Our Toys – Past & Future Tense…

Seems every time I make mention of older, vintage detectors I can count on readers chiming in with their thoughts on their favorites and the last post, or repost, was no exception. It’s what detectorists do and the older they are the more they have to contribute. Sentimentality, a.k.a. nostalgia never gets old.

Every detectorist has his or her memories of what detector(s) worked best and many, yours truly included, even sought out and purchased old standbys for sentimental reasons. There’s also quite a few tekkies who think that just maybe these older machines can still hold their own when push comes to shove. I use to be in that group but recent technological advances and comparison testing changed my mind.

I can’t remember “all” the various detector models I used over the past 45 years but a few favorites immediately come to mind. First would have to be the Compass Judge 2. Next and in no particular order, the Whites 6000 series, the White’s Eagle, the Garrett Groundhog, the Fisher 1266, the MXT Pro and of late the Nokta Makro Simplex.  In between those models were many, many others, all of which got the job done (see “Is it the Detector or is it You?”).

Judge 2, Groundhog, 1266x and 6000D S2


But what comes next?

Reading J.T.’s most comment it occurred to me that just maybe we’re farming, or maybe relinquishing is a better word, the industry overseas (willingly or not). At least it seems that way. Stateside all we have are Garrett and First Texas and that just doesn’t sound right.

Back in the 70’s when we had a whole lot fewer participants we had Whites, Garrett, Fisher, Compass, Wilson-Neuman, Bounty Hunter, Tesoro, D-Tex, A&H,  Nautilus, Gardiner, Treasure Ray, Teknetics, C&G, Detectron and Jetco, just to name a few. Yes some of these companies were quite small but they were players and today no one seems interested in joining the fray. Is there not another Nautilus out there? Troy? Treasure Electronics? Where are all those tech savvy people who can, or at least think they can, do it better? Could it be that –

  1. Detector technology has pretty much hit it’s limits for the foreseeable future?
  2. The cost to manufacture, promote and distribute is just too high?
  3. Competing against the big guys in the industry is simply a gamble not worth taking?

I emailed Carl Moreland, (Director of Engineering at First Texas) and he replied –

Hi Dick,

Nice to hear from you

There have been (relatively) recent start-ups. XP in France; Nokta & Makro in Turkey, now combined; Rutus in Poland. A common thread with these companies is they were started by people who both had a passion for metal detecting and knew electronics. Here in the US you have Tarsacci as the most recent example.

I think it was a much easier biz to get into in the 70s and even the 80s, designs were simpler and if nothing else you could just copy an established design. Now the technology barrier has gotten much higher. Multifrequency is becoming the norm, as is waterproof, light weight, wireless headphones and rechargeable batteries. It takes several man-years now to design a new platform so it takes a team of engineers, not someone solo. And a lot of money for tooling. You can’t slap a VLF circuit in a metal box with a 9V battery and expect to get anyone’s attention. Unless that circuit does something very special that no other circuit does.

Besides the technical challenges, there is also a huge financial hurdle in that starting a detector company is quite expensive and the ROI (return on investment) is very low, especially early on.

Dimitar Gargov (who owns Tarsacci) handles this by designing/building detectors on the side while having a regular full-time job. As you may know, he was a Fisher engineer who had ideas for new metal detector technology that FTP was not interested in. They let him go and he developed his ideas on his own, but in the comfort of a full-time non-competitive job. It’s tough to find other people like that:

EEs who know how to design detectors, have something innovative to catch people’s attention, but don’t already work for a competitor. Detector engineers (like myself) who work for detector companies cannot start a side gig selling their own designs unless they quit, and then there is likely a 2-year no-compete contract to abide by. These days it takes a special situation (like Gargov) to get started. Or heavy financial support.



Personally I have no problem at all with the overseas companies and in fact they seem to be driving the technology and the pastime. Without XP, Minelab and Nokta Makro things would be pretty dull. The question is how will Garrett and First Texas take up the challenge?

Trending at the moment

Me? I’m still waiting for that one knob detector with two audio responses – GOOD and BAD!





Filed under Metal Detecting

21 responses to “Our Toys – Past & Future Tense…

  1. Butch Holcombe

    My first detector was a Heathkit “metal locator.” Had a chrome rod screwed directly int the coil. I think it used a lantern battery but may be wrong. Yet it found stuff!

  2. Random thoughts:

    1. I built a Heathkit detector in about 1974. Traded it for a paint job on my Corvair. (It was my first TR machine after a few months with a Jetco BFO; no discrimination though).

    2. We think the old detectors were great because we found so much with them, but on reflection I realize they were great because the ground was chock full of coins and untouched by other detectors back then. Those machines would really suffer today.

    3. I vaguely remember a detector that used your transistor radio as a big part of the electronics. Anyone else remember that one?

    • “but on reflection I realize they were great because the ground was chock full of coins and untouched by other detectors back then”. And wasn’t it grand!!

      Don’t remember that transistor radio setup. That too must have been before my time😊

      • Times moved on. Over 50 years ago they could in theory do what any top-of-the-range Garrett/Nokta/Minelab, etc, etc, can do today.

        BUT, the old valve system was too large and they didn’t have the technology to minitariase it. Then came transistors and micro-chips.

        Depth capability remains the same as 50 years ago, because of the laws of physics. What we have today, is the miniteriased version of what our pioneers wanted…the advanced ability to tell us (almost) what’s under the bloody coil. It’s all about diagnostics. The rest is BS.
        i’m just sayin

        PS. That pic of me on the park bench is libellous… I always wear socks!

      • Hmm, you kind of lost me there but it is scotch o’clock across the pond so that may account for it.

  3. Joe

    Dick, I’ll use whatever works best, regardless of where it’s produced. Sure, I’d much prefer buying U.S. made, but that’s just not realistic in this day & age. Bottom line, whomever can build a better product that fits my budget, THAT will be the company that earns my business.

    For starters, the education system sucks in this country. What does that have to do with metal detectors you ask? Everything.

    Most kids are barely graduating H.S. at present. Where are the next generation of brilliant detector engineers going to come from? When I was a teenager it was always the foreigners in my schools – mostly Indians & Asians – who applied themselves, sacrificed, took the ball and ran with it. They APPRECIATED the OPPORTUNITY of earning an education. And just like their proud parents hoped for, most of them wound up becoming Attorney’s, Physicians, Accountants, etc.

    Most American kids tend to be spoiled, lazy brats who feel entitled to everything in exchange for doing nothing. You can’t expect well-made, sophisticated products without the brainpower to engineer them.

    Second, even if a company COULD find the brainpower here, how can they possibly compete with lower wages overseas, less taxation, and simpler, less-intrusive bureaucracies?

    A friend of mine wanted to open a simple hot dog stand to support himself. The amount of paperwork involved, layers of local government to go through, and fees, permits & licenses galore had his head spinning. For a hot dog cart! Starting and running a business in this country is not what it once was.

    The answer to your question as to why there’s a shortage of detector manufacturers in the U.S. is simple. There are many parts of this nation in urgent need of rebuilding/repair. Until this happens first, most technological advancements will continue to come from overseas.

    • Joe, you bring up a lot of good points – areas that I hadn’t thought of. We are indeed overburdened by a lot of unnecessary red tape, paperwork, not to mention taxes. I agree as well with your take on our education system but given my age I will refrain from commenting. I’m already labeled a curmudgeon.

      And a head’s up to anyone who might be thinking of responding to your comments. SS is a METAL DETECTING blog, not a place for political discourse.

    • But political discoursing is so much fun, Dick! And since you let the door be opened with Joe’s note, please allow an optimistic response:

      For 26 years I hosted an academic quiz bowl TV show for high school academic bowl teams, and I saw a TON of really brilliant kids come through the portals. My daughter is now a high school teacher and faculty sponsor of her school’s academic bowl team, and I see a lot of their matches, and I can assure you that there are a LOT of sharp kids out there who are still applying themselves, still becoming attorneys, physicians, and accountants.

      They just don’t get the publicity! Because, face it, they’re a lot more boring to the average TV junkie than the delinquents. If the press would cover these young geniuses, they’d lose their audience.

      But rest assured they are there, and they are doing fine.

      • Dan, well said and I didn’t mean to imply that good students were non-existent. Just that stricter standards existed years ago. You know when we had to walk fifteen miles to school (in the snow).

        Appreciate the optimistic response and reminder.

      • Joe

        Dan, I can assure you 100% that my post wasn’t politically charged at all. Unlike most of the nincompoops on social media nowadays, who air every last bit of their personal/private beliefs & convictions, I always stand by my mom’s sage advice; “never discuss politics or religion in public.”

        Regardless of what party is in power or who’s currently in office, I don’t think any logical person would argue the fact that the current American education system is in shambles. Whether it be school lunches that aren’t fit to be served in a prison, billions of dollars wasted on underperforming teachers who can’t be fired due to the joke of tenure, overcrowded classrooms, college graduates leaving school hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, and a myriad of other issues, the proof is in the pudding.

        As for the students, while you’re correct in your assessment of there being a lot of bright kids out there, they do not hold a flame to the education levels of kids in other countries throughout the world. And don’t just take my word for it. Consider the following article courtesy of NEWSWEEK, which was found via a quick Google search. Look closely where the U.S. rates. https://www.newsweek.com/most-educated-countries-world-1600620

        This is still the greatest country in the world, and while I too appreciate your optimistic viewpoint, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a reality.

      • Okay school is out. No homework, just detecting….

      • Joe, one more point to reinforce my optimism: EVERY generation feels that the younger generations are much inferior to their own. I know the “quote” sometimes attributed to Socrates, sometimes Plato is actually from a 1907 Cambridge dissertation simply relaying the general attitude of the ancient philosophers’ times (~400 BC), but still it is pretty telling:
        “The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.”
        It’s just always been that way, and the old folks of 2457 will be saying, “Today’s youth are pretty worthless. The future is horribly bleak.”

      • Okay that makes things even. Let’s talk detectors, please.

      • Dick, don’t you hate it when your own blog gets away from you like that?
        Okay, back to detectors. I am toying with the idea of buying one of those Makro things. Does it come with everything I need at the basic price (something like $250 from Kellyco, I think)? (I don’t use coil covers, so no big deal there.)

      • Dan, assume you’re talking about the Simplex. If so all the pertinent information (what’s incl. in pkg, etc.) can be found in the ad at right. I would suggest too visiting American Detectors Distributors (ad also on right) to see who what dealers are close by to you. Buying local means supporting a small business and given the retail price of the Simplex any difference in the price you threw out would be negligible. Definitely consider the wireless headphones.

  4. I am in agreement, Dick, we ARE at the technological limit of hobby metal detecting science, as physics, as we know it anyway, is a limiting factor. But my thoughts are, as we come to the dead-end sign on this technological road we’ve been traveling for 50-odd years, maybe moving into the still-developing technology of Ground Penetrating Radar would be the next step. There are GPR units on the market now that are, unfortunately, a bit bulky and somewhat difficult to use, along with a high price of ownership. But with a little more refinement and a drop in price, this might become the 21st Century’s new hobby,
    I remember a few years go, looking to start a ground locating business (for contractors, roadbuilding, optical cables etc.) I compared prices and the most reasonable GPR machine was around $65,000, with different sized search heads running around $7,000 to $10,000 each! Today, the machine’s listed price is around $7,000 with search-heads a few grand each. So the price is coming down and the electronics are being refined. A few more years and hobby-grade GPRs will be priced around $2000 each with the search heads a few hundred bucks each, well within range of today’s high-end metal detectors,
    With the capability to detect rock, caves, wood, organic matter and metals, the hobby GPR machine will be the beginning of the next level of detecting technology, Then maybe we can finally metal detect in peace as everyone heads out with their GPR’s.

    • Ground penetrating radar? Jim I’m still struggling with “is it real or is it Memorex?”

    • john taylor

      jim! your optimism is contagious I have to admit however, to be perfectly honest, they will have touched a match to my ass a long time before g.p.r. is ever introduced to the market! I fear you have a long wait! I’m just sayin’

      j (2-stabs,workin’ on 3) t.

  5. john taylor

    yeah! just think of all those “dry” communions we’ll have to endure reverend! hot damn! I’m just sayin’

    j (2-stabs,almost 3) t

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