Interview with Detectorist Buckleboy: From Exposing Fake Finds to Identifying Artifacts and Highlighting Manufacturer Blunders

Those who frequent Facebook’s metal detecting groups will recognize the handle Buckleboy. His straightforward approach to calling out fake finds has led to heated discussions, which can admittedly be entertaining to read. Aspiring influencers trying to pass off faked discoveries won’t get past him.

Buckleboy also prides himself on accurately identifying finds and has a forthcoming book, “RELICS: A Guide to Identification,” published by Greybird Publishing, part of Butch Holcombe’s American Digger Magazine publishing house. The book will feature over 1,600 photos spread across approximately 400 pages, showcasing the histories of various items and time periods. It will include images of both dug and nondug artifacts from his own collection, as well as contributions from other collectors and museums around the world.

In addition to his book, Buckleboy has written around 25 articles for metal detecting magazines, many of which were published in Western & Eastern Treasures Magazine. He also runs a YouTube channel with over 1.2K subscribers and an Instagram of 5k+ followers where he documents some of his relic hunts.

Below are my interview questions along with Buckleboy’s detailed responses, accompanied by photos of some of his finds. In this conversation, we explore his metal detecting journey, gain insights into correctly identifying artifacts, and discuss his views on the current state of metal detector technology and how manufacturers are marketing new detectors.

About Detectorist Buckleboy

Q: How old were you when you first started metal detecting, and how many years have you been passionate about this hobby?

I started very young, with a cheap, crappy metal detector my parents bought me when I was perhaps seven or eight years old. But I bought my first real detector when I was twelve. I’ve been seriously into the hobby for 33 years now. 

Q: Could you share which metal detectors you currently use and provide an overview of the models you have owned since you started metal detecting?

I’ve logged serious hours on old Compass machines, Tesoro uMax Cibola and Tejon, Whites XLT and DualField, XP Deus and Minelab Equinox in the past. I’ve really had two primary detectors in 33 years: the first good detector I owned was a Fisher 1266-X. I use an F75 now nearly exclusively. The Fisher F75 LTD is a great detector, and it’s equal to any multi-frequency detector currently made when it’s used in mild soil. Plus, I’ve logged over a decade on the F75 and I can squeeze every ounce of performance out of it.

Q: Your fans must be curious—why the name Buckleboy, and why do you choose not to reveal your real name or show your face in photos or videos?

The name Buckleboy came from a good friend of mine who started calling me that when he took me digging on our very first outing together and I dug a Civil War sword belt plate on his site. That can definitely test a brand new friendship! But we’ve been good friends for nearly 20 years now and were groomsmen at each others’ weddings. He used to say I had “Civil War camp ESP” because I could locate, get permission and walk into a new field and just start digging bullets everywhere. 

In terms of using my real name and showing my face, I value my privacy very highly. I also value the relationships I’ve forged with the property owners of nearly 80,000 acres of active permissions across five parishes in Louisiana. I don’t see any need to plaster my face and real name everywhere. Value in social media for metal detecting should be based on the quality of finds, tips, techniques and information shared, not the charisma of a persona or a metal detecting influencer personality. So for me, not showing my face or clowning for the camera puts the emphasis on the right things: the finds and the knowledge. I guess that once my book comes out, my real identity will be out there anyhow. But if I have any negative repercussions from the book’s release I may just go dark on my social media again and focus on my digging instead. I wasn’t on YouTube or Facebook much during 30 of my years in the hobby, and I have a love/hate relationship with it at times. I do care a lot about the hobby, though, and I care a lot about helping people and sharing info about the history and identity of recovered items… so I’ve made that sacrifice for now. But I don’t particularly enjoy viewing the world through a camera lens while I’m out hunting, or feeling like I have to make an episode for my fans. That really lessens the experience for me, which is really more about meditation, freedom, history, thought, and nature.  A lot of times I just leave the camera in the truck so that I can have a more personal experience with the hobby for myself.


Q: Who are your metal detecting mentors? 

My mentor in the hobby was a friend of the family named Tom Francis, who started me out metal detecting when I was a kid. I’ve never known anyone like him—someone who was just as happy to give a relic away to a detectorist who had never dug one before, as he was to dig it in the first place. He had been detecting in Virginia since 1969 (primarily for Civil War relics) but he enjoyed detecting yards, beaches, fairgrounds and old resorts too. He was a walking history book of local Civil War troop movements, battles and encampments. 

I’ve always said that my parents got a divorce and I got a metal detector. The hobby has literally saved me during difficult times in my life. Tom was a father figure for me in many ways. I always appreciated how our hunts were about the history and the search, rather than about competition or the finds. He made the hobby that way for me, and I’ve tried to maintain that same relationship with the hobby through all of these decades: a focus on the experience over the finds, the history over the monetary, and the childlike wonderment and excitement experienced in moments of quest and discovery.

I continued to return to dig with Tom every summer after I moved away from the area, coming back to talk and reconnect. He continued to dig with me up to his death at nearly 80 years old, and he and I talked via telephone every week. It really shook me when he passed away suddenly from aggressive, late-stage cancer. I dedicated my relic ID book to him and his memory. I can only hope that my book helps others half as much as his getting me into the hobby has helped me. 

Q: Metal detecting finds are not just items, they are stories waiting to be uncovered and shared. Each artifact adds to the rich tapestry of history and provides a tangible connection to the past. Which three finds of yours, do you feel highlight this statement the best?

Great question. I have long felt that everything we find has a story to tell. The value part is up to us to figure out—and that changes with perspective and time. I have common, fired minieballs which I dug with Tom as a kid that are some of the most valuable relics to me. I also have seated silver coins that just feel like another coin dug because I’ve recovered hundreds of that type of coin now. So it’s all about perspective and personal value.

Part of my goal in writing this book was to hold up many of the everyday items of past centuries, to identify them accurately and explore the history about them, rather than to publish a book of “relic porn” the likes of which most mere mortals would never dig. Besides, those everyday items were the ones which everyone alive back then knew, owned, and interacted with, and those are the items that put us most in touch with them if we pause and listen to those stories. 

I do have twelve relics featured in my book which tell fascinating stories, many of which are rare or even unique, which I’ve had the privilege to dig. I think I’d like to save those stories for the last chapter of my book and instead focus here on an item which almost every hobbyist has dug: the common leather rivet and burr. 

Leather rivets and burrs were sold in bulk (by the piece or by the pound) in mail order catalogs and hardware stores for more than 100 years. The purpose of these items was effectively to hold two pieces of leather goods together. Made of copper alloy for durability and resistance to the elements, these items were sold in a variety of different lengths. (Their copper composition is why they read with higher numbers on a detector.) What many people do not know is that rivets and burrs were repair items. Nearly all leather strap goods were stitched together when new. It is only after the stitching failed that a rivet was needed. To repair the leather, an awl or leather punch was first used to punch a small hole through both pieces of the material—slightly smaller in size than the shaft of the rivet. The rivet shaft was then pushed through both pieces of leather and trimmed with tin snips or shears to slightly longer than the approximate length. The burr (a small copper alloy “washer”) was placed on the rivet. Then a peening hammer was used to beat the sheared end of the shaft until it spread and deformed overtop of the burr, fusing the burr and rivet permanently together (as well as the two leather pieces in between). It’s amazing to think of all of this time, energy, and effort to repair a piece of strap goods—but this was far cheaper than replacing a saddle, strap, holster or martingale. It’s humbling to think of the time investment represented by each rivet found. To me, knowing the history of each item—not just what it is but how it was used—gives me far greater appreciation for the Americans who used the items. History is an endless rabbit hole, and the deeper one looks, the more they find.

Identifying Metal Detecting Finds

Q: Where do you think detectorists often make mistakes when identifying their metal detecting finds?

I think it’s really easy to get something in our head and to convince ourselves it’s actually true. I see this happening in the hobby a lot, and it’s called confirmation bias. We select info that supports what we already believe to be true. I think many hobbyists see a vague shape or design and assume relics are something they may not be. Recently a square of silvered brass was posted on a civil war group. After dozens of people erroneously said it was a civil war belt plate, I correctly identified it as a daguerreotype. It had no attachments or signs of attachment hooks (brazing marks). It was silvered on one side (which was required for the plate to take the photographic image, and not a common trait for a belt plate), and perhaps most importantly it was the standard dimensions of a specific daguerreotype size (these photographic plates were all standardized depending on the size purchased and what the photographic equipment would accept). No doubt many folks just saw the general shape (square), size, and composition (copper alloy), and all of a sudden it became what they wanted or hoped for it to be. The relics are what they are. No amount of wishing can turn a relic into what it isn’t. 

Q: How can metal detectorists improve the documentation of their finds? 

I actually have a video episode on my channel about this (Episode #188).  It’s really important to organize finds by site. That type of organization of one’s collection honors the context of the relics themselves, but far more importantly it allows a detectorist to piece back together fragments of excellent relics that may be dug months or years apart. (The first recovered piece of a great relic doesn’t always look like much, and before enough pieces are found for an ID, nice finds are thrown away.) 

Organizing by site also allows the hobbyist to learn more about each site and the people who were once there, since they can examine all the relics from the same site as a group in one place together. Last of all, it helps greatly in establishing date ranges for individual relics, since all the relics, coins and other datable items are there together. Drawing such conclusions—and using the other items found to help date unknown items—is not possible when relics were plucked away from the other items they were found with. Where are the common items that were dug with that military coat button, and which that veteran owned? What do the other items say about that veteran’s experience after the Civil War and what they went through after returning home? What happened to the story of the children he had once the marbles and toy whistle are forever separated from the coat button, and the button is unceremoniously placed in a case with thirty other buttons? Then all of these items lose some of their meaning and all of their context. It’s also impossible for the hobbyist to draw conclusions that benefit their searching and the type of sites they choose to dig or not dig. All of that is gone when relics are separated out by type. Many in our hobby profess to save history. But accurately identifying, documenting and storing/displaying finds is the only real way to do that. Otherwise, history is actually being lost because of the finder.

Q: I’ve seen heated discussions in Facebook Groups where you’ve pointed out that someone has misidentified an item. How do you know you are right? Specifically, where do you find your sources and gather information to justify saying their find identification is wrong? 

The vast majority of items dug can be identified by their attributes and details: What metal is it made of? How was it constructed? How was it attached to something else, or was it attached to anything? What size is it? But similar tropes emerge over the years and I can often remember that I’ve seen a certain relic before and track down the ID even if it was years ago. That’s where experience plays a role. I’ve never been the type of person to only notice the coins or the military relics in what someone posts. I’ve always been looking at the other stuff and trying to identify it too, and to lend everything that’s dug a bit of respect—or at least a shred of my curiosity.

People are bad at assumptions, and treasure hunters are worse that most. The reason is that what makes us treasure seekers really good about imagining where sites were, connecting the dots and filling in the holes of our research, or chasing after our dreams of treasures—also makes us horrible at acknowledging unvarnished and often mundane truths about the items we’ve dug! For example: It can’t simply be a civilian heel plate with a heart cutout. It has to be from a harlot leading a civil war soldier to her boudoir via heart tracks left in the dry dirt, right? That makes for a great story, but it is also completely untrue.

Fact is, most items produced during the 19th century were advertised or promoted by circulars, company ads, or mail-order catalogs. During and after the Industrial Revolution, the general public wouldn’t have known the items existed for purchase otherwise. The good news is that those same print materials from the past make it possible for us to search for and locate those items too. I use probably 30-40 different original printed materials from the 1830s through the 1920s to identify finds visually. I also use printed auction catalogs (NOT online ones, where sellers of the items fill out their own (often erroneous or exaggerated) listings.

My goal is always to get at the truth. I’ve been wrong before about an ID and I’ve made a public apology when I’ve drawn the wrong conclusions about a relic, or when newer and incontrovertible evidence is presented. But my goal is accuracy and finding things out for myself, not just relying on hand-me-down detectorist lore. I usually only reply to a social media post to identify a relic if I’m almost 100% positive of what it is. If I have nothing more than an idea or a guess then I don’t like to post that. Too many guesses actually muddies the water and can make it harder for the finder to get the right ID. But occasionally I’ll reply in that case to help steer the finder in a direction (especially when I don’t have the time to do a lot of research on one single find), and if I’m not certain then I state clearly that it’s my best guess. (Keep in mind that I identify probably 20-30 relics per day for folks via DM or in fb groups, so it can be time intensive.) But most of the time I reply only when I’m nearly positive in the first place. 

How can I can be certain I’m right? Again, if I’m not certain then I don’t reply. If I do reply then it’s because I’ve seen engravings of the exact (or very similar) item in old print advertisements from centuries ago, or found them in original 1800s mail order catalogs. Or it’s because for 30 years I’ve been taking photos of metal bits in museums and personal collections, and saving those photos in the cloud, all the while thinking “someone had to have dug this piece at some point and one day I’ll see one online.” And part of it is having identified the same exact items many many times for other people accurately in the past. The ones I’ve identified correctly dozens of times are a no-brainer for me, and I have very little tolerance for folks who want to argue with me that an item is what it isn’t.

Fraud in the Metal Detecting Finds

Q: What percentage of people posting finds online on Facebook Forums, YouTube, and Instagram do you feel are fake?

It’s a small percentage but it is growing, and it reflects poorly on all of us when it happens. We all have a responsibility to our hobby to decide what kind of community we want for ourselves. I don’t think any of us wants the type of hobby where lying and faking finds is met with tacit approval or (even worse), praise.

Q: What are the obvious and not-so-obvious telltale signs that a coin or relic was planted and never dug up?

It’s getting harder to tell, but a surefire sign is that the item was purchased on eBay, and it can be matched exactly to past eBay sales due to scratches, flaws, or unique imperfections in the item itself. Another sign is patina, that indicates that the item was never ever in the ground. Nickels are a good indicator because they’re nearly always obviously discolored if actually dug. Lack of relics accompanying a handful of coins that have a questionable appearance. Large backstory (i.e., a big lie!) or suspicious photos in the dirt (photos that look staged for multiple reasons). 

Most of this outing of faked finds occurs in private and anonymously on Facebook groups dedicated to that purpose–but I’ve noticed that folks always come to the defense of the faker to argue that the finds “could be real.” Well, over time one sees questionable posts tend to stack up, all from the same questionable finders. So it’s pretty normal for the faker to fake again—until they’re publicly outed. 

Q: What would you like to say to people faking finds?

People, chill out. It’s just metal detecting. It’s not Hollywood, and you’re not the star of your own reality TV show. When you look at social media and see all the amazing finds, you’ve got to realize that you’re seeing everything that hundreds or even thousands of people went out and dug that day. Not with 100,000 hours in a day to dig, endless sites, and limitless stamina could you keep pace with all of that. So when you feel overwhelmed, or everyone is finding more than you are at the moment, don’t let the Fear Of Missing Out push you to faking your finds. Instead, focus on one person and scroll down their personal feed. With rare exceptions, you’ll see that most people have pretty normal finds most of the time, and some good ones here and there (as well as some strikeouts too!)

Q: Where are you noticing in the use and abuse of AI by those who fake finds, and what tips do you have for others to catch these AI-generated fakes?

The use of AI-generated accounts for income generation through interactions and monetization is on the rise. It’s especially common in photo-heavy platforms like Instagram, but it’s also making appearances in metal detecting groups on Facebook now. AI can generate content far faster than we can identify and call it out as fake (or have it removed), and this will become a huge problem and headache for our hobby unless the moderators of detecting pages are willing to take appropriate action to maintain the integrity of the groups they administrate. 

I can foresee many abuses of this technology that aren’t as harmless as simply wasting our attention or time in interactions with fake content. Imagine “best finds” prizes or “find of the week” contests (which some fb pages offer) being consistently won by AI-generated finds, and real users with real finds having little chance. Imagine paid hunts organized by scam pages which lure victims in based on photos finds that were never dug and aren’t real. Imagine faked digital personas created and entire channels and pages draining charitable donations, memberships, and gifts from real content generators and genuine hobbyists in the community. Perhaps worst of all for our day-to-day online experiences, imagine a sort of “Cold War” situation where both the quantity and quality of finds were being raised to the point that real finds were no competition anymore for computer-generated finds. Imagine the distrust that would create in the online hobby community, to scroll through your feed and not have much certainty that the finds you saw were real. The increasing ease of use, and (eventual) unlikelihood of being called out—especially when mixing some authentic with some AI-generated posts—would no doubt lure some respected hobbyists into using AI so their media accounts didn’t tank. That’s a pretty horrible outcome.

It’s becoming increasingly hard to tell that accounts are AI-generated (and it will become even more challenging in the future). One has to look at the details. Many users will congratulate, interact and upvote AI-generated content without noticing that the “excavated coins” don’t have legible inscriptions, or aren’t of any known types. Iron finds are removed from the ground without any signs of rust. Found relics don’t align with any types or subtypes of relics currently known. The account may show only European finds but have a U.S. location or vice versa. There may be a lack of video footage, and only questionable photos posted. A quick glance at these items and they may look believable. Perfect traps for our attention while scrolling. But even a few seconds spent looking at the details reveals that they are computer-generated.

Buckleboy’s Thoughts on Metal Detector Manufacturers 

Q: What are metal detector manufacturers doing right, and where could they improve?

What the manufacturers are doing right: For starters, there are lots of extremely versatile and high-quality detectors on the market currently, and most of them are built very well and are super durable. The technology is leaps and bounds over where it was 20 years ago, and it’s great to see waterproofing becoming standard as an expectation across different brands and models. There have been some cool little upgrades I’ve really enjoyed, such as the tiny light in the back of Nokta detectors that allows for hunting at dusk with ease. Such a small innovation but one I greatly appreciate. A great innovation is the vibration target response that allows the hearing impaired to participate in the hobby, and also means these detectors can be used underwater without headphones.

On the negative side of things, I feel that companies are bringing out too many models in fast succession. I don’t think it’s healthy for our hobby, and it doesn’t promote people actually learning the equipment they’re using. It also causes user dissatisfaction and lack of faith in equipment, as well as endless upgrading (in many cases, without appreciable benefits). I won’t name all the new models brought out recently in such quick succession but we all know who the offending companies are. After a point, it just starts to feel like a money grab. No metal detector is “so” improved, or so “latest-and-greatest” that last year’s model is already obsolete. And I am not certain that we will see huge gains in large steps ever again in our hobby, such as the gains that were made when the VLF was invented and BFO’s were abandoned, or when PI’s were commercialized which for the first time allowed for deep hunting in the surf. One usually gains far greater benefits by taking the time to know the detector they already own rather than abandoning a nearly new machine for a brand new one.

Metal detecting isn’t an arms race. You’re not gonna go and toast the competition with an upgrade. There aren’t thousands of silver coins out there one centimeter below your current detector’s range. Someone who is more dedicated than you are to the hobby will find more treasure than you. Someone who makes time to dig more often than you do will find more than you. Someone who can sweet talk owners and dig their properties better than you can will find more. As with most things, there’s more than one way to improve your results. And all of these ways are cheaper than buying a new detector and expecting a different outcome when the research, permission-getting, sites, dedication, and time off to dig all remain the same. So my advice is to perhaps work on improving those other things instead of thinking that some magic pill in a very large box will fix you.

There are nearly endless head to head “battles” and detector comparisons online that receive a ton of traffic because every user is afraid of “buying the wrong machine. But the truths of this hobby are sometimes tough ones to hear: 1. No one can ever compare different machines accurately because each target in a real environment can only be recovered once. 2. Air tests aren’t valid, and test gardens aren’t real life 3. Confirmation bias is strong—and spending thousands gives one a big reason to think their detector is the best. 4. Most folks have only a partial understanding of what all the settings on their expensive detectors actually do, 5. Most folks hunt using the same settings or nearly the same settings most of the time… and last of all 6. Finding treasure is mainly about the user, and actually much less about the machine.

As a final thought, another issue I’ve seen lately is an inability (or perhaps downright refusal) of companies to solve design flaws that have plagued user experiences for as much as a decade. In some cases, brand new models are released with the same exact, known flaws as the last models. Our hobby deserves better, and this is sloppy engineering. Why would we trust a company that said it’s new model was the “best ever” if it had the same old annoying flaws as the previous iterations? 

Q: What should manufacturers focus on to advance detector technology?

I think detector companies have been converging on all-around detectors that are capable in a wide variety of environments, and moving toward waterproof detectors with variable and flexible settings for many types of detecting. The strength in this is we get strong, capable, nearly-universal tools. The problem is that we may lose some tools designed for specific situations and environments. This approach to development may also create issues down the road for future detector models if investments in research/technological advances for specific hunting situations slow down or stop. One example of this is how beach and surf pulse technology has become marginalized and stagnant in recent years as hobbyists have gravitated toward using their “land machines” (VLF multi frequency detectors) in salt environments. The issue is that even an old PI detector will still excel far beyond what a VLF is capable of in the surf. That’s but one example. I’m sure there are others. 

Conclusion

BuckleBoy’s passion for metal detecting and commitment to authenticity have made him a recognized figure in the community. His upcoming book promises to be a valuable resource for detectorists, offering detailed insights and visual documentation of various artifacts. Through his straightforward approach and dedication to the hobby, BuckleBoy strives to educate any newcomers to the hobby, ensuring the integrity of metal detecting remains intact. Whether he’s exposing fake finds or uncovering historical treasures, BuckleBoy’s contributions and frankness stand out in the hobby. 

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