Q & A with Robert Lee Rigdon…

If you are a detectorist in the Dallas, Texas area you know of or are aware of Robert Rigdon. Robert is the local history buff/digger and nobody does it better. He’s a sought after speaker, both at detecting clubs and local service organizations and without a doubt an ambassador for the pastime.

Here’s his story and thank you Robert for taking the time to be part of my blog…


Q. Robert, if you don’t mind tell us a little about yourself, i.e., age, where you’re from, where you live, are you married, kids, etc..

A. I am 74 years old, been married to my wife Billie for 50 years and have been a resident of Duncanville, Texas since 1984. I have 3 kids, 3 grandkids & 6 great grandkids.

Robert & Billie Rigdon


Q. Does anyone else in the family detect?

A. No.


Q. Exactly when did you start detecting and what was it that originally got you interested?

A. I “started” detecting in July 1980 while still living in Chicago but the fascination “began” in 1975, when I stopped in at a coin show that was held in a NCO/EM Club while stationed in Germany. Having had training with mine sweepers I was naturally drawn to the metal detectors.

After returning to the states in 1976 I still had that memory of seeing all those old coins and in 1980 I decided to visit a coin shop across the state line in Hammond, Indiana. The shop owner was stocking his shelves with Garrett metal detectors and being a history buff I purchased one. I made the decision then and there that I was going to go out and find my own coins. 

Still finding them….


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

A. Honestly all I can remember is that it was a Garrett.


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

A. There was a Boy Scout camp about 2 miles from my home that kept me busy plus the Lake Michigan shore line.


Q. A memory test. What was your very first signal/find? Do you by chance remember?

A. Yes I do, it was a rusty butter knife.


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

A. A 1913 wheat cent.


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

A. It was about 2 weeks after I started. A 1936 Washington quarter.


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

A. I would guess about 2 months and it was a 1925 high school class ring.


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

A. Yes I did. I visited the library to find the locations of the older parks & schools in the area.


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. After getting the ok from a farmer (on his tractor) I recovered a very old sawed off 10 gauge shotgun, along with a 1895 Smith & Wesson Saturday night special (still cocked). Both can be seen in my You tube videos. I found these in the splintered walls of one of 5 deserted sharecropper’s shacks near the ghost town of Kiamichi, Texas.

Kiamichi finds

Then in 1988 I found my 1st cache in the ghost town of Spring Hill, Texas (Navarro County).  After being chased out of a leaning, windowless shack by buzzards I looked down below the steps at a lot of  junk cans. I picked up a turn of the century Folger’s coffee can, shook it and knew something was inside. After returning home and opening it, which was not easy since the lid was rusted shut, I discovered a few antique crayons, 12 “V” Nickels and I believe it was 8 “Indian head” cents.

Then in 2017 I found a 2nd mini cache in Necessity, Texas, my favorite ghost town. The only visible remains of this 1916 oil boom town were the stone/rock walls of the two bank vaults and a couple of in-ground water wells. I first hunted this 43 acre site in 1989 but the owner had passed away and his son granted me permission to come anytime I wanted – as long as I let him know in advance.

Anyway on one trip I recovered a small antique jewelry case at a depth of about 5 inches. Inside was an 1898 Barber half, two Mercury dimes (1916, 1918), a 1927 Standing Liberty quarter, 1908 Barber quarter, 1857 Liberty half-dime, 1909 V-nickel, 1897, 1906, 1911D Barber dimes, and 5 Indian Head cents (1864, 1865, 1896, 1904, 1906). Also an 1862 Mexican coin and religious medal.

After cleaning the coins I put one half of them in a large Riker case and mailed it to the landowner. Later on I asked if it would be okay to bring along a few club members and he gave a thumbs up. I sponsored the club’s first trip in October 2017 and have sponsored about six more since then.

2017 mini cache, Necessity, Texas

I found the 3rd and last mini cache at “Necessity” in March 2019. A buried antique jar-like container with no lid. It was full of “V” nickels, Indianhead pennies – can’t remember all. I posted in my Facebook “Treasure Hunting” album. I’m currently in process of planning my next trip in November 2022.

2019 find


Q. Okay Robert, what is your “weirdest” find to date? Everybody pretty much has at least one….

A. A metal disc the size of a silver dollar which had the image of a person crudely engraved on both sides. Not weird, just baffling.

ID anyone?


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

A. An 1822 Bust half dollar.

Not the greatest photo – sorry


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

A. I use both the Garrett Ace 250 & Garrett AT-Pro. Two favorites that get the job done.


The Garretts get the job done (remains of the Necessity, Texas community center)


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

A. Not really. I mostly use the presets. I don’t like playing around with all the controls. I primarily hunt in all metal when detecting open fields and ghost town sites. I like finding the old padlocks, horse & mule shoes not to mention the old cobbler tools. 

On the left – turn of the century cobbler’s tools, Right – mule & horseshoe stand I created for library exhibit in 2020.


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

A. The all important pin pointer, insect spray, first aid kit and digging tool. A shovel if digging in a wooded area or large field.


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

A. Both.


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

A. A gold coin of any denomination.


Q. Have you detected overseas?

A. No I have not.


Garrett magazine ad, Western& Eastern Treasures magazine, August 2019


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

A. I belong to the Lone Star Treasure Hunting Club in Irving, Texas. Joined the club which has about (80) members in 1984. Our club has volunteered to help the Garland, Texas police search for a murder weapon and assisted the curator at the once popular “Top O’ Hill Terrace (Casino)”, now the Arlington Baptist University, Arlington, Texas. Those of us who volunteered turned over all of the finds made that day in order that the curator could start a museum on the grounds.

We also volunteered a few years ago to recover as many artifacts as possible on a historic farm in Midlothian, Texas before the property was turned into a rock quarry. At one point in time, the club adopted the historic Texas frontier fort Fort Graham to sponsor. 


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

A. From 1995 up until 2012, I was involved with acting  (I have an acting album on my face book page). I am my wife’s “Crockett Family” historian conducting research & travels from 1994 up to the present. I’ve also done volunteer work for Kansas historical societies. I’m pretty much involved in anything history related.

A few Items I dug 27 June 2019 form the former four acre black owned New Century Cotton Mill site in North Dallas, Freedmen’s Town…


Q. I know you’re into local history and give talks to various groups. Can you tell us a little about that? How it got started, what types of groups have asked you to speak, etc.?

A. I’ve been invited to speak at various genealogy groups, historical groups and treasure hunting clubs. Just spoke at the Lone Star Club as well as the Duncanville Lions Club. I have forthcoming programs at the East Fork Treasure Hunting Club on the 13th of October 2022, the Lions Club in Canton, Texas on the 26th of October 2022 and the Golden Triangle Explorer’s Club soon thereafter.

Recent programs

In 2019 I was asked to participate in the filming of a documentary about the “Blue House” in downtown Dallas. The house, built in 1880 was being prepared for relocation and Mark Birnbaum (Mark Birnbaum Productions) heard about my love for preserving history and asked for my help. He used a few different cameras with one attached to my ankle. Here’s a link to my part of the story.
I found quite a few neat things. I am in the 3 minute preview clip but will be included in the completed video project. All the items were mine to keep but I gave Mark the spoon (US capitol commemorative) featured in the 1915 Sears/Roebuck catalog. Mark hopes to have the documentary finished by the end if this year. 


Q. If you could design one what would your IDEAL detector look like?

A. I would create a detector which has the meter elevated at a level where a user, with not so great vision, would find it easier to read at a glance.


Q. Finally Robert, 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. Always make it a point to ask before starting. I’ve never been refused by site supervisors or the infamous bulldozer operators before a fence is erected. Be selective when deciding to use or not to use a shovel on someone’s property. Even in a deserted place like my “Necessity” ghost town. The owner has a few horses running loose on the 43 acres and it would be bad if a hole dug with a shovel is left unfilled. Leaving unfilled holes has been a black eye for our wonderful hobby and caused a lot of very good sites to be closed permanently.

Thank you Robert….



Filed under Metal Detecting

15 responses to “Q & A with Robert Lee Rigdon…

  1. Hi Dick:
    Bloody good read. Robert’s the real deal…a 24-carat gent. I wouldn’t say “no” to a few hours detecting in his company given the chance. I guess he’d like it over here on some of our roman/Celtic habitation sites. Can we have more on his being chased out of deserted shack by buzzards…
    My best to Robert and Billie.

    • Robert Lee Rigdon

      Thank you John. I had been given permission to search a field which was once a ghost town. Springhill, TX which was in Navarro County. While my two hunting partners were busy with targets in the field, I decided to check out this completely void of paint, house which had no windows and was leaning quite a bit just waiting for the next strong wind to blow it over. The outhouse was also in bad shape and leaning over. After I reached the back room, there was a huge Buzzard/Vulture perched on the top edge of the window frame with babies on the floor. It opened it’s wings and that was it for me. I ran out of the house dropping my detector in front of the steps. When stooping to pick the detector up, I peered between the step boards and saw quite a few rusty tin cans. I picked up three before the last one clanged when I shook it. It was my first cache. A turn of the century coffee can. So my luck was changing. Snakes are the only other thing that has made me exit a rea.

  2. john taylor

    hi John!
    he was interrupting their noon day meal! man’s an excellent representative of the hobby. his grit, and determination along with knowing his equipment has made all the difference.

    j ( I’m not omicron’s friend!) t.

  3. Yo JT:
    “…knowing his equipment…” says it all. Just a pity more don’t follow his sage advice.
    i’m just sayin’

  4. Ed B.

    One of the best interviews/Q&A articles I’ve read here. Robert is a real”treasure”. Nice that he finds all his goodies with an AtPro which many nowadays are poo-pooing.

  5. njfella007

    Great interview, Dick…one of the finest one’s you’ve ever done.

    Robert is PRECISELY the type of detectorist that the manufacturers should be sponsoring. He’s a fantastic steward of our hobby, and would be a great example for others. Instead, unfortunately, they mostly prefer backing clowns or cute girls to capture cheap clicks to shill their machines.

    Happy hunting, Robert. That gold coin might just show up under your coil one day.

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