Last night I was checking out a forum and saw an all too familiar post that said – “thanks for the ad. I’m a real beginner at all this andwondering where’s the best place to go to learn my detector and start finding things”? And of course the responses where what you’d expect – “start in your backyard”, “head to the closest tot lot, school”, “make a test garden”, etc..
I got thinking about how it was back when I started out in the early 70’s and how things have changed. Not at all sure what I would do now if I were just entering the pastime. Being a newbie and finding places to detect is a much more daunting task than it used to be.
In the stone age…
When I bought my “big Box” Whites Coinmaster back in the 70’s I knew nothing at all about how it worked. I was also ill-at-ease about using it in public. I wanted to take it to the local park in town but didn’t want people staring. Why I don’t know, just the way I felt and I suspect it’s still that way for a lot of newcomers. Anyway I turned it on (it hummed?) and started swinging the coil around the yard. We lived outside town on two and half acres of wooded land so I had a lot of yard to search and no reason to be self conscious.
In between turning the knob back and forth between “metal” and “mineral” my discoveries were not all that impressive. Nails, pieces or wire, tin cans, bottlecaps….every metal ‘piffwanger’ you could think of. One thing I was sure of – It detected metal!
After offering a few sheepish smiles to my wife (who thought spending $200 on a metal detector wasn’t such a great idea), I realized I had to take my new toy somewhere where I had a better chance to justify my investment. So I got brave, drove down town to the park, parked the wagon, took out my detector, looked nervously to see if anyone was staring at me and started scanning. Bang, first beep? A silver Washington quarter (1964 if I remember right). Keep in mind it really didn’t matter that it was silver, it was a coin DAMMIT and that was all that mattered. A COIN!
Needless to say I was like a pig in mud and at that moment didn’t really care if someone was watching me. I was a full fledged treasure hunter and it was only a matter of time before I became a wealthy one😎. I wound up spending maybe two hours more at the park and came home with a handful of coins, two or three pieces of silver and of course a load of metallic trash. It was a “phew, this thing works and I’m going to have a lot of fun” moment.
I spent countless more hours at this park and then started looking for new venues and in the process became more familiar with my detector. The coins kept coming and I was a happy camper. In addition to parks I hunted a lot of schools and given that this was in the early 70’s most all of them were ripe with silver. After that athletic fields, playgrounds, fairgrounds, old foundations, picnic areas, etc.. Oh, the places I could go!!
In 1993 White’s Electronics asked me to write a “Dick & Jane” book for the beginning detectorist. In “Metal Detecting the Hobby” I offered the following list of places where you might use your detector:
Schools, Parks, Churches, Athletic Fields. Carnival Sites, Circus Grounds, Picnic Groves. Homesites, Swimming Holes, Beaches, Scout Camps, Ghost Towns, Playgrounds, Camp Grounds, Rodeos, Roadside Rest Stops, Sidewalk Grassy Strips, Rural Mailboxes, Revival Meeting Areas, Amusement Parks, Rural Dance Areas, Reunion Sites, Fort Sites, Military Installations, Winter Sledding Areas, Lookout/Overlook Sites, Church Supper Groves, Fishing Holes, Resorts, Fishing/Hunting Camps, General Stores, Outhouse Areas, Battle sites (surrounding public areas), Bandshells, Old Courthouses, Racetracks, Rural Boundary Walls, College Campuses, Under Seaside Boardwalks, Around Parking Meters, Flea Markets, Ski Slopes, Drive-In Theaters, Old Motels, Vacant Lots, Bus Stops, Old Taverns and Inns, Canal Towpaths, Construction Sites, Barns and other Outbuildings, Front Yards/Back Yards, Old Railroad Stations, Fence Rows, Hiking Trails, Trailer Parks, Near Historical Markers, Old Gas Stations, Lovers Lanes and old Town Squares.
Today most of the above sites are still good ideas but many are concreted over and thanks to the internet, social media and reality shows like “Diggers” and “The Worst of Oak Island” the competition has increased a hundred fold, so much so that just gaining access to a farmer’s plowed field is considered a coup. In addition we have things like park permits, liability/trust issues, fake athletic fields, concrete playgrounds, more gun toting landowners and way, way too many ‘Karens’.
Now don’t get me wrong, there’s still a lot of treasure to be found and a lot of virgin ground to detect. Me? I’m looking for a place to take a photo of my detector leaning on my screwdriver…..