A Q&A with Joe Patrick

Joe Patrick

Those of you who frequent my blog should know the name Joe Patrick by now. He’s an old friend and also from the era of no frills, no BS detecting.  If after reading this Q&A you have questions, technical or otherwise, ask away in the comments section and Joe will respond. 

Thanks Joe for sharing your experience and expertise once again….


Q. Joe, if you don’t mind tell us a little about yourself, i.e., where do you live, are you married, what do you do for a living, where do you keep you keep your gold, etc….

A. I live near Pittsburgh, PA and am a life-long resident of the Jefferson Hills area. Pittsburgh is a great region to live, work and metal detect and no longer has or deserves the “Smokey City” moniker and reputation that it once held. I truly wouldn’t want to live anywhere else… although I wish we had better roads!

I am married… almost 44 years now to my lovely wife Karen. We met in high school. It’s been a great life together, of course with its ups and downs, but we have endured and are now the happiest, most appreciative and most satisfied that we have ever been… two incredible children and seven grand children help to keep us young and active.

Joe and Karen

I am currently retired with plenty of projects and things to do. I love retirement! Most of my 40+ year working career was spent as an electronic printed circuit designer but I have done many things from being a janitor, cookware salesman, heavy equipment operator, TV repairman, auto-parts salesmen, electronics technician, quality-assurance and service manager, self-employed business owner, hearing aid technician, and much, much more. I wouldn’t trade my work and life-experience for anything!

Where do I keep my gold? Being neither a prospector nor much of a water hunter I don’t have much gold to keep. Seriously though, I sold-off a bunch of it several years ago when gold was around $900 an ounce. I thought I had made a killing, and did, but little could I predict where the price of gold was headed.


Q. Does anyone else in the family detect?

A. When my father was still living I introduced him to the hobby of metal detecting; that was back in the late 1980’s. He loved it and did well for himself. He was retired and in his 60’s at the time. He was in his mid 80’s and still regularly swinging his beloved Garrett GTA-1000. My older brother detects a little. My wife well-tolerates my detecting but has no interest in it otherwise. I have introduced metal detecting to many of my friends.


Q. About what time did you start detecting and what was your very first metal detector?

A. I began seriously detecting in the early 1980’s but played around with it in the early 70’s up to the late 70’s with a home-built B.F.O. detector that I made. About 1980, I built a Heathkit detector and used it for a while until I purchased my first, truly “professional” metal detector, a Garrett ADS II in 1982.


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

A. I didn’t know very much about metal detecting then so I would have to say it was the great Garrett advertisements and brochures that helped me decide to go with the ADS II. Unlike today, I purchased it from a local “mom & pop” part time metal detector “basement” dealer. The ADS II was a fantastic detector that helped me to find a lot! Some days, I wish that I still had the ADS II. It wasn’t deep in the discriminate mode, but it sure worked well otherwise and I loved the 6-function ADS Master Control switch functionality. Plus I knew its operation and “language” extremely well.


Q. In the beginning where did you concentrate your time? What areas?

A. I wish that I knew back then what I know now for I may have chosen better, much older, historic places to detect. There were so many old and untouched places available to detect then, but I mainly stuck to the old parks and school grounds. They were available, open to detecting, had easy access and had a lot of coins and stuff to find. So why go anywhere else? I found a ton of coins, rings and other items and rarely ever saw another detectorist. Today, it is vastly different!

A young Joe Patrick


Q. What was your very first signal/find? Do you remember?

A. I can tell you exactly what it was as I have kept a finds log since the beginning and for all of these many years. It was a 1962-D Roosevelt dime found in back yard of my parent’s home.


Q. And what was your very first good or decent find, as in keeper.

A. It was in 1982 and I was using the Garrett ADS II in the woods near an old local cemetery. Searching through the heavy Myrtle ground cover I heard a strong, “solid” signal. Upon retrieval, it was a large, round, slightly blackened disk that turned out to be a very nice 1915-D Barber Half Dollar. Up to that point, I had found many coins and items. Lots of silver too, but the 1915-D half dollar was my first noteworthy discovery – you never forget when and where you find “big silver”. Not long after that, in the same general location, I found an 18?? counterstamped large cent.


Q. If you can remember how long did it take you to find your first silver coin and what was it?

A. It was a 1962-D Roosevelt dime I just mentioned.


Q. Hate to keep asking these questions of you old geezers but how long did it take you to find your first ring and what type of ring was it?

A. That’s an easy one… it was my brother’s lost high school class ring that I found in my parents front yard in 1981, using my friend John’s then new Bounty Hunter RB-10 metal detector. The ring had been missing for many years and we never knew what had happened to it. Imagine our surprise! Since then, I have found many gold and silver rings.


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

A. No, not really. As I said previously, there were so many untouched easily available places to detect then that it never occurred to me to do any research. It wasn’t until maybe five or six years into the hobby that I begin to list some potential sites that I had heard about or came across in reading. Later in my detecting career, I began to do a lot of research and now have much information on file. Today it is critically important to do research.

My research sources were/are all-encompassing… books, magazines, newspapers, libraries, senior citizens, maps, field work, old photographs and postcards, etc. The Internet now makes research so much easier. But competition is very keen today even for places that are off of the beaten path and one’s that you might think or assume have never been detected before.


Q. What would you consider to be your very best find after all this time, and yes I know it’s hard to choose just one?

A. I think for me it would be the 1794 US cent and 1794 US half cent that I found in a nearby local park. They are also historically significant as they were found very near to an historic colonial homestead that had major significance during the 1794 Whiskey Insurrection of Western Pennsylvania.

1794 Cent & Half Cent

George Washington’s troops were called-in to “put down” the rebellion and were encamped for a time near the property and throughout southwestern Pennsylvania. I fully believe these two coins were lost by his troops. A few years ago, due to their historic significance, I donated both coins to the Oliver Miller Homestead.


Q. Okay what is your weirdest find to date?

A. Well, there are several that quickly come to mind. One, is a broken 3-part class ring that I found in a local park. Detecting one day, I heard and retrieved a target that turned out to be a broken 1960 10K high school class ring. The front section was intact but the band portion was missing. Re-scanning the hole, I heard another small signal and retrieved a larger portion of the broken band. Scanning additionally, nothing more was heard and thus I covered-over the hole and moved on.

Later that week, I was thinking about the ring and wondered if the last remaining piece might still be in the hole or nearby. I decided to go back and use the most powerful and sensitive metal detector that I had at the time, a 13.77 KHz Compass X-100. Using the Compass, I quickly found the very small last-remaining piece of the broken ring. Amazing! Why the ring was in three perfectly fitting broken pieces remains a mystery to me. I wish that I would have kept that ring, but I sold it with my gold stash a few years ago. Fortunately, I still have a photo of it.

It is interesting to note that the same X-100 helped me to find a gorgeous, mint- condition 1833 US Half Dime in another heavily searched location. The X-100 was a fantastic overall, but heavy, metal detector that was especially effective at locating small gold and silver.

Weirdest find number two has to be the micro-miniature “coin” that I found.I was detecting one day and heard a slight but “solid” repeatable signal. Digging a few inches I removed and scanned the dirt but could not find the target. I kept looking and scanning and still could not see what the target was. Finally, I saw a very small earth-colored copper disk about the diameter of a pencil eraser. Carefully examining it, I was shocked to see the profile head of Abraham Lincoln – it was an exact replica micro-miniature copper cent!

Another weird find is a Wheat cent with a precisely hollowed-out reverse side that a dime could be inserted into – I think it may have been used to perform a magic coin trick.


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

A. I believe the 1794 coins mentioned previously qualify, although I have some badly worn colonial coins with partially readable or totally unreadable dates that are certainly older. I would have to go through them to see, but I currently don’t have them available to check.


Q. What detector are you using at the moment and why?

A. Currently my main detector is still my trusty old Minelab Sovereign of which I am a huge fan of and have been ever since its introduction 25+ years ago. Recently, I acquired a Garrett AT-MAX which I have been using and learning. I also have an old Pillar 4 that I use occasionally. Metal detectors regularly come and go at my home. I like trying, using and experimenting with all metal detectors, so I tend to “go through” a lot of them constantly. At one time, not that many years ago, I owned 15 different metal detectors! Since then I have downsized. Within the past few years I have owned a couple of E-Tracs, an XP Deus, Tesoro Compadre, Minelab Sovereign XS, Teknetics 8500 and two Mark I’s and some others. Over the years I have owned and used just about every popular metal detector made. All have their pros and cons. My best advice is to find the one that works best for yourself and then learn to use and stick with it as long as possible. There is no perfect metal detector!

But, the Minelab Sovereign is truly, in my opinion and field-proven experience, the best overall, all-around metal detector that I have ever used! It is extremely productive, a very effective and accurate discriminator with excellent target ID, exceptional iron discrimination, smooth operating and handles most ground mineralization quite well. I have found nothing that I like better for land and beach hunting or have more confidence in using. It is bulky and heavy though! I hip-mount mine. How I wish that Minelab would re-introduce it in a more modern design that is lighter weight with a more resolute target ID and more operating options… just don’t change the sound or the easy, basic way that it operates. If Minelab were to ask, I could tell them exactly what I would love to see in a new Sovereign as I have now used one for over 25 years.

I still have great respect for Tesoro metal detectors of which I have owned and used most models of. They are well-built, compact and lightweight, reliable, easy and fun to use, effective and reasonably priced. They are truly worthwhile for anyone to own and use. I (and many others) have found a lot of good stuff using Tesoro metal detectors and I plan to own an Outlaw or older Bandido II Umax very soon as I prefer basic type detectors for “woods” hunting. I also very much liked the Tesoro Cortes that I once had. Back in the early and mid 1980’s I sold Tesoro metal detectors exclusively (before I later became a multi-line dealer). Many of my friends still use them. My father started-out using a Tesoro Inca and one of my earliest Tesoros was a Toltec 100.

In the early days Joe had a shop

All of the metal detector companies today are producing fantastic metal detectors! Most models provide performance and features that were only dreamt of back when I first began detecting. Most important, is finding the one detector that you like and that works well for you and then sticking with it… you will do well. There are just too many brands and models for me to fully, or even partially, critique and recommend in this short interview.


Q. Can you offer a few tips or settings?

A. Well, settings vary greatly by brand and model. As it has been said over and over again, use only as much discrimination as needed and keep the sensitivity as high as possible. Also, I think too many detectorists do not take full advantage of the all-metal mode which usually provides the most depth, no target masking and is a great aid in analyzing sites for what’s in the ground and what possible items might be found.

Another tip is that once a coin or other worthwhile item is found do not move away from that area too soon as often more items can be found. Search around for a while until you are certain that no other items remain.


Q. When you do go detecting what accessories do you use?

A. I am a very basic person and detectorist. Typically, of course, I use headphones always. For 95% of my “digging” I use a large-bladed hunting knife, a small hand trowel and a small 2-pocket military pouch for finds and trash… that’s it. A few years ago, I purchased a handheld pinpointer and while I like it I am so used to pinpointing without one that I often leave it at home as it is just one more item to carry afield and adds weight and bulk to my already heavy metal detecting belt – especially, if I am using my hip-mounted Sovereign. I rarely use a digging shovel as it doesn’t belong in any park or manicured site in my opinion. So I only use one for woods and field searches.

I also never leave home without my cell phone. I do not detect alone in remote places, always having a partner or two as backup.


Q. I know you and Bob Sickler used to be joined at the hip but how often do you two get out detecting today?

A. Due to the long distance that we live from each other we don’t get out detecting together – something that we both very much regret. But we do keep each other updated on our individual outings and equipment. We are best friends and talk and correspond often. In 1996, we detected one of the best locations that I have ever searched. I invited Bob down to join me for that hunt. Over the five years that I detected that spot you would just not believe the quantity and quality of finds made. 1000’s upon 1000’s of old coins, buttons and other artifacts. When Bob came down for a 1-day hunt we both found handfuls of good items and had a great time!

Joe and Bob

Even though I am now retired, I don’t detect anywhere near as much as I used to as sadly, I have lost too many of my detecting partners over the past few years. A couple of other guys that I detect with are still employed and can only go out on weekends. I do not like to detect alone but do so occasionally. So when I do go out now I try to make the outings really count.


Q. You surely have a bucket list. Care to share it?

A. Keeping healthy is my #1 on the list for without it… well, you know the rest. Two items on my list would be to find a gold coin and a George Washington inaugural button. In almost 40 years of detecting, both have eluded me. I would also like to find some very early pre-1800 US silver coins and I have a special place in my heart for US type coins, old tokens and coal scrip which I do find occasionally.


Q. Given your technical background I probably shouldn’t ask this but what would your ideal detector look like?

A. So, you just had to ask! Hum… that is a somewhat difficult question to answer completely. A full response would take many hours of discussion and consideration. A quick first and general response is that it might be very similar to a Minelab E-Trac or even an old Garrett GTA but weighing much less (3 lbs or less) and with good overall balance. It most likely would be a multi-frequency detector design. Absolutely though it must have wireless headphones with good battery life! A large, highly visible display is a must with good brightness, contrast and backlighting. I think too that the best pole designs that I have ever used are the XP Deus and Minelab’s E-Trac type detectors. So far, I am not a big fan of the small “cell phone” style vertically-oriented detector housings, much preferring a somewhat larger horizontally-oriented rectangular or square control box such as the Garrett AT-MAX, E-Trac and many other current and past detectors – because I prefer large, easily readable ID numbers and operating text, icons and controls. I guess that I am “old school” on this.

I am not a fan of large search coils and would prefer that metal detectors came with about an 8” or 9” search coil and not the larger ones that most detectors have today – offer the large coils as an accessory purchase item. With that said, I prefer widescan coils for most of my detecting and I really like the smaller oval widescan designs of about 5”x8” or so – certainly nothing more than 5”x10” maximum.

Oh, and I absolutely hate and detest VCO pinpointing audio! I can tolerate it on the Sovereign, but most VCO’s, to me, are just too “squawky”, “cry-baby sounding”, penetrating and highly annoying. Give me smooth single-tone modulated pinpointing audio and I am a “happy camper”. I personally wish that VCO pinpointing was never invented! Why the current detector manufacturers insist on it as a must-have “feature” is beyond me. I view it as an audio and signal distortion and annoyance and detriment that has personally prevented me from buying and owning several of today’s “best” top-end metal detectors because they only have VCO pinpointing. At least give us detectorists the option to select either VCO or standard single-tone smooth-modulated pinpointing audio. Please!


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

A. Foremost is to very well learn the detector that you have, no matter the brand or model! I had a detecting friend many years ago that used a basic two-knob factory ground balanced Tesoro Silver Sabre – the original model. He found an unbelievable amount of coins and good stuff with it! It was the only metal detector that he ever owned or used, but he knew it well. He used to “thumb” the discrimination control and used it as a form of target ID. He was amazing with that detector, and it only had a 7” searchcoil! Now, think about that.

Second, is to have or develop the personal traits of patience and persistence for they will serve you very well in this hobby. Do your own research and detect as often as possible. All will contribute to great finds and will help to keep the metal detecting fire brightly-burning within you for years to come!

Thanks Dick for the opportunity presented by this Q&A session. I cannot begin to thank you enough for all that you have done for the hobby and industry over the years and currently. Your web site is one of my favorites and you are certainly one of a kind who tells it like it is or at least, how you see it. For that I say thank you!

Joe  also did a guest post back in July of 2014 that included links to YouTube interviews he gave to the Time Searchers (good stuff).




Filed under Metal Detecting

16 responses to “A Q&A with Joe Patrick

  1. Jim

    Great interview Dick I enjoy hearing from one of our local friends in the hobby

  2. Bob Sickler

    Yes, Joe and I have been best friends since we met. We have such identical interests, skills and past history we often joke somebody ran away with one of the “twins” at birth. We talk almost daily by phone and email and it kills me that we can’t hunt together regularly, but that may change if I can ever fully retire someday. Joe is a precious friend and a real honest, generous, and straightforward person. We co-authored a book together in the 90’s titled, “Metal Detecting Advice & Tips” which unfortunately never got promoted as well as it should have been. We both have been concerned about the future of metal detecting for years and we have done as much as we could to teach responsibility to the beginner in our writings.

    One thing I really miss from that day hunting together was my thick, dark hair and beard! 🙂

  3. Tony

    Very interesting interview. Pittsburg is filled with history as a friend who recently moved there tells me all the time. Now as for hearing aids; good to have a friend that knows them and metal detecting.

  4. GREAT interview, thank you!!

    Question for Joe: You said, “I prefer basic type detectors for ‘wood’ hunting.” What, specifically, are you referring to when you say “basic,” and why this preference.

    Thought for Bob Sickler, above: If you don’t like the way your book was promoted, hopefully the contract you signed with the publisher had a rights reversion clause (most have one as part of the “boilerplate” content), stating something to the effect that if they allow it to go out of print (and having it only in eBook format does not count as “in print” legally for books originally published traditionally), after six months, you can reclaim the copyright to your manuscript (not the book package itself, that will always be your publisher’s property) and republish it yourself.

    If you need help doing so, check out my website at IndieNavigator.com — I can help you do that without losing your pants financially or getting caught up in scams. After all, you already did all that work writing it — shouldn’t you be able to continue enjoying some profits from it, as well?

    Good luck, you guys! And thanks for so generously sharing your knowledge.

    • Bob Sickler

      Hi Mary… Thank you for your insight and suggestions, but both my books were self published and self-copyrighted. The second book co-authored with Joe was short lived because we both did not have the extra finances to afford a second printing and support advertising. So we left it at that with the first printing sold out and never endeavored to promote it further. Shame too, because the book was filled with photos of interesting finds and “advice and tips” from the both of our combined 80+ years field experience. The crowd today probably prefers video to reading and turning pages, so anything rekindled might be again short lived!

      • Bob, you no longer have to invest more than $30 to make your book available in print nearly the world over. Please contact me through my Indie Navigator site so I can help you rejuvenate your book. And I must thoroughly disabuse you of the notion that everyone in our hobby no longer reads books. If that were true, I wouldn’t have had my first $4,000 month ever in December for book sales. It’s all good news — let’s make you part of that again! You will be VERY pleasantly suprised at how very little it costs now to get back in the game, I promise. 🙂

  5. Joe Patrick

    Thank you for your reply and comments. I assume that you are in the hobby and know that there are various types of metal detecting styles and places to detect eg. beach hunting, prospecting, relic hunting etc. I am mostly a land coin and relic hunter. For most of my metal detecting, I prefer a top-end metal detector with all of the bells and whistles – visual and tonal target ID, ground tracking and much more. I refer to “woods hunting” as searching once active wooded areas, old home sites and other such forgotten places that also might require some hiking to get to. For these types of locations I prefer a basic no frills metal detector as I dig all good-sounding signals and do not really need target or tone ID but instead prefer to use a very lightweight (under 3 lbs), compact and comfortable metal detector. Western Pennsylvania has a lot of hills and valleys and the wooded sites can contain a lot of underbrush, weeds and such. Swinging a top-end 4-5 pound metal detector gets heavy after a while compared to a 2-pound Tesoro uMax or my featherweight 1 ½ pound custom hip-mount Pillar 4 – especially when “powering through” weeds and brush and scanning up and down along hillsides. My Troy Shadow X2 is also perfect for this style of hunting. So for woods hunting it’s basically a lightweight “beep and dig” detector for me.

    • Joe, thanks! This is great info, and since I spent all my summers in south-central PA (Huntingdon County), I would like very much to get back there and dig all those places in the Allegheny foothills I knew so well. This info will come in really handy for that.

  6. Hi Joe:
    Nice interview. The 1794 US cent and 1794 US half cent are fascinating finds with strong historical connections.

    BTW, I have a certain sympathy with those whiskey rebels!


  7. David Frazier

    Hi Joe, Do you still do the meter mod on the Sovereign GT/Elite ?
    I have one of each if you are doing the mods.
    Thanks David Frazier

  8. Alex

    Greetings! I am also interested in this mod for the Sovereign. In that case, I repeat the previous user’s question to Joe Patrick: Do you still do the meter mod on the Sovereign GT / Elite?

  9. Joe Patrick

    David & Alex, I am quite sorry to say that I no longer do the Insight meter mod’s or build the Patriot Target A.I.M. Pro meters. Mostly, I just go out metal detecting now and I am still healthy and having a ball being retired!

  10. Ok, but anyway, thanks for your intelligible answer Joe! Then I wish you good health, many more years, and beautiful signals under the coil!

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