Got Dirt?


Detector ready, batteries charged, pinpointer, headphones, GoPro all packed, gas in the car, decked out in camo, looking bad ass, but wait…Houston, we have a problem. You have no clue where to go! Yup, the park’s been hunted to death, the ballfield’s not all that old, the oldest part of town has also become the most dangerous and the schoolyard down the street is posted “No Detecting”. Likewise most all the known cellar holes have been hammered, the fairground’s closed and the state and county parks are off-limits.

All dressed up with no place to go….

Does any of this ring a bell with you? Am I wrong? Am I exaggerating?  If so then tell me where it is that you spend your treasure hunting time (if you live in North Texas be sure to supply GPS coordinates). Do you favor parks? Schools?  Old home sites, the beach…? I see a little mention of each on social media but I’m also seeing a lot of discussion about previously available areas being closed to detecting and questions about getting permissions and gaining trust.

Listen, I have no doubts there are a lot of untapped resources out there waiting to be discovered but the odds of finding them get smaller with each passing day and with each new entrant into the hobby. I used to think the more the merrier when I was fighting city hall and state agencies but I’ve changed my mind. I’ve seen way too many places closed off and honestly no one gives a rat’s ass anymore about whether the pastime survives in the long-term. The words come together and unite are foreign to today’s detectorist.

It’s estimated there are about 700,000 detectorists in the country, but let’s be safe and say 500,000. If you divide that number by 50 you’d have 10,000 tekkies per state and while that’s a poor example that’s a lot of shovels, camo and more than likely way too many unfilled holes. The way I see it is we are all about to cross paths, butt heads and have major problems! That’s also why you see more and more detectorists hitting the open roads looking for open spaces with an ‘anything will do’ attitude.

I so miss the open roads and open spaces of Hunterdon county, New Jersey… old stomping grounds


Is it becoming a pay to play pastime…..

When I think about the open road, rural thing I realize we’re slowly but surely becoming more like the UK every single day, and I wonder how long it will be before we are paying for the right to hunt a farmer’s fields. Not sure what the going rate is in the UK now but I remember a few trips where a bottle or two of good Scotch did the trick (that is until Howland decided he’d rather stay home and drink it). I wonder….if we go that route here will it be a six-pack in Iowa? Southern Comfort in Tennessee?

And just how much is it worth to you to have a place to hunt?  How much would you be willing to pay?  Ten dollars? Twenty? Fifty? And what would that cover? One day, one week, a year? And what about liability and insurance? Would it become a routine necessity? The farmers in the UK are starting to realize that rallies offer the possibility of an easy payday and I can easily see that happening here IF our metal detecting clubs survive.

Where do you stand at this moment? Lots of great sites on your to do list or are you a “local park Louie” or “school yard Sam”?  My guess is you are lusting to find new places to swing that coil but whatever you do, don’t let that lust turn into loss because you are frustrated. Get in that car or truck and give the rural thing a try but always abide by the code of ethics, especially the one that says “I will respect the rights and property of others”.

I’m all for the open road/open fields thing and think it may be the only option for our pastime long term. I’m not excited however about paying to hunt but if it’s the only way, what the hell, I might give it a shot. Unless of course the price is a bottle of single malt or a nice Bordeaux….



Celebrated my 76th Birthday a week ago and wanted to thank Ron and Gretchen Guinazzo for an unexpected surprise. You see each year on my birthday Ron usually sends me a case of wine. Cheap red wine, but hey it’s Chicago Ron and it is what it is. Anyway this year I opened the mailbox and found a package addressed to ‘Dallas Dick’ and inside?  A signed Chicago Ron hat (my old one was lost in the tornado) and a beautiful key ring, created by Gretchen and courtesy of her Provenance Creations.

All kidding aside, thanks Ron and thanks Gretchen for thinking of this ole tekkie.  You guys are the best…

Gretchen’s creation is adorned with an 1844 Victoria 6 pence that Ron found on one of his trips.


Coming soon Q & A sessions  with Chicago Ron, Jim Fielding & Jocelyn Elizabeth



Filed under Metal Detecting

14 responses to “Got Dirt?

  1. You are so right about so many things Dick. Sad that sites are hunted to death, or off limits. I’ve been leaning towards the farm fields lately–a lot of space, easier to get permission, and the farmer’s don’t care if you dig ’cause they’re going to plow it anyway. Let’s just hope they don’t get wind of the UK rallies and start charging a fee.

  2. Don’t get me started on this Dick. I grit my teeth every time I see a “…I’m new to the hobby!” on a FB post and I want to scream! I rant and rave a bit about the good old days, and Patti’s always like, “…take something, will you? A pain killer or something!” I wish it were that easy. I too used to believe the more we have on our side the better we could fight the bastards trying to screw up the hobby. I finally realized, that a large portion of the metal detecting masses ARE the bastards screwing up the hobby!

    If I’ve done anything at all over the last 10-years, in talks and presentations, it’s been a constant mantra of FILL IN YOUR HOLES DAMMIT! to a doe-eyed, deer-caught-in-the-headlights crowd who apparently have lost their hearing as well as their marbles. I recently had a friend post a concerned “sensitive issue” where she called out a club member, but with no names, dates or places, seen leaving craters behind, and her concern was with the continued viability of the site…i.e. afraid detectortists would be kicked off of a good piece of property. And she asked that they PLEASE fill in the holes and leave it like they found it. She finished with “I know who you are and you know who you are!”

    One individual did all they could crying and whining and posturing behind the scenes to get the post removed, saying it was inaccurate and going as far as to say they had PHOTOGRAPHS proving their innocence! Who goes around taking photographs of the ground as they detect??? As it turns out, they were not even the one being referenced in the first place, but WERE responsible for sidelining an honest attempt at preventing further damage and consequences. The fracas left anger and a non-accused person all butt-hurt in it’s wake. Gimme’ a break!

    As it turned out, her post WAS removed, and she angrily left the site. I realized at that moment, the battle has been lost, and the hobby has already been lost with it. All that is left is to close a few more parks and schools and have the convicts turn out a few thousand more NO METAL DETECTING SIGNS. And all I can say in the end, is some of you asked for it! I assume, soon, the American night-hawking will begin on historic properties, and we will probably see even ownership of a metal detector become illegal in the end. The last one kicked out of a good hunting site please turn out the light. And fill in your holes before you go!

    • Thanks Jim.Thought I was the only one. Frustrating for me to see all the conversations on social media and not one of them about policing our hobby. Oh they might bitch about finding unsightly holes and cursing those who left them but that’s where it ends. Everyone is too busy doing their thing. I don’t get it but I’ve given up on it all. Too old to fight the battle anymore and when no one cares what does it matter?

      • Same here, Dick. A friend of mine and I went out to the end of a trail recently, where an old ferry crossing existed in 1858, as well as an old hotel in the same era; a fairly isolated place. What’s the first thing we find? Open holes with the trash stacked next to them!! I honestly give up too. Who cares anymore, we got most of the good stuff anyway, Dick.

    • Hi Jim:
      There’s another aspect of the problem. I don’t know of any club, even the national body, that has a Disciplinary Committee with the apparatus for dealing with wayward members. It’s a subject no-one wants to get to grips with. Equally, there’s no system of appeal.

      Ideally, if and when someone is hauled before such a Committee and found to have brought the hobby into disrepute and subsequently disqualified from membership, that result should be published, names and all.

      I’m not even sure that archaeology has anything similar either, though judging from past cases where archaeologists have been found guilty of theft from archaeological sites, all have returned to their employment as if nothing had happened. Neither have they been condemned by their peers!


      PS. Had I known it was your birthday Ricardo, I’d have popped a bottle of 2003 Chateau Labour in the post.

  3. Joe

    Here in industialized/modernized NJ, it’s mostly old parks that we’re blessed with. Yes, we have some wooded areas and/or mountainous spots, but you have to time them right with the season, weather, etc. to hunt. A lot of them have been hit very hard over the years. So…

    I mainly search the old parks, and simply swing very slow listening for those faint, deep, whisper signals, which are normally the telltale signs of an old coin or relic. Fortunately, there is still enough out there, but the truth is, most of it is past the 6″ mark, and you have to really take your time to earn every last find. Some days you can walk home with 5 or 6 silvers, though most of the time if you snag 2 or 3 that’s a very good outing. But it is mentally taxing listening for a tiny blurp, blip or blop for hours on end, in a sea of loud surface signals…99.9% of which are trash or clad.

    The only future in this hobby, IMO, is going to be beach hunting and/or private properties. We all know how tough it is to go out and find just a few keepers on a hunt nowadays. Well, imagine 20 years from now. The machines are a lot better, deeper, more accurate VDI capability, and there’s just a lot more of us out there swinging. And once a coin or relic is taken from the ground, it obviously isn’t coming back.

    Heck, even finding private yards to hit is getting competitive. Me and a buddy did a door knock trip about 50 miles west of me last month, in Warren county. Out of about the 6 homes we asked at, 3 of them said they’ve been hunted before. And this was in a rural setting, the “sticks”, if you will. We finally got on a great property, an 1843 dwelling that’s now a bed & breakfast, and the owners informed us it TOO has been hunted a few times before, lol. We only got a couple of flat buttons and a toasted, unidentifiable copper. You gotta take the good with the bad though, as this hobby is still the best out there.

    I know some of the “old timers” consider themselves lucky that they were able to hunt in the good ol’ days, when the gettin was plentiful, and I agree…they were indeed blessed to be at the right place at the right time. I too feel the same way about the pastime now, in it’s current form. It is going to be QUITE difficult finding any oldies on public turf 15 or 20 years now, for the reasons mentioned above. And that’s without even taking all of the ordinances and prohibitions into consideration.

    If someone entering the hobby today asked my advice, I would tell them this…

    Invest in the best beach machine they can, and learn it well, as that is indeed the final frontier of this pursuit.

    • Good points Joe, thanks. There’s a park in Trenton, New Jersey – Cadwalader Park, that had all kinds of potential and pretty sure it still does, only you need to go in a group and never at night. Used to hunt it in the early 80’s before it turned into gangster land. Maybe it’s changed, I don’t know. I’m curious too if you or anyone you know is still hunting Fairmount Park in Philly? That was a great place.

      • Joe

        Never hunted in Philly, Dick, and don’t know that park in Trenton. My stomping ground is mainly the northern part of Jersey, with the exception of door knocking trips. But I hear you on those “rough” areas. Case in point…

        We hit an old park in a VERY bad area about 2 months ago. You know the kind; bars on the windows, drug baggies lying on top of the ground, etc. There were 4 of us, for safety reasons. The cops even stopped us to make sure we were alright, which should give you a clue just how bad this place was! Anywho…

        Toward the end of our hunt, a group of hooligans came sauntering over. They were all between 13 & 16 years old, with their pants sagging below their asses. One of them appeared to have a piece in his waistband, which made us a bit uneasy, but they were mainly feeling us out; asking if we had money, what we were finding, and so forth. I ain’t gonna lie, I thought for sure I was going to have to use my predator digger as a weapon, however they simply walked away after we stood our ground.

        I always ask myself this, because it’s true…

        How come the best coins have to be in the WORST areas? Go figure.

      • “How come the best coins have to be in the WORST areas?’

        Well I’m not sure that’s true Joe. The Trenton park I mentioned was the exception, then again I suspect you folks are running into different situations in North Jersey. And forgive me. Thought you were in the southern part.

  4. Don’t assume all of us over here pay to play. Across much of the country you can gain permissions if you’re prepared to put the work into prospecting. Some detectorists don’t have the confidence to try it, others do but their appearance and/or attitude may put farmers off, and some, especially in the large conurbations, live too far from farmland for it to be a realistic possibility. Obviously for them there are a growing number of organisations which regularly put on rallies and “club” digs for which there is a fee.

    For every farmer who likes the idea of letting these organisations hold digs on their land for cash in hand at the end of the day, there’s another that dislikes the idea and wouldn’t entertain it. £500 or £1000 cash sounds attractive until you have to repair damaged fences out of it, or go round the day after to fill all the holes in – or indeed until you find one or two of the buggers sneaking back onto the land another day (or night).

    A lone detectorist with whom they can build a relationship of trust is much more attractive to many farmers. They know you’re an extra pair of eyes that will let them know if livestock is injured or you see someone who probably shouldn’t be there or is doing something dodgy-looking, and that you’ll tip a sheep back on its feet if you find one stuck on its back. And of course they trust you to show them any interesting finds and to turn up with a bottle of something at Christmas.

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