Q & A with Charles Gren…

Charles Gren and I know each other because of our love for all things French. The difference is he was born in France, grew up there and goes back often. In fact at this very moment Charles is in Carcassonne, probably having a nice glass of vin rouge or out digging up something very old and very cool.

Am I envious? Does a bear?

THE Q & A

Q. Charles,tell us a little about yourself, i.e., where you’re from, where you live, are you married, kids, where you keep your valuables etc..

A. Hi Dick, my name is Charles Grenon, although people may know me as Charles Gren on my Facebook group. I am originally from France and arrived in the US in September 2005 to work as a second-grade teacher at a French American School close to NYC.

I have been living in Westchester County, New York for the past 16 years. I am 43yo and have been with my wife since 2006.  She is French too and amazing… isn’t that a pleonasm? We have two beautiful children: Armand, born in 2010 and Berrie, born in 2011. I am now a School Principal at that same school, which doesn’t leave me much time to metal detect.

Valuables? What are those?

My wife Charlotte and my children Armand and Berrie

 

Q. Does anyone else in the family detect?

A. I am the only one “actively” detecting, but I did take a few members of my family detecting with me while spending the Summer or Christmas time in France. My mom, my brother, my nephew, and my wife tried it once and each of them found a roman coin on their first day detecting. Now my kids are showing some interest and I bought my son his first detector. We’ve gone out a couple times together, both in France and in the US.

My mom and her first roman coin. She still keeps it in her purse and sees it as a token of a shared memory between mother and son.

 

Q. When exactly did you start detecting and what was it that got you interested?

A. I was always curious as a child and would spend most of my time outdoors, alone or with friends. When I wasn’t in the fields looking for fossils or arrowheads I was by the river looking for stone tools.

Right behind my mom’s house are the ruins of a medieval castle and I would play there a lot, finding my first musket balls and the occasional 17th century coin (surface finds on the paths). The next village had roman ruins and I would ride my bike along the “Canal du Berry” to get there. Some of my first roman coins were found there (also on the surface).

I soon realized how exciting it would be to have a metal detector. All my “treasures” to that point were surface finds, and I was eager to know what was in the ground.  I worked, mowing lawns, running errands for the family and saved up until I could buy my first detector. I might have been 15 years old at the time.

 

Q. Charles what was your first detector and what made you purchase that particular brand/model?

A. I honestly do not recall the brand and model.  I believe that this first detector is now with a friend. I do recall that it had a needle and discrimination was… wait, I am not sure that setting was even available. I bought it for two reasons: it was the only one I could afford and it was also the only one available at the… bicycle store!

 

Q. In the beginning where did you concentrate your time? What sort of sites did you search?

A. So, when I got this first detector I immediately told my best friend that we should try it in the fields below the castle ruins. In France, back then, no one would bother you if they saw you metal detecting. Well… almost no one. Being young is not an excuse but I think we pretty much did everything wrong, out of ignorance. Those fields were obviously private property even though as kids we were quite immune to that concept. Needless to say we got kicked out and rightfully so. We didn’t really research places but rather, we’d go to what was around us and accessible by either foot or bicycle. Eventually a friend of the family took us to old places but given the high-tech machine I had😂 the results were quite constant – big rusted iron!

After that I dropped detecting for a few years until my childhood friend told me he had just bought a Minelab X-Terra 50. Things had changed and he had his grandpa’s car, a Renault 4L and the world was ours! This time around we did some research and spotted an old location in the woods. I believe it was some sort of early medieval fort or moat. On the map it seemed easy to access. On the map…

Of course we got lost in the woods and ended up on a VERY old path. We took it, hoping to find our way back to the car, and that’s when the machine started going crazy. Several targets in a small area! We started digging, but it was a nightmare as it was a hot summer day and the ground was hard as rock. After an hour of detecting and digging, our hands were literally bleeding from exploding blisters BUT it was well worth it! We had just found a small hoard of about twenty-five 14th/15th century coins! I still have half of them.

I was ordering my Minelab X-Terra 50 the very next day and we started hitting some fields and woods together.

14th/15th century coins

 

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

A. The first signal I had with my very first detector was a horseshoe. At least, there was something in the hole!

 

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

A. The first find that got me excited was a 10 centimes Napoleon III. It is not considered as an old find and it is quite common to find in France, but finding an 1850s coin felt great.

 

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

A. It probably took me a year or two as my friend and I were only detecting during the summer while visiting our families. It was a Napoleon III 50 centimes. (I found another one since, this time in Brooklyn, NY, along with a seated dime!)

 

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

A. I found my first ring maybe in my first year of detecting. It was a brass wedding ring, probably from the 1800’s.

 

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

A. In the beginning, we were not doing much research. We knew of the “obvious” old places around us, and we thought it logical to try the fields around them. We also bought hiking maps and focused on the names of places. Some places had names that would indicate a possible old settlement or places of interest. For example, the word “font” in old French means fountain or spring. Those maps also reported “ruins”. We would also go to the Public Library and checked on old references.

Finally, we would speak to people and farmers as sometimes, they are living memories. Very quickly however we became aware of the laws ruling metal detecting in France. They are still a little blurry, but they do say that you should not be detecting with the intent of finding historical artefacts… Convenient, right? Given this, we kept doing our research but this time, in order to avoid all known historical place or site. As much as French detectorists are unsatisfied with this law, it is the law.

 

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. Probably the toughest question! I tend to “bond” with my finds, and I do cherish them for various reasons. The history they hold of course, but also the history behind the find: a great day out with a friend for instance or a location dear to me. Plus, I have my “best finds” for “both sides of the pond”.

My favorite find by far is my Bronze Age dagger blade. I found it at a permission I have in France. Never ending fields and quite remote. As I found it in my wife’s part of France, I have a special connection to it, and because it is my oldest metal detecting find.

That day I had taken my nephew with me, and he shared my excitement! I could not believe that I had just found such an old artefact! I found it bent and Roland Frodigh, aka “The Magician” fixed it.

Bronze Age dagger blade, before and after straightenig

 

Found in the same field is this “Massalia obol” or “obol of Marseille”. Marseille was the first city in France, initially founded by Greek merchants as a colony. This silver coin was minted by Greeks and dates back to the 4th/3rd century BC. I absolutely love the high relief it shows.

 

I am also very fond of these Celtic silver coins from the Volques-Tectosage tribe. They were found in the same area as the dagger blade and the Massalia Obol. Those date back to the 1st century BC.

 

Next would be my two seal matrixes. I found both of them in France at different locations. One close to my mom’s place and the other in Southern France, close to Carcassonne. Both go back to 1250-1350 AD. One would be for a city (you can see a castle), the other one maybe for an abbot. (monk kneeling in a praying posture in front of Mary holding the Holy Child).

 

Last but not least and still from France, this 1876 5 Francs, “Hercules type”. It is the size of a Morgan dollar. I also found it in Southern France, this time in vineyards. The signal was extremely loud and the coin was only one to two inches deep. As it was at the end of a row, I thought it might be an anchor for the vines or a can. Why did I decide to dig such a loud shallow target? I still don’t know, but I’m really glad I did!

 

I also have my best finds from the US. Here, my oldest silver find is a William III silver shilling from 1696, found in NY and engraved with a “B”. It was quite a shocker when it popped out! It was very deep and my last target at a club hunt. As I saw it, I thought that it may be some mechanical part as the reverse is completely slick. But when I checked the obverse and saw the bust and read “GVLLIELMVS”, my heart started pounding like crazy!

 

Next would be my cut out 1861 trime which may actually be a pin for the 8th Corps of the Union Army. I found it at an old NYC park. I like it because it’s many things at a time: a coin, a Civil War relic, and in some way a piece of art. It is clearly a one of a kind find! I can only think how applied and dedicated this soldier was to execute such a delicate work.

 

Q. Okay what is your weirdest find to date? Everybody has at least one….

A. I am not sure it’s a weird find but this one certainly made me smile. One Winter I was able to go back to France and went back to my favorite field. I had been working the field for about an hour when I noticed a blue thing a few feet away from me. As I approached it, I recognized right away the glove that I had lost the Summer before! It was all torn, most likely by the farmer’s machines but had somehow survived all these months so that we could finally be reunited.

 

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

A. Clearly, my Bronze Age dagger blade as it goes back to 2,000-1,300BC and in the US a 1640s “Double Tournois”.

 

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

A. I “really” started with a Minelab X-Terra 50 and I have been quite loyal to the brand. I then got an X-Terra 705, an Etrac (that I offered to my nephew). Right now, in the US, I have both a CTX 3030 and an Equinox 800. I really like the brand and getting from one machine to the next requires less of a learning curve. I like the CTX when metal detecting parks or yards and the Nox for woods or orchards as it is light.

In France, I swing an XP Deus. What can I say? Vive la France! Very light machine, easy to learn and great performance. Like the Nox it’s wireless, which I think is one of the best features that came up with the latest detectors.  Also, as with the Nox, you can choose your frequency. 

Recently, I bought a Garrett Ace 350 for my son, so that he can join me when I metal detect in France. I never owned a Garrett myself but I like the simple – yet efficient – design of this machine and its weight is ok for my 11 year old.

 

Q. Can you offer a few tips or settings/programs?

A. Honestly, even after all those years detecting, I am no expert in settings/programs. I did try to play around on the Deus, CTX, and E-trac but most of the times the factory settings – and the programs on the Deus and Nox – are already well thought out.

On the Deus, I tend to switch frequencies, especially if I’m going back to the same field. Other than that, with the CTX and Nox, I stick to the basics – noise cancel, ground balance, and sensitivity. I like to hunt with no discrimination, even in parks in the US but then I will focus on deep signals.

 

Q. When you do go detecting what “must have” accessories do you take along?

A. In addition to the pouch, I always carry a “coinpad” which is a small round box with foam in it. The foam is sliced so that you can insert coins and as it is sealed, it really helps preserving the coins or other small items from being tossed around and damaged or lost in the pouch. I only use the pouch for trash.

I think the pinpointer is clearly a “must have” as it helps me recover coins faster without scratching them.

 

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

A. I like both. In the US, definitely with friends, more specifically with Don Mituzas and the team! When with friends, we usually hit the woods, NYC parks or go door knocking. I am so grateful for their patience with my French accent or my sometimes approximate vocabulary!

With Don Mituzas and Jon Jasewicz, near Albany

I really appreciate going door knocking with Don Mituzas. (we also listen to great tunes from the 60s and 70s in the car). Great to meet new people and this is something that you will never see or do in France! In France, it’s all about woods, fields or vineyards. I almost know Don’s speech by heart now:

“Hello. We’re not here to sell you anything and we’re not from any political party. (Depending on the people’s reaction, I can usually tell if it’s going to be yes or no) We are history buffs and we noticed that you have an old house. Maybe 1830s?I noticed the eyebrow windows and that section would be the oldest. In the old days, they would start with a small house and then build extensions as they became more prosperous.

 Question: has your property ever been metal detected? (Yes/No) See, that is what we do. We are metal detectorists. We look for old coins or relics. and what we do is we dig a small plug, flip it, recover what is there and then flip it back so you won’t even notice that we were here.

Also, if we recover anything valuable, we’ll split with you, but I have to be honest with you, it’s highly unlikely. If we find anything related to the house, a monogrammed spoon for instance, it goes to you, as it is tied to the history of the house.

Question: can we poke around with our metal detectors?”

“Yes, go for it, have fun!”

 

(I almost feel guilty revealing Don’s speech, almost as if it would be a secret recipe).

The homeowners sometimes even invite us in to talk about their house or show you around. Think about it. As perfect as Don’s speech may sound (and believe me he’s an expert!) it could translate as “Hi, can I dig holes in your yard?”  I must give credit to the owners of the houses we door knock at…they are open-minded!

Unfortunately, I don’t have that many permissions lined up in the United States, but I once was able to score a defunct golf club – funded in 1923 – and as soon as I got permission, I invited my friends over. It seemed obvious, legitimate, and fair that they should be part of the adventure, especially those who were sharing their permissions with me.

I think we must have pulled between 200 and 250 silver coins, including Barber halves and quarters, Standing Liberty Quarters and many more. We also got two chunky gold rings, one bearing a huge diamond. You should have heard my friend! He screamed his lungs out when he found the ring with the diamond! He then had the diamond mounted on another ring and was able to propose to his girlfriend. To this day, this is one of my best metal detecting memories.

Gold ring I found at the defunct golf club.

In France, I switch between friends and alone. Although I have invited friends and family on my biggest permission over there, I feel tremendously connected to the place and it is “my safe harbor” and a “soul healer”. That might be the one place where I like to go alone.

Even when going alone, I always manage to make some friends anyway. Look at those stalkers! I would hear them following me and every time I would turn around, they wouldn’t move by an inch!

 

Q. Okay Charles everybody has a bucket list. Tell us about yours?

A. Where to start? It might be easier and quicker to tell what I found! So many things that I would love to find, and again, it will vary, depending on if we’re talking about France or the US. But in the US, clearly… any state copper! I only found a CT copper so far. A Massachusetts or Jersey would be fantastic. Of course, any of the early large cent, my oldest being an 1803. I wouldn’t mind some more Spanish silver as I only found a half real. Speaking of old silver, any draped bust! Needless to say… Any tree coinage! In terms of relics, I would love to find a US belt plate or older as well as a complete shoe buckle.

 

Q. I think I know the answer to this but have you hunted overseas at all?

A. I certainly did and still do. I go back to France every Summer and when I can afford it, at Christmas time too. This said, I love detecting as much in France as in the United States. I think that all finds must be considered within their historical context, and I am as eager to find roman coins than to find seated dimes or state coppers.

I’ll use the following example. In France, one of the most common finds is a coin called “double tournois”. It dates back to the 1600s. Of course, I found many of those in France, and as they are quite common, most of them end up in a box, not even displayed. Here in the states I found a 1640s double tournois near Albany when visiting Jon Jasewicz with Don Mituzas. THIS double tournois is in a display case and highly cherished! Its history – to me – holds way more meaning than any other double tournois I found in France, and it makes it really special to me. The United States – which were the Colonies back then – in 1640s? That completely blows my mind. Add to this that it crossed the Atlantic Ocean to reach this land… this coin would have so much to tell about its story! It was also turned into a medal, which makes it even more unique. Who wore it and why? According to Jon Jasewicz, a French missionary might have brought it back with him and it may have been worn by him or gifted to Native Americans. I find it all very fascinating.

Finds apart, I am also amazed, each time I realize that all metal detectorists, wherever they are in the World, share the same excitement, the same passion for the hobby and History. And with so many people around the world detecting, it nevertheless feels like we all speak the same language.

Right when I found this 1640s double tournois near Albany.

 

Q. Do you belong to a club and if so tell us a little about it?

A. I used to belong to two clubs: The Nor’Easters in Connecticut and the Putnam and Westchester Metal Detecting Club. Between work and the family, it has unfortunately become nearly impossible to attend meetings and I regret this tremendously. I do like belonging to this community and have good friends in both clubs. Coming from France, it has allowed me to meet with great people and some of them became friends. Friendship is a key element of our hobby and should probably be cherished as its best treasures.

I still belong to the Putnam and Westchester Metal Detecting Club, and I love connecting with the club members at club hunts. People are supportive and offer good advice too. I also appreciate that there is no “competition”. People are genuinely happy for others when they get good finds. Although I cannot make it to club meetings, I wouldn’t miss the Club Christmas Party for anything!

 

Q. Charles do you have any other hobbies or interests?

A. Certainly, my main interest is History! As a kid I would look for arrowheads in the fields or by the river and this is something that I would love to do here in the US. Just have no clue where to look in NY! I also used to flint knap. As well, I always enjoy learning more about the best ways to restore finds and therefore created a dedicated Facebook Group: Restoring Your Finds – Metal Detecting. If I had time and space enough, I would love to start woodworking.

 

Q. What would your IDEAL detector look like?

A. I feel that the latest technology has brought some nice improvements already: wireless detectors, telescopic shafts, light machines and on some an automatic ground balance. (XP Deus for instance). I know that some may say that it would be great to have a machine that already “knows” what is in the ground. In some ways I feel machines can indicate quite well what’s in the ground and having a machine that can tell you exactly what it is would kill the magic, the suspense we all feel before we actually know.

 

Q. Finally Charles, if you could pass along one or two words of advice to beginning detectorists or for that matter any detectorist, what would they be?

A. Definitely be neat and respectful of the places you go to. Patience is key and keep in mind: the best treasures are the people you’ll meet and the friends you’ll make. This is a fantastic hobby and a human adventure! Oh and… Excuse my French!

______________

Charles, merci & en avoir un pour moi…..

 ______________________

*******

12 Comments

Filed under Metal Detecting

12 responses to “Q & A with Charles Gren…

  1. Bloody good, mate, great interview. I love the story of his mum finding and keeping the roman coin as a memory token. I’m sure too, the roman who lost it would appreciate the significance.

  2. Joe

    Excellent piece! I’m about the same age as Charles (44), and only live about 45 minutes from him. If I could still detect I’d love to swing with him, as he seems like a great guy. Please stay out of Brooklyn, though, that’s MY area…I was born & raised there. Just kidding! I’m sure you’ve probably hunted it already, but if not, you have to detect Prospect Park, it’s a treasure hunters dream (you will need a permit though, which is free).

    Westchester county, and really anywhere along the Hudson river, is steeped in history. Still should be a few good places to hunt up there if you get off the beaten path and do a little research.

    That gold ring is a whopper and has my initials, I *might* be the owner lol.

    Good luck out there, Charles, and don’t send Dick any more wine…he’s had enough!

    • Charles Grenon

      Oooops… Prospect Park is one of my favorite NYC parks. (Yes, I do have the permit 😉 ) Sorry Joe! lol
      It is a great park and I always enjoy going there. You are absolutely right about Westchester County and the Hudson River!

  3. Don Mituzas

    Well Charles I guess you gave up all my secrets. No problem. Nobody can do it like I do. 😁 We certainly come up with some good finds and have fun doing it.

  4. John Taylor

    rather modest fellow! they need him in “Nova Scotia!”
    I’m just sayin’ (lol)

    (h.h.!)
    j (2 stabs) t.

  5. John Taylor

    hey dick! maybe Charles can get ya away from the “big rooster” wine ya been hammerin’,and get ya into some fine distinguished French taste!..

    (h.h.!)
    j (2-stabs) t.

  6. Tony

    Good to see friends enjoying the hobby as it should be!

  7. Charles sent this from France just to rub it in…..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.