Top 10 Reasons Metal Detecting is a Healthy Vice

Watching the old guy metal detecting

1. Treasure detecting magazines can't get you too addicted, because everyone borrows them.

2. You can be entranced watching YouTube videos featuring Chicago Ron for hours with your kids!

3. Your detecting partner doesn't get upset about people you detected with long ago, and you can keep pictures of them.

4. When you meet a really good detectorist, you don't have to feel guilty about imagining the two of you detecting together.

5. Your spouse or significant other only becomes angry when you don't include them, and they are almost always "in the mood."

6. You don't have to feed money into the ground like a slot machine to take jackpots out of it.

7. If your partner takes pictures or videos of you detecting, you don't have to worry about them all over the internet someday if you ever become famous.

8. If your regular detecting partner isn't available, they won't object if you detect with someone else.

9. It requires exercise, such as digging, swinging, squatting, wading and scooping. (It's not uncommon to lose weight doing it!)

10. Your detecting partner will never say: "Not again? We just detected last week! Is detecting all you ever think about?"


Become a metal detectorist!

So how do you become one of us? Or more importantly, why?

The average detectorist is a 58-year-old male, according to the editor of American Digger magazine. This is changing as more young people and women see videos showing the tiny percentage of valuable finds and editing out the thousands of pop tabs and bottle caps that must be sorted through along the way.

When I'm detecting, I occasionally glance over my shoulder quickly if I sense someone observing me. Many people quickly erase the look of pity on their face and either smile or look away and pretend they weren't watching. (If you show them that you found gold, they look envious and stalk away, because they were pitying us a moment before and figure we don't deserve it. You can't win!)

A lot of folks tend to think we are a little crazy, and they are not far off: we spend hours digging, wading, scooping listening to the story the ground tells us on the off chance somebody might have dropped or buried something randomly and our search coil will pass over it. Also, because people think we are a little "touched," we attract the craziest people in the neighborhood because they figure we must be kindred spirits and want to compare tinfoil hats. (I am polite, but really just wish they would get the hell out of the way.) Hence, many detectorists do early morning detecting before anyone else gets up.

So, we are up early, swinging our coils and hoping we are the first ones detecting that spot, though hundreds were probably there before us. Then, between mud, dog poop, poison ivy, broken glass, stones, and bits of trash there just might be something good found, which more often than not is just a penny. By the end of summer, I often turn over thousands of corroded pennies to my bank, and they are overjoyed to handle them.


Whatzit made of lead and brass Chinese coin.

The silver coins are kind of nice, too!
The silver coins are kind of nice, too!

Hoarding Unidentified Whatzits

Another joy is the thousands of unidentifiable metal objects, which cause us to become hoarders because we can't bring ourselves to throw them away. Display cases and cigar boxes filled with whatsits become the norm. It took me 3 months to identify the fender ornament of a 1945 Schwinn Bicycle, and hundreds more objects remain. Luckily, I know a woman with OCD tendencies who will cheerfully pore through millions of Google photos till she finds one that helps identify my stuff. Fun! Another guy in my club found a ramrod holder for a long rifle and held onto it for years before someone pointed it out. Never, ever, throw away potentially cool stuff! It only takes one time to learn that lesson: I tossed an old spear point back into the East River one day because it annoyingingly caught on my fishing jig. Years later, I realized it was quite rare and valuable. Oh well!

14k Ring with Five Rubies

Metal Detecting Widows

This hobby is quite addictive. Like Pavlov's dog, we are conditioned to expect rewards from our "dirt fishing" efforts. Great finds come randomly and rarely, but their power to lure us is very strong. I tell new detectorists that it's addictive, but they will lose weight and become much thinner by the end of summer.

Married men joke about their "metal detecting widows." Spouses have two choices: either join them and have fun learning the hobby, or stay home and just be glad they have time for themselves to do their own hobbies and get things done around the house. I say join them. That way, when they take the bucket list trip to England to detect for Roman Gold, you can hit the pubs and drink with your friends. Then, if they do find gold, ask for it and they will give it to you out of guilt for abandoning you, and it can be melted down and made into something better than a tinfoil hat.

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