precision excitement to the coin and button finds. I check each signal in pinpoint mode and listen to the audio width in a slow swing. I also raise the coil up slowly as I swing to identify larger than coin-sized targets. Larger iron targets distort the signal field and produce a signal wider than your searchcoil width. I have a beautiful early brass militia plate on my dresser to remind me not to ignore loud surface hits!

I run my sensitivity at maximum unless the ground minerals are extreme. I keep my searchcoil low and level during a swing (whenever possible) in rough terrain. I like to keep an eye on the simultaneous depth gauge during ID to know further what to expect after getting an initial sample of target types and depths. Oh yes, I ground balance the AT-Pro often at a site (over quiet ground) to insure the best depth penetration possible. The AT-Pro has excellent signal recovery speed and I recently found a Liberty Seated Half-Dollar amongst “tone ID soup” that has eluded me for 49 years!

 

Q. You are very tech savvy and I wonder what you foresee for the pastime? What new and exciting features might be coming our way?

A. The original IB (Induction Balance) principle of metal locating has not changed too much since the beginning. The industry has refined that to great degree along with better searchcoil design and precision winding. What I would like to see is a detector capable of analyzing the target metallurgically. Knowing you have copper, gold, brass, and silver under the searchcoil would be a great asset in a time when recovery techniques are being scrutinized. However, I believe that concept is rather sophisticated and too expensive at this juncture for the average hobbyist.

I think the XP corporation has done a fine job of putting a “wireless cell phone on a stick”, but I think all manufacturers are still struggling with iron rejection and iron identification. Other than what is already here, I think you will find better low-noise, smaller, high-speed circuit design (which may increase depth and improve target separation), more efficient battery power consumption, and more performance in accurate wireless headphone systems to be more the wave of the future. Displays will hopefully become better designed, more refined, and resolute. Personally I would like to see more R&D in developing PI circuits (Pulse Induction) that are capable of accurate target ID. It’s an old basic concept to combat mineralization that still has merit.

 

Q. What accessories do you use?

A. Tick spray! Seriously, I’ve had Lyme Disease, but ironically not associated with metal detecting. I got careless working around my own home, so be vigilant wherever you are.

I’ve worn a backpack for years and keep my lunch and all the items and spares we detectorists find useful for an uninterrupted safe, long day out.

I’ve used DetectorPro Jolly Rogers headphones for many years (yes, I did the logo!) and now with a Garrett headphone adapter cable… I like my headphone connection at the end of the armcup. That may change if I go wireless.

I use a Garrett recovery bag on my left hip with Molle attached sheaths for my Garrett Pro-Pointer and hand diggers… Either the Garrett or the Lesche depending on hunt site permeability. This arrangement is lightweight and comfortable for me over other systems used in the past. I use a Lesche T-Handle Spade which is very well made and productive for me. At an increasing age, it is a good way to hoist myself up after a long target recovery! I have experimented with this spade in my own yard and I’m finding I can dig a cleaner, deeper plug, faster with less damage than older recovery tools.

Hand pinpointers are making easier and more tidy extractions for targets in the hole or remaining in plugs.  No matter what your digging tool preference is, please don’t forget the ground cloth for private lawn recoveries. I use a 24″ square of Tyvek construction cloth, it lasts a long time, it’s easy to clean, and weighs nothing.

Last, but not least, my secret weapon for concentrating on targets is wearing suspenders to keep my trousers up ! I was absent the day the good Lord was handing out butts I guess! In my “paratrooper” hipmount days, I quickly learned this a very important accessory and great mental pacifier!

 

Q. What types of sites are you hunting today?

A. I hunt mostly home foundation ruins by choice. I love knowing how people lived and worked long ago. You can find all types of targets here besides old coins. You can learn what wars they fought in, how they ate their food, cared for their animals, how they built their homes, what their children did for fun, and how much they trusted banks! History at its best.

 

Q. Can you share how you go about finding these sites? Can you share exactly where they are? Okay, just kidding…

A. Sure I can if you promise to stay away from my area! 🙂 For many years, using my graphic skills, I have made scaled transparent overlays of old maps to mate with modern topographical maps. Nowadays there are map web sites you can utilize that do the same thing without much effort. I look for the dwelling markers on the old maps that do not have a corresponding modern marker. For years I would drive past a huge Lilac bush in a vacant field on my way to work and always wonder. Using the technique described proved there were several houses there in 1875. The next weekend with a detector proved that true without a doubt.

 

Q. I know you’ve found lots of good stuff over the years, but certainly you must have a bucket list?

A. My bucket list is simply just to keep on hunting far into my senior years with good health and a friend to share the times with. Filling up the rest of my U.S. Type book wouldn’t be bad either!… I still have a few slots to go!

 

Q. Have you detected overseas at all?

A. I’m a lousy swimmer and I can’t stand flying! Why would I travel when I’ve been busy enough around my own areas! Truthfully, I would love to hunt for medieval metals. I only hope our country adopts the same fair historic recovery reimbursement policies our brethren have in the UK. Let’s face it, the best archaeological treasure finds have been made by “beepers” like us.

 

Q. What would your ideal detector look like and when are you going to build it?

A. It would have to be very comfortable looking and I’m not anytime soon! 🙂 I’d rather be swinging than fiddling with a soldering iron! I learned that a long time ago!

 

Q. What do you see for the future of our pastime? Will we have one ten years from now?

A. If narrow minds in government and the archaeological community continue down the path they are on, I’d say time for metal detecting freedom is running out. On the same coin, if we don’t police our own ranks, we just make it easier for those mentioned to accomplish their agenda. We have a recreation just like everyone else and many of us are unfairly discriminated against. Public dollar lands are not being equally shared by those of us who help pay for them. Too much federal and state land is being unfairly restricted and closed to our hobby. How many other hobbyists can you name, who many abuse public land, pickup their own and other’s trash? I’m afraid the last frontier to enjoy ourselves metal detecting will be strictly private land with permission.

 

Q. If you could pass along one or two words of advice to other detectorists, what would they be?

A. If you are new to the hobby, seek out and learn from those before you. I did. Pick a detector capable of your genre of hunting and stick with it… Learn/interpret its language. Try not to blindly buy everything that is advertised in a magazine. Slow down, be an informed consumer. Otherwise, you will keep selling it endlessly to satisfy your quest for the perfect detector… I’ve been around them a long time and there is no perfect detector for the masses! If there was, only one company would remain.

Learn from friends, see what they use, see how successful they are with a certain type of detector, then make a choice and stick with it. But know this, great finds with a certain brand of detector doesn’t make it the best. It’s more often the ability of the user to find productive sites. During the “glory years” of metal detecting I was caught up in the newness of everything and by trade I was testing and handling new machines every month. Looking backward, I would have been better off staying with one detector and upgrading only when it became an advantage. Today I am the wiser and happier.

 

Q. Who would you say is most important to you in your enjoyment of the hobby?

A. That would be my best friend who happens to be my wife of 42 years, Barbara a.k.a. “Bobbi”. She has the patience and tolerance of a saint when it comes to all my hobby obsessions. It’s a debt I could never repay no matter how hard I could try. She has unselfishly, lovingly allowed me to be me since we met. She doesn’t share my love of the hobby as much, but she sure can make it “fun” sometimes…

One afternoon I was out hunting in the “Amazon” getting burned, pierced, stung, bitten and poisoned by ivy with nothing to show at the end of the day while she went swimming at a friend’s little private swimming hole! Refreshed, she picked me up later that day and I lay collapsed in the car seat a sweaty mess, thoroughly exhausted. She asked me what I found and I could only manage to look over and give her a “rolled eyes” response! She reaches in her pocket and says… “Is this any good?” I practically hit my head on the windshield rocketing upward… In her hand was a 1917 Standing Liberty Quarter like the day it was made… Plucked from the bottom of a little swimming hole!

The love of my life

Thank you Dick, this has been great fun reminiscing! Sort of like an extra-long “Deeper Beeper Reunion Down Geezer Lane”! OK, back to obscurity

*******************

 Coming soon….Q & A with D.J. Yost

*******************

24 Comments

Filed under Metal Detecting

24 responses to “Bob Sickler, the Detectorist…

  1. Brian Herriott

    Great interview! Fun reading stories about the early days of detecting.

  2. Great interview Dick, and what an interesting guy. As I was reading it, I started laughing as I recalled 3 or 4 long trips to Virginia, listening to Gary Storm talk (the entire way down and the entire way back) about finds, places, and the people he’s detected with through the years. I now realize Bob was the highlight of some of these stories, and now I know who he is.

  3. BigTony

    Wow, very interesting interview, I had to read it twice.
    The additional background information on the beginnings of the hobby and who’s who is a real treasure. What a fun and exciting time it must have been. I can relate to Bob just saying he doesn’t travel overseas because he stays local and just enjoys the hobby. For a coin shooter like me that hits home big time.
    Dick, you have again surpassed yourself to say the least. This and other interviews are terrific, thanks a bunch and keep it going!

    • Tony these Q & A things are only as good as those giving the answers. Bob’s background is unique to this pastime and he got that across here. I really enjoyed this interview too….then again Bob and I are part of the over-the-hill, no camo, one detector army.

      • Bob Sickler

        Thanks Tony! It’s amazing what you can find only yards from your own door sometimes.

      • Bob Sickler

        Actually Dick, my Garrett cap nowadays is digital camo and I like it! 🙂 I needed a new Winter jacket and boots and ended up with digital camo as well. Hell, your wardrobe has to match! 🙂

      • No way. Tired of camo back in the sixties.

  4. Scott Benack

    I detect with Joe and he always talks about Bob. Now I know him a little better. Great article, thanks, Scott

  5. couple more mastheads that Bob did for old WET magazines….

    • Bob Sickler

      Thanks Dick! Ty Brook’s “Tech Talk” column head is still being used I believe. Those were fun days designing and illustrating all the department heads and upgrading magazine’s logo.

  6. Hi Bob:
    Ooooh yeah, ‘Field Testing’ is an unmarked minefield; your comments resonate only too well. I did a test many years ago on a machine that performed as good as they come and I reported accordingly. But unforseen consequences took a hand.

    The magazine’s other advertisers (selling rival machines) went apoplectic threatening to pull their advertising and have me metaphorically shot. Undaunted, the editor went ahead and published – only because the magazine’s biggest spender who retailed the machine in question threatened to do the same! I now take all ‘Field Tests’ with more than the proverbial pinch of salt – many being little more than poorly written BS. I never wrote for that particular rag again.

    One rookie editor boldly canvassed my opinion – based on my editorial expertise – on the quality of the magazine then in thier editorial hands. I gave that opinion only to get a sniffy letter and a returned ms. I never wrote for that particular rag again either!

    They say in showbiz; never work with animals and children. I’d add – or wannabe journos.

    Great interview BTW.

    • Bob Sickler

      Thanks for the compliment on the interview John! Yes, I had hoped my opinion on the “symbiotic relationship” would resonate with others who have “walked the plank” as well. At one point I wrote an article about creating a field testers network using the actual same detector in different locations around the US so that finite real time data could be harvested and collated for the reader’s benefit… You know, the people who make it possible for magazines and manufacturers alike to stay in business? It was the only article I ever wrote that was rejected and not published.

      At this juncture, I’m trying to catch up on and pay back all the time I lost while writing and not detecting all those years. Magazine writing does not even appeal to me anymore. Fact is I’d rather write in the freedom we have here. Dick has done a wonderful job at creating a grand environment in which we can do so. Kudos Dick!

  7. Bob Sickler

    Yes, today if you don’t read the detector’s instruction manual you might be in trouble or at the very least not able to use the detector to its greatest advantage. Back in the day, you could read one manufacturer’s manual and operate all the rest for the most part!

  8. Joe

    Loved this interview, Dick, and it’s one of the best one’s yet. While I’ve never met Bob personally, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with him via email on more than a few occasions, and as you and your readers have already seen, he’s quite a fascinating guy.

    While many of the figureheads in this hobby tend to be secretive and maybe a bit standoffish, Bob is the reverse opposite…he’s a blunt, honest, entertaining individual who’s quick with a tip or a fun story relating to this pastime. He’s also a walking encyclopedia on the intricacies of metal detectors, and to hear him elaborate on some of his opinions/observations is a special treat.

    Most importantly, all of the above takes a back seat to his warmth and generosity.

    After reading a few of your interviews with some of the ‘old hands’ in the hobby, Dick, I hope both yourself and your subjects realize just how blessed you were to be involved in metal detecting during the golden age. Most of us in the hobby now can only live vicariously through the many tales, and imagine just how glorious it must have been to hunt 25, 30 or 40 years ago. Before the crass commercialism of the hobby took over. Before the hobby became saturated with newbies simply looking to strike it rich or become a Youtube star. And most importantly, before all of those wonderful coins and relics were hoovered out of the ground.

    You oftentimes mention your inability to detect comfortably anymore, Dick. Or you sometimes tell us how frustrated you are with the current state of the pastime.You reminisce of a different era. Kind of like that old commercial with the indian crying when he’s sees all of the litter that has amassed on his native land.

    While the finds didn’t exactly come easy and you certainly had your own set of challenges back then – detectors that could barely discriminate, not being able to punch deeper than 4″ or 5″, etc. – all of you guys who detected back then were fortunate beyond belief. To be involved with a bourgeoning hobby and to help usher in an exciting, new pastime for future generations was an honor I hope you all relish for many years to come. Believe you me, I know many of us would easily trade all of our cameras, mini diggers, pinpointers and vastly overpriced detectors to be able to go back in time and experience what it was like to hunt back then. I am one of them. However…

    The reality is, we simply cannot. And that is the value that you, Bob, and the countless others who helped blazed the trail have at your disposal…the experiences/memories to GIFT those of us enjoying the hobby in the present age. The passing down of knowledge and wisdom, or even the simplicity of a funny story or two. Us modern day detectorists are lucky to have such predecessors to look up to and learn from. And for that, I thank you, Dick, as well as Bob and the many other forefathers of the hobby, who are kind enough to give back all that they have received over the years.

    Keep up the fine work 🙂

    • Joe, not sure what to say to all that but thank you very much. I do relish the memories as I’m sure Bob does.

    • Bob Sickler

      Wow Joe, I think I need to dust off my powdered wig, nickers, and dowsing rod now! 🙂 Seriously, thank you very much for that great review of an old reviewer. You make me feel like somebody special. I still take pleasure in helping anyone I can better understand the hobby and their detector. I may not be up on the latest and greatest of detectors anymore, but basic knowledge and common sense still prevail.

      Don’t know if the readers here are aware, but Joe Grasso is the originator/owner of the FREE Treasure Classifieds (www.treasureclassifieds.com) web site all of us use to trade, buy and sell our detectors. Joe works very hard on this site to keep it secure and a safe place for everyone who visits. The site is very well orchestrated and designed and the rapid turnover of detectors is a true tribute to a special unselfish guy whom I’m pleased and proud to know.

  9. Joe’s an old digger too….just doesn’t want anyone to know.

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