Andy Sabisch – Q & A


The name Andy Sabisch should be familiar to anyone who uses a metal detector.  His guides and handbooks are often considered the “real” manuals and must have’s for the serious TH’er. They’re thorough, easy to read and the quickest way I know of to master your machine. I’ve known Andy since the mid 80’s and consider him a good friend and great ambassador for the pastime!

If you have any questions for Andy fire away in the comments section. Thanks Andy!!

Andy Sabisch -The Q & A

Q. Andy, I doubt there’s a single detectorist out there who doesn’t know who you are but if you don’t mind tell us a little about your personal life. i.e., where you live, are you married, what you do for a living, where you keep you keep your valuables, etc.

A. Currently I live in Jackson, MS having relocated here in 2020 from Monroe, MI which I found out was the home of General Armstrong Custer and is the home of La-Z-Boy furniture . . . an odd combination to say the least but a piece of local history people often find interesting.

Having been involved in the electric power industry for 40+ years, I have moved a considerable amount and was in Michigan for 4 years. My wife and I have been married for going on 6.5 years now and she is just as addicted to metal detecting as I am which makes it easy to get out and hunt when we have some free time. Charlene might not find as much as I do when we go out but invariably if there is one “killer” find at a site, she will be the one that gets her coil over it. 

Andy and his wife, Charlene taking a break from hunting a farm field in England.

We have travelled across the country as well as overseas. We hunt for anything that we can find in the areas we visit so I would call us “generalists” rather than “specialists” and our collection can attest to that being quite diverse in terms of the finds we have made. 

Both of my kids – Paul and Leigh – cut their teeth metal detecting starting at an early age. Paul is more of an “instant gratification” type hunter and competition hunts are his area of expertise as finds are plentiful and he enjoys the quantity of what he has in his pouch at the end of the day. Leigh on the other hand would rather search a site meticulously and make one great find all day than spend time at the local park digging clad.

Two photos of my son Paul getting started in detecting . . . he picked up my detector, put on the headphones and started dragging the coil around . . . . about 2 years old

My wife’s kids have gotten detectors for their kids and two of them are getting quite proficient with them at sites in central Pennsylvania. In fact my father who is 96 years old hunted with me when I got started and up until recently took his detector out on occasion on the beaches near his home in Jensen Beach, FL.

December of 2019 marked the start of my 56th year in the hobby having started with a $19.95 BFO purchased from the back of Popular Mechanics as a Christmas present by my parents. My father still comments on the fact that something they bought expecting it to be relegated to the attic within months has turned into a lifelong passion that has remained a family activity across three generations.

With my dad, 1982

 

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

A. As I mentioned, I received my first metal detector as a Christmas present in 1964. It was a single-knob BFO detector branded with the Viking name. It had a fixed length shaft that was a bit too long for me at the time but trying it now, I have to walk hunched over to use it. Despite the lack of any competition at the time, I think my total for the first year was less than 100 coins but regardless, I was hooked.

This add from 1966 shows a $10 price increase….inflation, LOL.

What got me interested in treasure hunting initially were magazines such as True Treasure, Treasure World and Argosy that I picked up at the local news stand. I would make it a point to go with my father when he went into town on Sunday to pick up a newspaper and then stop at the bakery and butcher shop for the week. When they had a new issue on the shelf, I would pull together change and pick up a copy.

I read the articles over and over and spent hours looking at the ads for equipment from companies that have for the most part long since faded into the history books. My father subscribed to Popular Mechanics and it was an ad in the back of one of his magazines that turned into the present waiting for me under the tree that Christmas day in 1964. I used that detector for more than a year until I was able to pull enough money together from chores and my grandparents to upgrade to a better model. However, I still have that detector along with virtually every one of my detectors I used over the decades.

 

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

A. At the time I received my first detector my family was living in Rockland County which was about 40 miles north of New York City. We lived in a small neighborhood of homes built in the 1930’s as vacation homes around a small private lake. Surrounded by 100’s of acres of woods that contained foundations of homes long since abandoned, my brother Chris and I spent many hours searching yards in the neighborhood as well as the sites in the surrounding woods.

Our elementary school was built in 1826 and while there had been additions added to it over the years, much of the ground was original and we hunted that site for many years without ever seeing another detectorist. Another productive site within bike-range of our house was a golf course used for sledding in the winter (and had been used for that since the early 1900’s). Between these sites, we were kept busy for years and did extremely well in the process.

 

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

A. I would love to say that I remember my first signal and it was a $20 gold piece but sadly, I can’t. I know that I dug a lot of trash with that first detector in my yard and remember, silver coins were still in circulation. With a basic BFO-type detector and no discrimination, it was probably a piece of trash but that first signal is what hooked me on the hobby.

 

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

A. Again, 50+ years in the field dims some of those original memories but remember, when I started silver coins were still in circulation and finding coins like Wheats, Buffalo nickels and other collectible coins of today could be found and were being lost. As the picture of my first detector’s finds show, I did have coins so I would venture to say that a Wheat cent was probably the first keeper I picked up.

My very first detector (BFO)

 

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

A. I spent the first few weeks after the ground thawed out in early 1965 searching our yard as well as those of our neighbors . . . after all, who could turn down a young boy asking to look for buried treasure in your yard? I do remember that I found a silver quarter not far from our back door and ran back into the house to show my mother . . . I guess in hindsight the look on her face was one of “what have we unleashed” . . . and the next 50 years sort of confirmed that thought.

 

Q. Andy how long did it take you to find your first ring and what type of ring was it?

A. This question I know the answer to . . . it was a class ring lost by a local resident at the beach near our house more than 30 years earlier. My father and I found it as the lake was being lowered and the ring was in the sandy bottom beneath the diving board. My father helped me track the person down through the school and we were able to contact him. He was living in California but still had family in the area so on his next trip out, he stopped by and picked it up . . . it was a great feeling and one I relive every time I am able to return something someone lost years earlier.

Hunting the beaches in Acapulco Mexico in the 1970’s . . . . being one of the first to hunt these areas was an amazing experience in terms of what was waiting to be recovered

Hunting the beaches in Acapulco Mexico in the 1970’s . . . . being one of the first to hunt these areas was an amazing experience in terms of what was waiting to be recovered. 

 

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

A. Yes and no. One of our neighbors was a bottle digger which was quite popular in the late 1960’s despite people today thinking that they are the first ones to think about digging bottle dumps and privies. He knew where the old foundations were and so while he was digging bottles, my brother, father and I would detect around them. Joe Weiss was his name and he taught me a number of tricks to find these old sites which I still use today.

The day I got certified as a scuba diver . . . . Sea Hunt had been my inspiration to get certified and I have enjoyed it ever since

 

Q. What would you consider to be your very best find after all this time, and if it’s hard to choose just one tell us about all of them?

A. People that ask me this question always expect me to talk about the most valuable thing I have found. Since I do not sell what I find, the value really is immaterial to me. I have recovered jewelry for people with some worth in excess of $20,000 but while exquisite in nature, were personal items that went back to the owner. Items that have a direct connection to a point in history are far more important and special to me. A few that stand out worth mentioning include the following . . .

A few years ago in England I found a Roman coin that had been minted in the field by the legions in that area and we were able to date it to within a 2 year window. Having that direct connection with the Roman troops that both minted it and lost it was unique. I have recovered Civil War relics which have been personalized with the soldier’s name and subsequently uncovered his life story through services such as Ancestory.com and the ORs – again, a direct link to the past through a single find.

Another find that stands out is a class ring that my son and I found in a SC college campus. It was from 1946 and we were able to track the owner down through the alumni association. When we reached out to the lady that lost it we reached her daughter who after a questioning pause, said that her mother had never returned to the college upon graduation and had just passed away the month before. We had the ring polished and returned it to her as a keepsake – one she was extremely grateful for and the timing was uncanny.

Not really keen about sharing photos of my finds but here are a few that I put into displays.

 

Q. Okay what is your weirdest find to date?

A. I have found a number of “weird” finds over the years but two come to mind. The first turned up when I was hunting a popular park in Miami, Florida with the late Kevin Reilly. We had pulled a number of coins and the like from the park but suddenly Kevin called me over. He was pointing at the ground and asked me if I wanted what he had detected. Looking down I saw a Voodoo doll about 12” in size with several pins stuck in it and a silver bracelet on one leg. Well, I am not someone that believes in all things out there but Kevin and I looked at each other and said “Why chance something happening” at the same time. Not sure what happened to it but needless to say we left it there . . . with my luck it would have come to life that night and chased me around the hotel room!

Another “weird” find turned up diving a public swimming beach in Pennsylvania a number of years ago. It seemed it was not only popular for swimming but for fishing as well based on the number of hooks and lures were had turned up over the course of several dives. I got a signal and fanning away the sand I saw a sinker with line attached. Figuring there was a hook on the other end I carefully pulled the line free from the bottom and balled it up to get rid of it. As the end pulled free I saw what at first looked like a lure flicker in the sunlight coming through the murky water but looking closer, I saw it was something else. It was a ¾ carat white gold engagement ring which someone had tied a weight to and tossed out from the shore. Guess someone wanted to make sure it would really stay gone!

One of the weirdest finds came from a motel my wife and I were staying at in Gettysburg. We had been teaching a Bootcamp and got back to the room around 9PM. I had asked the owner if I could hunt the grounds and he gave me the green light when we checked in. I recovered several signals but without a flashlight, I just put everything in the pouch since it was dark. When I came in my wife asked what I had found and dumping the pouch out we were shocked to see an upper plate from someone’s dentures that I had picked up around the grassy area surrounding the swimming pool.

Old photo of me dredging

 

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

A. Obviously hunting in Europe, Africa and the Far East has afforded me my oldest coins simply due to the age of civilizations over there. In Morocco I found coins pre-dating the birth of Christ around wells that were still in use by the local villagers . . . things had not changed for a millennia. In England you tend to get jaded with finds you make in the States . . . coins from the 1700’s are considered commonplace and you give the locals a laugh when you get excited about digging one up . . . after all, it is not old according to the guys that hunt the fields. My wife and I have found Roman coins dating back to the 2nd Century in England and Europe.

In the United States, relics from the time of the Croatan settlement on the Outer Banks have been the oldest relics I have found here. They were found when we were helping do an archeological survey of sites that could have bene used by the settlers that left the original settlement and left CROATAN carved on the stockade posts. Again, the back story behind finds is what really gets me excited.

 

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

A. This question needs to be couched in “it depends on what type of hunting I am planning on doing.” With almost 20 detectors on the wall to choose from, it can and often does vary from day to day depending on where I am going. I tend to have at least 3 detectors in the truck when we head out for each of us and they include models from all of the current (as well as some defunct companies) as even detectors 10+ years old still excel in certain applications.

Which detector I use depends on what type of hunting I am planning on doing.

 

Q. Can you offer a few tips or settings?

A. Based on the number of different detectors my wife and I use, probably not a question I can answer . . . . that is one reason I put together the various brand-specific handbooks to capture the best settings for different applications at sites around the world.

However, one tip that holds true for any detector is to take the time to learn what it is telling you before putting it up for sale and moving on to something else.  All too often people switch detectors like they change shirts and never learn what it is capable of.  A friend in England says he does not sell a detector until he finds enough to pay for his investment which forces him to learn his newest acquisition.

 

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

A. Obviously the detector comes with me but as far as accessories, I have a web belt with a rugged leather pouch that a good friend made for me almost 2 decades ago, a digging knife and of course a pinpointer. In my pouch I carry a small plastic “fly fishing” type box that allows me to put finds in to avoid damaging them in the pouch. If I am in the woods relic hunting with friends, we always bring along radios to stay in touch and share hot spots.

Headphones are a must for me as it makes sure I do not miss a signal and reduces the number of questions I wind up getting asked. Having a spare detector in case the worst happens is always a good thing to bring along if possible. Extra batteries or a Li-Ion battery pack are also must-haves to avoid a dead detector, pinpointer or headphone in the field just as the finds are starting to turn up.

Other accessories depend on the type of hunting I am planning on doing – relic hunting (shovel, baggies to protect relics, a backpack and now that we are in the South, snake chaps), beach hunting (scoops, booties, container for any gold, etc.) . . . each type of hunting drives a different list of accessories. I actually have lists of must-haves that I use to make sure I do not forget something at home and I find out when I am 200 miles away.

 

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

A. I have been fortunate to have done virtually all types of treasure hunting around the world thanks to my work and leisure travel. I take a detector with me wherever I go and when the opportunity affords itself, I am out seeing what I can find. I have made some “bucket list” finds over the past 50+ years and have been part of some amazing finds recovered by friends and hunting partners. With that, there are still a few finds I would like to cross off my bucket list such as a meteorite, Celtic or earlier gold coin from Europe or a Native American copper culture artifact. Finds that tell a story are always on my bucket list as monetary value is never something I am concerned over.

 

Q. I know you’re a well-traveled tekkie, but tell us what countries you’ve detected and what is your favorite?

A. It would almost be easier to list those I haven’t detected in over the past 50+ years as between personal travel and business travel, I have done a lot of jetting around and always took my detector with me. At times my work colleagues questioned why I would rather go to a local beach or some other site to dig up “stuff” instead of hitting the hotel bar but let’s just say it’s kept me out of trouble on more than one occasion after I heard what happened after I headed out.

I have hunted most of the countries in Europe and the former Soviet Union, several countries in Africa, the Far East and South & Central America. Each had a unique draw but Europe with a focus on England and most recently Scotland are both where I and my wife Charlene gravitate to. The history goes back 1,000’s of years and the people we connect with love to impart that history to us which makes each find special. While I have made some great finds elsewhere, when you have to worry about wild animals that can kill you, digging up unexploded ordinance or inadvertently finding yourself on the wrong side of the law due to language barriers, it sort of takes some of the excitement out of detecting there.

With Dilek Gonulay and the Nokta-Makro gang, Detectival 2019

 

Q. Do you belong to a club?

A. The primary “brick-&-mortar” club my wife and I belonged to before recently relocating to Mississippi was The Michigan Treasure Hunters out of Livonia, MI. It has been in existence for 40+ years and currently has 150+ members. We also have a close-knit group that gets together for group hunts at sites across Michigan called The Great Lakes Detecting & Recovery Group. It is a small group but we share a common goal and approach to finding sites, working with historical societies and looking for lost items. In addition to the local club, we are members of several online groups and while most of our interactions are virtual in nature, we do travel a good deal and meet up with members of the groups as often as possible.

 

Q. Andy you’re very busy giving clinics, writing books and working with various manufacturers. Can you tell us what you’re working on now and what we might expect in the near future?

A. Well, 2019 was pretty hectic in terms of projects. I released two books . . . an updated XP Deus Handbook and The Minelab Equinox Handbook. Both of these took months to compile and I am glad they are behind me at this point. Feedback has been extremely positive on both titles so I feel my time was well-spent in penning both of these titles. We conducted several Bootcamp training sessions from Indiana to Pennsylvania and Virginia with great feedback from those that could attend. We have attended a few hunts with several more scheduled through the end of the year. The biggest project for 2019 was taking a group of hunters to Scotland in September for a first-of-its-kind trip to hunt sites dating back over 1,000 years.

For obvious reasons, 2020 has put the brakes on Bootcamps and international travel as well as many hunts and shows. The Nokta|Makro Simplex+ Handbook was just published so I was able to stay active in writing. We still were able to attend several events in the US but the planned trips we had to take people to England and Scotland were cancelled. We have plans for 2021 that hopefully will let us get trips to Scotland back on track as well as training seminars and attending hunts and shows here in the United States. Remember, all of this started with a $19.95 detector from the back of a magazine!

The Simplex+ handbook just came out this week!

 

Q. Okay Andy what would your ideal detector look like?

A. That’s a tough question . . . . today’s equipment is light years ahead of what was available when I started and much better / cheaper than what was available even a few years ago. Several years ago there was an article in Lost Treasure magazine covering a “new detector” that actually showed a grainy picture on the screen of what was under the coil. There was a photo showing a Mercury dime in amongst a pile of pull tabs, another showing a gold ring under nails and finally a gold coin next to a large rusted can. Without even reading to the end to see what the price tag was I told my wife regardless of the cost I was buying one . . . . and the last line of the article was “April Fools!” It got me for sure but reflecting back on that “detector of the future”, I am not sure I would want that type of technology. Knowing what is under the call would take away the challenge the hobby provides and the need to hone one’s skills to make better recoveries. The industry is providing incremental improvements in technology while driving prices down and I think that will give me my “ideal detector” for years to come.

 

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

A. A few things . . . first and foremost is to set realistic expectations and make sure you are getting into the hobby for the right reasons. Watching YouTube videos makes it look like you buy a detector and you can quit your job with what you will find. I wish YouTubers would post the junk they find so people could see it is not a rare coin, diamond ring or valuable relic in every hole but unfortunately many people get into it after watching unrealistic videos.

As far as why you are getting into the hobby, it should be 1) to get outdoors rather than camp on the couch, 2) the excitement of not knowing what the next signal might bring and 3) the history each find holds. If it is all about the value of what you find I always tell people to get a job flipping burgers because at least the money will be consistent.

The other word of advice is to make sure you leave no sign of having been at a site. Fill in your holes and if you are just getting started, learn how to dig a hole in your yard before venturing out. Recently I have seen more and more open holes in areas that wind up being closed to detecting. If we are not careful we will have the most advance equipment out there with nowhere left to use it.

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If you’re interested in finding out more about Andy’s books be sure to visit Treasure Hunting Outfitters

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Please take the time to read John Howland’s latest update (The Wrecking Crew). It’s a topic we need to understand and address.


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4 Comments

Filed under Metal Detecting

4 responses to “Andy Sabisch – Q & A

  1. Randy Dee

    Another very interesting biography Dick many thanks and you couldn’t find a more experienced guy to expose his talents Andy is a true and genuine gent.

  2. Tony

    Dick, thanks for interviewing Andy! I met him at a Civil War hunt in Virginia recently – that was put on by Deep Search back here in NJ. What I didn’t know but he told me was that he knew Joe Cook, Harry Nichols and Bruce Hazelman – all NJ guys who set up the Federation way back. What a great person he is; and his wife is terrific too.

    Andy came to the event and set up his wares but he gave free advice to folks all weekend long, Friday through Sunday. He helped folks set up their machines to the red clay conditions of Culpepper Virginia including mine. He even went into the field helping folks with their machines or questions they had.

    I have two of his books, one on the Explorer/Etrac and the second on the Nox. The information in his works are really very helpful. The programs are either his or others terrific hunters.

    He might remember me for my large cent (1802/3 draped bust) I found behind the barn near the horse penning coral, using his program it rang up clear and made my day!

    Thanks Andy – I hope to meet you and Charlene again at another event.

  3. john taylor

    “if we are “not” careful, we will have the most advanced equipment out there with no where left to use it” not difficult to find the sentiment in that comment!..
    andy sabisch,a “true guiding light” in the hobby, unselfish,and always helping others become better detectorists.his books are very informative, amply illustrated, and well written.

    (h.h.!)
    j.t.

  4. Excellent! It’s good to get an insight to the personality behind the name. Andy’s book on the DEUS is superbly informative, forensic even. Thanks Andy.

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