Don Mituzas Q&A

Don Mituzas and a very happy gal after finding her engagement ring.

I’ve never met Don Mituzas in person. He is an online friend, detectorist and someone I respect. I’ve seen his responses to other TH’ers and they’re always polite, informative and helpful. His finds are outstanding and if you have a baffling coin question just ask Don! He’s the numismatic go to.

Lastly and surprisingly Don does not have any YouTube videos to promote, nor does he have an agenda. He’s just a guy who enjoys metal detecting. Can you imagine that!

Don, thanks very much for taking the time to do this….

Q&A WITH DON MITUZAS

Q. Don, 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 your valuables, etc….

A. I live in Brewster, New York, about an hour’s drive north of New York city.  I’m 64 years old and married for more than 25 years. I have 2 daughters adopted from Russia and have been there 4 times. One is a senior in high school and the other is in her first year of college. I’m a real estate broker so I’m basically self-employed which gives me a very flexible schedule to metal detect.

From L to R; Don’s wife Mary Jo, daughter Jenny, Don and daughter Valerie, circa 2015

 

Q. Does anyone else in the family detect?

A. I’m the only one in my family that metal detects.

 

Q. When exactly did you start detecting and what was your very first metal detector?

A. I started metal detecting in the late 70’s. I was passing by a Radio Shack and stopped in to get something for my CB radio. There in the clearance bin sat a beat frequency oscillator type metal detector for $10. I bought it.

 

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

A. I bought it because it was cheap and I had frequently thought about buying one.

 

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

A. In the beginning it was mostly school and church yards as well as parks. I started finding quite a few coins.

 

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

A. I don’t remember my first signal as the BFO detector picked up every single tiny piece of metal. 

 

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

A. I remember finding a silver Washington quarter, probably my first day out. At the time silver and gold were skyrocketing. Silver was pushing close to $50 an ounce. Silver quarters were worth a lot.

 

Q. Another brain test….how long did it take you to find your first silver coin and what was it?

A. The silver quarter I just mentioned.

 

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

A. My first ring was a 14k wedding band found on a soccer field in Purchase NY. It was found with a White’s 6DB. Didn’t find much gold then because there were so many pull tabs. If you turned up the discrimination enough to knock out the pull tabs you also knocked out the gold. These were the days when the pull tabs disconnected from the can and there were thousands of them everywhere.

 

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

A. Didn’t spend much time researching back then. Found an old park, Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx that was only 20 minutes away. Didn’t need to do much research after that. I found silver every time I went there. Lots of Barbers and Indians. Found my first Barber half-dollar there, it was the last coin out of the hole in a 17 coin pocket spill. Wish we had cell phones with cameras back then. It would have made a nice photo. Spill contained Barber quarters and dimes, standing liberty quarter, Merc dimes, V nickel and Indians. For some people it would have knocked half the coins off their bucket list. I still go to this park and found a spot there last year that I somehow missed. It was an area maybe 40’ x 120’ and I dug 27 pieces of silver from that small plot. Shows no place is ever hunted out.

Today I have a huge research and numismatic library…

Always need more reference books. Most of the books in this photo are coin books and auction catalogs.

 

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. Although I have a bunch of favorites, from a coin hunters perspective, the gold coin I found would have to be the best. It’s an 1871 British Gold Half Sovereign. It’s not a jewelry piece either. Finding a piece of gold jewelry with a gold coin in it is not nearly the same as finding a gold coin.

Don’s 1871 British Gold Half Sovereign

Although you only asked for the very best, I have to add another, it was a diamond engagement ring I found for someone last summer. She had lost it at a company picnic playing softball. She had at least 25 people looking for it that day without success. She went back to the spot over an over without any luck. She even bought a metal detector as well as going to the site with a rake and still couldn’t find it. After 4 days of looking, she did a search on the internet and found me. I went to the park and after about an hour and a half I located the ring. The expression on her face when I found the ring was worth all my previous finds put together. No other find had ever felt as good. Had a write-up in a local newspaper and we still stay in touch.

Don and a very happy Alexa O’Rourke

 

Q. Okay what is your weirdest find to date?

A. Weirdest find metal detecting was years ago when I found a chicken with it’s head cut off hanging from a tree. It was that same park in the Bronx. There were candles and other items around it. Either a Santeria or voodoo ritual from the night before.

 

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

A. Oldest find was 2 Indian kettle points found at a site that was occupied by Mohawk Indians prior to 1640.

 

Q. What is your “rarest” find?

A. Without question it would be the 1804 Large Cent.

1804 Large Cent

 

Q. Do you prefer hunting with others or are you a loner?

A. I enjoy hunting with other buddies as well as hunting alone. Given the choice, I’ll hunt with one of my detecting buddies.

 

Q. If you do go out with others who decides on where to detect?

A. I’m usually the one who decides where to detect. I’ve been detecting for close to 40 years and know the territory. I also spend a lot of time reviewing old maps looking for old sites. I’m also a real estate broker so I have access to tax records and can check and search for homes by year built. It helps a lot when door knocking.

A few of Don’s coin finds

 

Q. What detector are you using now and why?

A. I use the Minelab CTX 3030. Been using it for close to five years now. Started using it because I saw club members using it and making great finds. I’ve found more with this detector in the last 5 years then I had in the previous 30.

Q. Can you offer a few tips or settings?

A. I hunt using an open screen to limit discrimination. At certain areas I only dig deep signals as too much time can be wasted digging clad coinage.

 

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

A. I have several pin pointers and usually carry 2 when out in the field in the event one dies. I use a small garden shovel for my digging as I can dig very neat plugs with it. I also use a Lesche digging tool for getting a little deeper when necessary. I always wear a pouch to hold tools and to take out the trash I dig.

 

Q. How often do you get out detecting today?

A. I go out detecting several times a week in the nice weather. Weekdays are frequently by myself and weekends with buddies.

Don (far right) and members of the Putnam / Westchester Metal Detectorists & Archaeological Society

 

Q. Have you detected overseas at all?

A. I’ve never detected overseas, but would like to go on one of those trips to England. What great history over there.

 

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

A. Although I’ve found numerous Spanish silver coins from the 1700’s I’d really like to find some bust style silver coinage. The larger the size the better. An early quarter would be great as they are so rare. I collect early American copper coinage so I would love to find one of the early NY coppers like and excelsior copper, Clinton cent or Higley copper. These are really rare pieces, but they have come up from the ground. There are about a dozen known Clinton cents and 61 or 62 known Higleys.

A few ‘type’ coins that Don has found…

 

Q. What would your ideal detector look like?

A. Light weight, long rechargeable battery life, superior target separation/discrimination. Display screen would include depth and target ID.

 

Q. What advice would you give to someone just starting out?

A. For someone starting out, I would find a club in the area to join. I’m president of a local club with about 80 members, many with decades of experience. It can be a real asset. We also organize club hunts and it gives them an opportunity to dig some really old items. At one of our club hunts the members dug 37 coppers, all dated between 1697 and 1788.

Don found this outstanding Standing Liberty quarter on a now defunct golf course…

 

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

A. You can’t find old coins where they don’t exist. Find old maps online and locate old sites that had activity. There are some web sites that overlay old maps on new ones to help zero in. If you find a house on an old map, go knock on the door and ask permission. Most of my detecting is done on private property with permission. Found my first King William copper from the 1600’s last year by knocking on the door of a house built in 1685 and getting permission. Found not one, but two Fugio coppers last year by knocking on doors. Go slow and expect to dig some trash. Although my gold coin wasn’t the perfect signal for a gold coin, it was showing 7” deep and repeatable. Glad I dug it.

 

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15 Comments

Filed under Metal Detecting

15 responses to “Don Mituzas Q&A

  1. Donnie Bailey

    GREAT article! Don is a class act!

  2. DougF

    Nice interview – Don, I see the Minelab hat – what is your current main detector?

  3. John Howland

    Hi Dick:
    Fascinating stuff alright. But where? How did that half-sovereign come to light. Great find.

  4. Excellent interview Dick! Don is a detectorist after my own heart, although a pretty young guy, he’s found quite a bit of nice stuff in a historic area…good luck for more finds and good weather, Don!

  5. Great interview Dick. Hoping to finally get to that clubs meeting tonight.

  6. Danny

    Don , is an incredibly knowledgeable numismatist especially on early colonial and federal era coins and has collaborated with some of the greats in that field , he will often and unselfishly share his expertise to anyone . A true gentleman and friend !

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