To Sell or Not to Sell?


Then by all means do it. No need to feel guilty. Your finds are yours to deal with how you see fit. Yes our archaeologist friends love to say we’re only in it for the money but remember they’re also fond of calling us opportunists, thieves, looters and even grave robbers so ignore them. YOUR property is none of THEIR business.

I’m not sure why but it seems every article about or interview with a detectorist always has the obligatory proclamation “I never sell any of my finds”.  Why do we feel the need to say that and more importantly is there something wrong with selling things we’ve found?  Are ‘sell’ and ‘profit’ dirty words?

While my in the field forays have dwindled of late I’ve been detecting for over 40 years and have found a boatload of stuff, ALL of it legally. Have I sold any of it? You bet!  Way back in 1979 I took advantage of the Hunt brothers manipulation of the silver market and sold a few rolls of common date silver quarters and dimes for a neat profit. Then a few years later I sold a 1796 large cent (“Liherty” error) on Ebay in order to catch up on a few bills. I regret neither transaction.

1796 “Liherty” error Large Cent…..

The serious detectorist today works hard for little monetary return. They invest in their equipment, spend a great deal of time researching and often travel great distances, all in hopes of finding something/anything of interest and more often than not are happy if they come home with an old coin, interesting relic, gold ring, old button, buckle or utensil. They do it for the thrill of the search, the excitement of the unknown but never with the thought of selling what they find.

Detectorists find archaeological sites, return lost rings, assist the police, clean up trash, share and display their finds, donate them to museums, give talks to various groups and dammit if we want to sell something we’ve found we have every right to do it!

Yes people get interested in metal detecting because they want to find ‘valuable’ things. Do they have dreams of finding a hoard or legendary treasure? Absolutely and when they stop dreaming of that they might as well pack it in and find another hobby. On the other hand how many get rich or for that matter how many even pay for their equipment?  I think I can safely say hardly anyone!

So if you’ve been tempted to sell a few of those gold rings (gold is currently $1,340.00 per oz.) or that key date silver half, do it and don’t feel guilty. Forget the great sounding catch phrases, sound bites and the need to come off holier than thou.  Hell I was “saving history” before many of you were born and you know what? What I’ve found is mine and I will do what I damn well please with it! Happy Hunting!


Karl von Mueller is Alive and Well….

…thanks to Randy Bradford…

I finally got my copy of  “Exanimo Looks at Books”, volume one of what will be a four book set of Karl von Mueller’s writing from the old National Prospectors Gazette. Randy Bradford has worked hard to gather information from many sources including Paul Tainter and Karl’s daughter LouAnn.

Volume 1 deals with the various treasure publications that Karl reviewed in the NPGs (sadly a reminder of how many books I lost in the tornado).  Randy has informed me that Volume II (“Ask Exanimo columns”) is almost ready to go to the printers and that volume III will consist of Karl’s “feature articles” . Volume IV will be “Tips for Prospectors and the Dowsing columns”….

If you are old enough to remember the National Prospector’s Gazette and Karl von Mueller I highly recommend you add Randy’s book(s) to your collection.

While the audio quality is not all that good here is an interview Randy gave, discussing his efforts….


Reference Books for Sale

Paul Tainter has also informed me that he is culling and selling some of his reference library….no mean feat given it’s size. If you are interested in receiving a list of titles email Paul at Paul at one time published the National Prospector’s Gazette and currently authors the “Treasure Hunter’s Express’.


Be sure to subscribe to John Howland’s new site….it will give him a reason to pour another.




Filed under Metal Detecting

21 responses to “To Sell or Not to Sell?

  1. Hi Dick,

    It’s great to see a detectorist who is not swayed by archaeological brainwashing! Some archaeologists lure people into not selling their finds because they fear the collector. The reason being that a specialist collector will amass far more information about their specialty than any archaeologist could ever hope to achieve from excavating sites. The same will be true for many dealers whose reputation and success depends on their knowledge.

    Detectorists who sell finds contribute to our knowledge in many ways: a lot of dealers maintain public archives of their stock which can be accessed by anyone who knows how to use Google whereas academic publications are priced very high and are seen mainly by academics who want to further their careers; specialists often pay far more than nonspecialists so selling by auction can be a good choice for the detectorist; The detectorist can provide information about the location of the find which will aid in creating distribution patterns. This need not be very specific because a location within a few miles is usually adequate. I suggest saying something was found “near [the closest town]”. That way, the detectorist will know that no one is likely to find their favorite spot.

    Being a specialist and a collector, I often give advice to detectorists about good places to look in their area and identify finds for them. In return, they often present me with samples from a site find that I can study further and I share that information with them as well as making it public through my blog.

    After a while, many detectorist/collectors will form their own specialties and I also advise them on purchases. I never bid on any item that a collaborating collector asks me about if they are also going to bid. In return, they often tell me about things that they are not planning to buy but that I am interested in.

    If you devote time, effort and money, then there is nothing wrong with profiting from that. Who would deny a farmer or a craftsman from making a living from their knowledge and their work? There is something wrong, though, with having information available only to the academic elite.



    • John not sure why but most detectorists think it’s sacrilegious to sell anything they find. Maybe they think it will tarnish their image. I never intended to sell anything but when I did it was for all the right reasons and I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again if the need arises.

      As for the archaeologist… I gave my time to help them and tried over and over to have a dialogue back in the 80’s. I’m no longer interested in how they perceive us. They’re academics in their minds only.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment and share your thoughts. They’re appreciated.

    • John Howland

      “There is something wrong, though, with having information available only to the academic elite.” Absolutely on the nail John.

      As this information is becoming more widely available, written about, and disseminated by Joe Public, academic ‘elitism’ so-called, is at last eroding.

      • Me thinks the word “academic” needs to be struck from the English language/vocabulary. Alludes to some sort of superior or holier than thou and we know that’s not true given the likes of the ass in Warsaw.

  2. Stan

    My view has changed on this subject over the years as I’ve turned from an idealist to a realist in recent years. I see nothing wrong with selling your finds. I have done it several times and will probably do it again shortly, I’ve recently sold property (land) in which I’m told they stopped production many years ago, in order to build my (rest of my life) home. I’ve realized One can’t take their finds with them when they graduate this life, on top of that regardless what we each want to believe, it’s very rare family members will appreciate the find as we do. They don’t look at the find and remember the exhilaration of pulling it from the ground, the coolness of the air or the perfection of the day it was found. There are some, but few. If someone buys it from you, at least it has value to them and isn’t just “neat”.

    • Stan thank you. You added another dimension to my comments that I hadn’t really thought about when you said “it’s very rare family members will appreciate the find as we do”….and it’s true. I think we look at our finds and most always remember where, when and how we found it. That’s personal and not something that can be passed on. Appreciate that very much….

  3. heavymetalnut

    I have only sold a couple things one being my 1st Large Cent a beautiful 1803 Draped Bust Large Cent.Do I regret it now? You bet I do! Cuz what it got me back in 1991 was $30 and i drank and pissed that money right away in one night. Glad I don’t drink anymore! On a more serious note,I don’t really sell my finds now because I get pretty attached to most of my finds. When I pick up that relic it brings me back to the day I dug it and the thoughts come back who held this last when it was lost or discarded. I’m sure some day I will sell off my finds as my pine box won’t be big enough to hold it all with my fat arse in it. Some day it will be rainy day money when I’m retired. Good topic Dick!

    • “Some day it will be rainy day money when I’m retired….” Good point Dave and in the case of my large cent sale it was a rainy day. I had bills that I couldn’t pay. The money I got was a big help.

      I also think being primarily a coin hunter I didn’t feel the “I wonder who held this last”….

      Thanks Beanie

  4. There is nothing morally wrong in selling one’s finds, absolutely nothing at all. Finding and selling finds is a wholesome practice enabling collectors to re-invest in their collections. There’s only one
    caveat as I see it, and that is to report finds – providing the landowner/farmer has no objections – to the appropriate body, in the UK that’s the Portable Antiquities Scheme via a local Finds Liaison Officer. Currently, the PAS has over 1,337,703 detector-found objects on its database.

    This gives the ‘find’ a provenance when selling it on, proving it’s a legally found item. This can also add value and shows the seller is above board. I wouldn’t want to see our pastime degenerate to the state of archaeology where hundreds of thousands of objects from archaeological excavations are languishing unrecorded in storerooms across the country.

    As for that James Mellart, I wonder how widespread his dubious practices are amongst some arkies, or, was he a one-off? As for faking evidence we know a couple who deal in ‘fake news’ when it comes to denigrating Tekkies.

    I’ll take a cheque for $20 BTW.

    • “As for faking evidence we know a couple who deal in ‘fake news’ when it comes to denigrating Tekkies.” Would that be Wally and Harry, a.k.a. Null and Void?

      The check is in the mail!!

  5. Tony

    Interesting post. I have sold silver coins back to the club so they could use them in a club hunt. I felt I was doing the right thing back then. I also remember some folks telling me I was wrong. But if we can not share our crazy hobby with others then to me it’s not fun anymore. If I do find a rare coin (which I haven’t yet) I will sell it because my family members aren’t interested. I have found that the grandkids like finding large shiny tokens (that I plant for them) when we go to the beach. That scene makes everyone in the family enjoy the day much more when the kids scream…..pop I found treasure!

    • Hi Tony, think Stan hit on that part about leaving coins to your family. We enjoyed the fun and excitement finding them but when we’re gone I suspect there will be a “Where do we sell these things” meeting…. Maybe I’m wrong.

      Hope you and your family are doing well. Have a glass of red for me…

  6. Joe

    Gold means nothing to me, unless it’s a family heirloom type of piece that’s been inscribed, is an obvious antique, or something along these lines, in which case I’d cherish it for as long as I could, if the owner couldn’t be tracked down. If it’s just a generic piece of gold however, off it goes straight to the refinery! Sold all of my gold finds from beach hunting piecemeal, as they were dug over the years.

    Coins and relics on the other hand are completely different. It would be EXTREMELY difficult for me to part with any of them. First, due to the historical nature of the items. There is a story behind every coin and every relic we dig, which makes them special. True, there are surely stories behind gold items, too, but as I’m in this hobby mainly for the history, unless a piece of gold is at least 75 to 100 years old, it’s simply an expensive metal to me, nothing more.

    Second, I’ve dug a lot more coins and relics than gold over the years. Each coin and relic represents a hole that had to be dug, by me, on my hands and knees, in the coldest of weather, or the hottest of days. Each coin and relic represents time away from my family, friends, other responsibilities, etc. Each coin and relic represents hours upon hours upon hours in the field, where junk by the bucketful had to be dug, before they could be found. That’s a big investment. Of time.

    The small price I’d get by selling a coin or relic cannot even come close to making up for the investment of my time (which like everyone else’s on this earth, is finite). Nor can it come close to equaling the enormous historical value (and story) each piece has to tell.

    If it was a choice between eating and my coins and relics, or paying the rent or my coins and relics, well, life comes first, and the finds would have to go. But it would kill me. Anything short of the worst case financial disaster however (or death), and nothing will come between me and my coins and relics.

    That’s my opinion though, and everybody has their own. I don’t begrudge anyone who DOES sell their finds, as to each their own. I don’t judge because I could be in another’s shoes one day. As much as I don’t like selling coins and relics, I can assure you that if I ever found something enormously valuable, and was offered hundreds of thousands for it…bye bye! So, I guess each of us has our price, at the end of the day. But to buy my time and the historic pieces I’ve managed to find over the years, that price would have to be pretty damn high.

    My collection will be left to my son when I leave this world, and I hope he will cherish it, and appreciate it, as much as I do. Even if only as keepsakes to remember me by…to act as memories. If they wind up in the pawn shop, so be it. But that won’t happen before I bite the dust 😉

    • Well stated. Thanks Joe.

      Interesting to hear everyone’s take on this subject…and each has offered good points. I do think however that the “I never sell anything I find” mantra is said as a defensive reaction. i.e, I do this for the history and not for the money. JMO.

  7. njfella007

    “I do think however that the “I never sell anything I find” mantra is said as a defensive reaction. i.e, I do this for the history and not for the money. JMO.”

    Dick, in all honesty, if I did this for the money, I’d be living on a freeway exit holding a tin cup.

    Years ago, between jobs, I actually bought batteries for my detector so I could scratch the itch to hunt, instead of breakfast and lunch. It was a lean period.

    My buddies rib me about it all the time – but this is true. You know you’ve got a treasure hunting addiction when your metal detector is worth more than your car! But I’d have it no other way 🙂

  8. Oddly enough, selling something I’ve recovered while metal detecting never usually comes to my mind in the usual course of things, and I don’t think I have ever sold anything. I do recall I came close to doing so only once, and that was because I’d received an offer from a railroad memorabilia collector…I’d found a very rare copper freight tag from a pioneering railroad in Florida, the very first railroad to be exact. I spent a lot of time restoring the relic with careful cleaning, electrolysis, then preservation. After considering the offer, I decided the item should be part of the city museum where I found it, as it was significant. But otherwise, I’d have no qualms about selling any item I’ve found in the field if I needed funds or whatever. The “never sell my finds” bit is just another form of political correctness in the metal detecting hobby, borne from videos and social media herding instinct. Good post Dick…wish I’d thought of this subject myself!

    • Jim I was close to selling a few rings couple years ago. Now they’re gone and I regret not having done so. Good on you for donating that railroad item and thanks for taking the time to comment. Can you loan me twenty bucks?

  9. Kind of reminds me of my Aunt Beverly and her baseball card collection. She never wanted to sell it because it would be worth even more later. One day I told her that if she isn’t selling it, it doesn’t matter what it’s worth. She died and her kids got the cards and promptly sold them. Her heart was in the right place, but she was always chasing a puff of smoke.

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