Q & A with Chicago Ron…

Ron Guinazzo is no stranger to this blog and certainly no stranger to anyone who is a treasure hunter. Chicago Ron is a ten on the treasure hunting scale, having been a star on the TV series Dig Wars and with finds that continue to amaze. And if that’s not enough we get to see him almost daily touting his pearly whites in the Clear Choice TV and newspaper ads.

Ron thanks for taking the time to do the following Q & A.

Q. Ron, how long have you been a firefighter and what area of Chicago do work in or cover?

A. I’ve been a firefighter in Chicago for just over 20 years. My station is in the south loop, just west of the Sears Tower. I know, but I will never call it the Willis tower! My station has Truck 2, which I am the main driver and senior man on my shift, Engine 5, the Special Operations chief and the Building collapse rescue rig. My station will respond city-wide for any Technical rescue situation.

Ron at his second home


Q. I have to assume that your ‘time in grade’ or job has allowed for the twice yearly trips to the UK. Am I right or do you just call out sick?

A. As a firefighter I can’t have too much wine and simply call in sick. That option is reserved for Treasure hunting blog writers!

Having 20 years on the job, I am the old guy on my shift. So when I put in my request for vacation time, I get what I pick. My 8 weeks in the UK during March and October running Chicago Ron’s England Barn Hunts, requires more vacation then I get. So I must have other firefighters cover my shifts and I have to work a day for them usually over the summer or winter.


Q. So let’s pretend no one knows you…. what was it that got you interested in metal detecting?

A. I actually started in March 1983 because I lost my HS ring. I was stationed on MCAS El Toro, a military air base in southern California. I went to radio shack and bought a 50 dollar detector (I believe it was the Microna 2001). While searching for my ring I started finding all kind of cool stuff. In the first week I found a lot of coins, a couple of rings and my first walking liberty half-dollar!  I was hooked!  Never did find that damn ring though!

A young, bad ass Chicago Ron….


Q. And what was it that made you purchase that particular brand/model?

A. I bought my first machine from Radio shack because it was inexpensive. After a couple of months of detecting I knew I was addicted and needed a better machine. After some research (without internet, which looking back is quite an achievement in itself) I found Whites and settled on a 5000 D coinmaster. I used that machine for about a year or so before trading up to the 6000 D GEB. Which in 1984 was the top of the line. Whites was the best pinpoint and ID machine on the market and I used their machines for the next 20+ years. Learning to pinpoint and recover targets in the parks at up to 5 or 6 inches with just a flat head screwdriver (tip rounded so as to not mark the coins) most of the time hitting the target on the first probe.


Q. I know you are married to Gretchen….if you don’t mind me asking, how did you two meet?

A. We met the old-fashioned way… Online! We met through Match.com and had our first date at a restaurant in Evanston, (Suburb just north of Chicago) and we just clicked. We saw each other every day we could for about 4 months straight and never got sick of each other! LOL She is absolutely my flavor of crazy!

Chicago Ron & Chicago Gretchen


Q. I also know she detects too. Is it true she’s a better detectorist than you

A. She does everything better than me except recover targets quickly. Just ask her! LOL She really does like detecting and has the spirit of what I call a true detectorist. Happy with any find, always picking up glass and other hazards on the beach. She comes with me on my England hunt for the last week of every hunt and she has a real respect for the old stuff and has yelled at me on many occasions for my blasé attitude about some of my finds. She has actually given me a better appreciation of some of what I use to consider the more mundane finds.


Q. Put your thinking cap on. What was your very first signal/find? Do you remember?

A. Being an old guy whose memory is not what it once was, this could have been a problematic question. Fortunately for everyone I was a record keeping GEEK! My first 3 months with the Microna 2001 I did not log my finds. However after I got the Whites machine I logged all of the better finds. My original log book goes from July 1983 until July 2003.  My first target was most likely a penny as I dug hundreds of then on the military base.


Q. Okay another hard one. What was your very first good or decent find, as in “keeper”?

A.. First good (keeper) was a silver ring with mother of pearl and some type of ore. I wore the ring for a couple of years until it broke.


Q. In the beginning did you concentrate on one particular treasure? i.e., did you hunt for coins, relics, jewelry…?

A. When I started it was everything. Coins, jewelry, relics and military items. I was just amazed at what was in the ground. Over the last 34 years I have been fortunate enough to be able to try my hand at most of the venues available in our hobby. Coinhunting in parks, water and beach hunting for jewelry, Civil war Relic hunting, Colonial artifact hunting, nugget detecting and panning for gold in Alaska and of course my greatest love hunting in England!

In the UK…


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

A. I found several silver coins with the Microna, the first was a 1945 Walking Liberty half. First silver coin with the whites was a 1963D rosie


Q. How long did it take you to find your first ring and can you describe it? Gold, silver, diamonds, etc…

A. See my answer above. My first gold ring (which I still have) was found in Jan 1984. Mens 14K ring with a garnet.


Q. I know you are a big water guy but when you hunt on land do you do a lot of research?

A. I don’t really research before the hunt anymore, but I use to do tons of research. When I was hunting the military base in California I went through the base newspaper archives looking for the old lost and found articles. Gave me lots of ideas of places to look for jewelry lost in the 40’s and 50’s. I actually did find one of the rings listed, a silver ring with onyx and diamond insert. Lost February 1st 1947 found October 29th 1983

Ron’s record of the black onyx ring find…


Q. I know this is hard but what would you consider to be your best find after all these years?

A. Other than the beautiful redhead that loves me like crazy and enjoys detecting?   Not sure this question has one answer, think I will take one from David Letterman and do a top 10 list. Here goes

#10- 22 gram gold nugget shaped like a terrier. (July 2012)

#9- 1689 William and Mary Gold Guinea. (October 2013)

#8- 1361-69 Edward III Gold quarter Noble. (October 2016)

#7- 17th Century gold Posy ring (true to thee I’ll ever be) (October 2015)

#6- Roman gold Bell, Hanging pendant/earring.

#5- 1950 HS ring return. 62 years lost. April 2012

#4- Gretchen’s Engagement ring. July 29 2012(one month after first date)

#3- Platinum ring with diamonds. (Oct 2007) that I wear as my wedding ring.

#2- Medieval Hawking Whistle 15 to 17th century. It was 1 of 2 known when found (March 2008)

#1- Bronze age gold bar 1000-600 BC. 11.7 grams 22k. (October 2013)

The Bronze Age gold….


Three more of Ron’ s top ten….l to r; Gretchen’s engagement ring, the gold Quarter Noble and the Medieval Hawking Whistle


Q. Okay what is your weirdest or strangest find?

A. My first year of hunting on the military base, I was looking for coins and jewelry in front of the chow hall. I got a good signal at 3 inches. Probed with my screwdriver and hit the target first probe. Started to move to the side to pop the item and hit it again. After probing around I realized it was about a 3 inch circular item. Making a slit and spreading the grass and see what looks like a thick piece of glass. I insert the screwdriver next to the item and pry it out of it resting place. In hand now I wipe the bottom of the glass disc and see a green liquid inside. Turn the item over and wipe the metal lid and read: US RADUIM CORP. Radioactive material DO NOT OPEN! I immediately dropped the item and decided to just walk the 2 blocks to the main gate and call the Officer of the day to turn the item in.


Q. Jeezus I hate to ask this but I will….what is your “oldest” find to date?

A. My good friend Dick Stout, he has been around forever! LOL.. Actually I have 2 finds from the bronze age, part of a socketed Axe head 750 BC and my bronze age gold bar 600 to 1000 BC. Bar was used as currency, before coinage. Shave marks indicate gold removed for payments.


with KG & Ringy


Q. I know you are a Minelab guy but what model(s) are you currently using and why?

A. I know everyone thinks I am a big Minelab guy, and I have and still do use a lot of Minelab machines. I actually am a use-the-best-machine-for-the-job-guy.  I was using the CTX-3030 in England but was having some issues with my elbow and swinging for 10 hours a day for 4 weeks straight was just killing me. I bought a Deus for Gretchen to use in England about 2 years ago and I tried it and was very happy with all aspects of the machine, and the fact that it weighs less than half of the Minelab I ended up buying one for myself. PS it is SOOO much easier to pack in a suitcase.

I currently use the Deus in England and on dry sand in Chicago (light weight, very good separation, depth and easy charge system).  Minelab Excalibur 2 in the water. (completely submersible, good battery life, multi tone, nice depth).  Minelab Explorer SE pro if I park or land hunt. I just know this machine well. I have dug Indians at 10+ inches in several parks here in Chicago. I can’t get that depth with any other machine.


Q. What is Gretchen using?

A. Gretchen got a XP Deus last year and she loves it! She uses it in England and to hunt the beaches here in Chicago. In fact yesterday she got her first beach gold a 14k ring with 3 small diamonds.

Gretchen with her first gold…14K with 3 small diamonds


Q. Can you share a few setup or tips on using these models?

A. For the XP deus in England, I mostly use the machine in a 17.7 khz program, detects smaller items and more depth for gold. The ability to make adjustments and save different programs is very easy to do, and quite helpful.  For all the Minelab machines, I always run manual sensitivity and run it as high as I can stand. You will hear more chatter but you can get some really deep stuff with practice. I usually run my sensitivity at manual 29 or 30 unless there is heavy iron or some interference.


Q. What accessories you are using….

A.I have tried most of the pin pointers on the market and I still have my Garrett 2 pin pointer (actually I have 3 of them), I love the shortened sensitivity range(easier to locate targets) simple push on and off with 1 touch. If you cover the speaker hole with electrical tape it is damn near waterproof.  A Stealth stainless steel scoop for the beach(water) supreme #550 break down scoop for the dry sand. Just have to be a little more delicate with this one. LOL


Q. When you are home in the windy city how often do you get out detecting?

A. I have slowed down over the last couple years, after leaving Dig Wars I was a little put off and detecting was not as much fun. Now that Gretchen has started going out with me on an almost daily basis I am having fun again. I think we will be hitting the beach hard this year.


Q. Do you pretty much concentrate your time in the water?

A. I usually start water hunting early in the year, but the cold water is a little harder on me than it once was. Just not use to it I guess. Lately it has been dry sand hunting, but I should be getting back in the water in the next couple weeks.


Q. To what do you attribute all your success hunting the water?

A. When I water hunt, I don’t choose which targets I will dig, I dig every repeatable signal above iron. If you have a multi-tone machine don’t skip some targets because you think it may be trash. You can dig 100 pull tabs and the next one you pass (because you are tired) is the gold you were looking for! One find can make or break your day in the water.

Ron’s gold finds from 2005 to 2012.


Q. You surely have a bucket list but given your yearly trips to the UK I can’t begin to imagine what’s on it, so go…

A.  There are loads of things I have not found yet!

US gold coin! Has to be top of the list
Celtic gold torc
Any colonial copper (will travel of course because they’re like hen’s teeth in Chicago)
Cap bust coin
Civil war belt plate US or CSA
Jar of coins (preferably gold). LOL


Q. What would your ideal detector look like?

A. I have always said that if they ever come out with an x-ray that will see shapes down to 12 inches I would buy it, no matter the cost! It would be like shooting fish in a barrel.


Q. Ron, your feelings about doing the “Dig Wars” show… If you could do it again and have control, what would you change, if anything?

A. I had a blast doing Dig Wars, the only problem was we had no control! Every tape session we tried to give information about proper detecting, and all that entails. The power that be decided it was not good TV. LOL

Time restrictions: We had 1 day to hunt the site and that was it. Several of the sites had so many targets we could have hunted for months. When it is not your permission you are stuck following someone else’s agenda. The producers are there to sell more shows not to support the hobby. I will be doing a project in the future but it will be filmed, edited and owned by me! I should be retiring in 2020 and then the fun will start.


Ron, Mark Slinkman, Larry Cissna, Mike Scott, Abby and Josh Silva….the cast of Dig Wars


Q. Have you given any thought about where this pastime will be ten, twenty years from now? Will we even have one?

A. I know this is one of your favorite topics so I will join you for a minute…..

When I was the president of the Chicago club (2002 to 2010) I tried to support the FMDAC by encouraging members to pay an extra 5 dollars to help support the FMDAC’s ability to lobby for our hobby. Some members pitched in for only a year or two, as they never felt it was doing any good. When the forest preserves in Cook County were closed to detecting about 4 years ago we tried to negotiate a permit system but the county just did not care.

We are scavengers to the rest of the world! Well to all except those whose rings we return, whose land markers we find, whose family heirlooms are returned, most times without thought of reward!


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

A. Fill your holes, take your trash, always get permission, never hunt parks when it is too hot or dry(over 80), return stuff if possible, have fun!

P.S. Please invite me to your favorite spot. LOL


Q. Curious….I know you firemen cook your own meals….do you have a specialty?

A. I use to cook at the firehouse, until I became the main driver of the truck about 8 years ago. I had several go to meals. Chicken Parmesan, Sweet baby rays meatloaf, spaghetti and meatballs and Sunday morning breakfast with eggs to order, ham steaks, French toast and hash browns.

Gretchen: Ron has the skills of a seasoned short-order cook, mad knife skills, and we love to cook together and try new recipes.


Q. Finally tell us about Gretchen’s new venture “Provenance Creations”…..whose idea was it and how is it going so far…

A. Gretchen has been going on my England hunts for 1 week per hunt, since shortly after we started dating in 2012. I believe the idea started when we made key chains with old English pennies from George the 1st, 2nd and 3rd as gifts for the guests at our wedding in February of 2015. She had been saying since then that she wanted to make jewelry from some of the items we had found.

Gretchen: It really started almost from my first trip. My righteous indignation with Ron’s blasé attitude toward the less glamorous finds culminated in a desire to give these items new life. I saw beauty and respected their history, as I fished them out of the trash bucket. Ha-ha, I’ll show you; these could be made into jewelry.

I started squirreling away the greenies, harness rings, 4-hole buttons. When it came time for our wedding, inspiration hit and we made our first foray into jewelry making. They key chains were a great way to share with out guests Ron’s (our) passion for history and detecting.

Finally in December 2016 I started making jewelry in earnest. I studied the craft, and researched all the artifacts. What I find truly delightful is when Ron and I are cleaning the items he gets renewed excitement and enthusiasm for these former blasé pieces. “Oh look, it’s a Charles II (or George III).” Finally he sees them as I do and it’s heartwarming (sorry for getting schmaltzy).

I really had no idea what she planned on doing with some medieval 7th to 16th and post medieval 15th-19th century harness rings, flat buttons 16th to 19th century and 4 hole buttons 17th to late 19th century. She really has an eye jewelry making and has put together some really cool pieces. She has also started using clay pipe stems we found on the shore of the river Thames in London.

Gretchen: I really love incorporating artifacts into something pleasing. I thought it would be difficult to part with the items, but I am truly happy to send them into the world and hope the recipient enjoys having their piece of history. TBT, there was one piece I imagined keeping for myself. When it sold I had an “Aw crap” moment, but continue to tell myself that the recipient will love it as much as I.


Thanks Ron (and Gretchen) for sharing….it was fun.

If you are interested in seeing a lot of neat finds be sure to visit Ron’s website ChicagoRon.com  

You will also find a few “Dig Wars” episodes on YouTube.

Click here if you are interested in joining Ron for a treasure hunting trip to the UK.

And if you are looking for a unique gift be sure to check out Gretchen’s Provenance Creations. Neat stuff! 


Coming soon…..Q  & A sessions with Jim Fielding and Jocelyn Elizabeth



Filed under Metal Detecting

14 responses to “Q & A with Chicago Ron…

  1. Paul Sampson

    Went on one of the Barn hunts a few years ago and had a great time Our group had finds from celtic gold to modern bits. I you get the chance to hunt England, go. Hunting a plowed field next to a Norman church will get your mind to time wandering. Good hunting yall.

  2. Hi Dick:
    I thoroughly enjoyed that interview. CR’s certainly a detecting icon and a great character. That photo of his gold finds just made a happy man very old!

  3. And so you know today (23rd) is Ron’s Birthday…..

  4. BigTony

    Happy Birthday Ron! Good interview Dick, keep em coming.

    I liked the Dig War shows, they were fun to watch. You spend plenty of time in England, are you planning on moving there?
    Getting over there and finding a cache or finding a cache here in the US are my dreams and on my next to do list. Thanks for the cool interview.

    • Tony, Ron & Gretchen are out and about and can’t access the comments section. He told me to relay the following….

      Gretchen and I have thought of moving to the UK after I retire although it would probably take one of us winning the lottery to do so LOL but it would definitely be an option if money were available

    • Here’s something to keep your hopes up Tony….

  5. BigTony

    Wow wow and wow thanks Dick I enjoyed that video of cashes! Now should I buy a Radio Shack and get out there? One question, how did they carry all that treasure back to thier cars? With help of course……

  6. Happy birthday to Chicago Ron, and many more! Once again, an amazing profile of a prolific detectorist/treasure hunter…and he has to WORK at the same time! Excellent interview Dick. I’m still working on mine…now I’m intimidated a bit after Ron’s account…he’s a hard act to follow for sure!

    • Jim he is indeed a tough act to follow but it’s not about who found more or who did what. It’s about you, the person, the stories you have to tell and the experiences you have to share. I’m looking forward to yours.

  7. Great interview Dick!

    I find these Q & A’s very interesting. Now I know everything there is to know about you Ron. I have one pressing question though: Everyone seems to owe Dick twenty dollars–Do you owe Dick twenty dollars too? And I don’t know how I missed this post, didn’t see it in my email, so Ron & Dick, I apologize for the late comments 🙂

    I remember the Cook County Saga. They did not care one bit about what the public, or anyone wanted. They just ignored us. We wanted to keep going with it, but then we couldn’t find another attorney who would even take it on.

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