Interview with Author and Detectorist Terry Shannon
Terry Shannon is a recognized name in the metal detecting community. His love of the hobby shines through the books and videos he has authored. Recently, he released his fourth and fifth books titled “Turf to Surf” and “Metal Detecting a Beginner’s Guide“.
If you haven’t read “Turf to Surf” yet, it highlights Terry’s detecting ventures off Florida’s Treasure Coast. It also discusses metal detecting old cellar holes, abandoned mining towns, and private properties.
“Metal Detecting a Beginner’s Guide” its title makes it self-explanatory. Terry is a veteran detectorist and with his guidance in the book, a budding detectorist can get a good foundation.
His first three books, “Treasure Coast”, “Detecting The Treasure Coast”, and “Metal Detecting The Ottertail: Plus Much More” were well-liked and read by many detectorists.
Below, we will interview Terry about his life, books, and detecting. I hope you enjoy the read.
For Those Who Don’t Know Terry Shannon
How did you start metal detecting?
Years ago, my wife bought me a cheap RadioShack metal detector that ended up in the closet but it did spark a desire in me to metal detect. One day while visiting our local meat market, there was a used Garrett Ace 150 for sale for $75. I bought this machine only to find that the batteries had been left in and were a corroded mess. I was offered my money back, but I wanted a metal detector and decided I could fix it. I spent most of the day cleaning and replacing the corroded wires. When I was all done, I went out into my yard to test the machine and with each swing as I walked toward my house, when the coil got close to the ground, it sounded off. Something was obviously wrong. By this time and after all the labor I had put in I decided that nothing was going to stop me from metal detecting and I got in my car and drove to Fargo, North Dakota a 50 miles trip one way but the nearest place that sold metal detectors. The fellow showed me a Garrett ace 150, the very same detector that I had. I told him that I wanted the very best detector out there. I ended up purchasing a Minelab Explorer for much more money than I should have spent. On returning home, I took my new very expensive detector out to the same place where I had field tested the used Garrett and experienced the same results. Every time the coil approached the ground, it sounded off. I had chosen to test both machines right over the underground copper line that ran from my propane tank to the furnace in the basement of my home. The only thing wrong with either detector was the idiot that was swinging it. Sometimes doing something stupid can pay off. I started my detecting career with a very good detector and as a result, found a lot of neat stuff and it progressed from there. When you begin this great hobby, start out with a good detector. You don’t need to go to the extremes I did, but start with a good detector and there are many out there to choose from.
What are some of your more interesting finds?
I have been very fortunate. My wife and I call Minnesota our home, but we winter in Florida, living right on the Treasure Coast in Southeast Florida. This is the site where, in 1715, eleven Spanish treasure ships were lost in a major hurricane. To this day, Spanish pieces of eight or doubloons can be found along the ocean beaches. I have done well and have found Spanish reales in all sizes, plus many artifacts from the doomed 1715 Spanish Plate Fleet. I found a 1544 Carlos and Juana two reale believed to be the oldest Spanish coin or at least one of the oldest Spanish coins ever found with a metal detector on the Treasure Coast. Some of my other interesting Treasure Coast finds are a Gau, a very spiritual religious locket believed to be from a West Indian ship that sank in 1628, and a solid gold pendant from a native funeral mask believed to date from the 1500s. My very first Spanish coin was a dated 1701 two reale from the Potosi mint and the only one known to exist. I have also done very well finding modern gold and silver jewelry. In Minnesota, I have found many artifacts from a Red River Ox Cart trading post, cellar holes, and old properties. I have also spent many hours detecting in the Ottertail River a very popular tubing river near my hometown in Frazee, MN. Lately, I have been traveling to the north shore of Minnesota detecting for copper spear points and copper artifacts from what is called the copper culture, which dates back to before Christ.
If you could metal detect anywhere in the world, where would it be?
This is the easiest question I have ever been asked. Since 2005, I have spent every winter walking and detecting the Treasure Coast of Florida where in 1715 eleven Spanish Treasure ships perished in a major hurricane. I have made many interesting finds, modern and old. But in my mind, the true treasure is the lifestyle I enjoy. I have met and made so many friends who also enjoy our great hobby. I am 81 years young and take no medication what-so-ever. I attribute this to the exercise I enjoy almost every day walking the beaches and swinging my metal detector. I met a young man on the beach several years ago that said if you’re going to metal detect you must detect the Treasure Coast at least once. I could not agree more!!
What is your go-to meal after a long day of metal detecting?
This is a question that surprised me, but when I think about it, I believe it is a great question. I have been married to a wonderful lady for 63 years now. She is very supportive of my hobby and has, on many occasions, adjusted our meal hours to accommodate me. The sand on the beaches often moves as the wind and weather conditions change and the window of opportunity is often very short. I have called her as late as 8 in the evening saying I’m experiencing some great detecting and I will be late for supper. The time of the low tide often affects the detecting and I am blessed with a lady that understands that the time of our evening meal often changes, and she is also a fantastic cook.
Terry Shannons Metal Detecting Tips
Besides a good storm and a good cut. How do you determine where to detect on the beach for old shipwreck items?
I have a huge advantage over many that detect the Treasure Coast. I look for low or washed out areas. This Spanish treasure has been lost for over 300 years and if it could be found easily, it would have been found by now. I am retired and can detect every day when most only have the weekend or short vacation time. I am out on the beaches enough that I will recognize any changes and will spot a low area that wasn’t there earlier. They often warn tourists of the dangerous rip tides. These rip tides will wash out sand forming a bowl like low area, these often work their way back towards the dunes, and you can reach areas with your detector that has been covered for many years. The full or new moon also has a huge effect on detecting conditions. The tides come in and go out much farther, giving you a larger area to detect. I talk about this in much more detail in my books.
Can you give our readers some metal detecting tips for finding gold jewelry in parks? Especially trashy parks.
This is a great question and one that I have never really heard a decent answer to. Gold will register low on your detector as will pull tabs and most junk. I guess the best answer is to dig everything, but I have tried that and after a couple of hours of digging trash, you get bored and start being selective again. I guess the best answer is to hunt smart. When you decide to dig everything, do it where there is a good chance of gold jewelry being lost. Detect in the area where the kids play, if there are large trees, concentrate around these. When I find myself in this type of situation, I will often try to dig the deep targets or the ones where the numbers on your detector don’t jump around. Gold most often will give you a number reading and will stay the same regardless of your angle of approach. Good luck on this one.
How do you determine which creeks or rivers to metal detect, and what part to detect?
This depends a lot on what you are searching for. Creeks were a source of water back in the day and if you are a history buff, all kinds of good things can be found in and along the banks of almost every creek. Don’t forget, this also applies to the Native Americans, arrowheads and native artifacts can be found by just searching by sight. This is where a pair of good polarized sunglasses would be a valuable tool.
Rivers were often used for transportation or logging in the early days, and in modern times are often recreational areas. Old swimming holes can produce some fantastic old coins and jewelry. In the southern states, look for areas where these rivers were crossed or forded. These can produce artifacts and other old things of interest. Modern tubing rivers are virtually a gold mine. I was one of the first to detect the Ottertail River in Northern Minnesota and the first years that I detected it, I averaged eighty to one hundred rings each summer. I talk about this extensively in my book detecting the Ottertail.
When metal detecting a permission, specifically a yard, where do you like to concentrate if time is limited?
When detecting a yard, try to picture where the most activity would have been. If there are large trees, concentrate on these areas. Picture where there may have been a clothesline or garden. I often circle the yard first and when I find a trashy area, this is where I would concentrate if time was limited. Most importantly, make sure you leave the yard like you found it. Learn to recover coins and artifacts by digging a horseshoe-type hole, leaving part of the sod intact so you don’t leave unsightly holes in the yard. If you develop this skill, you will be welcomed back.
About the Current Books and Future Content from Terry Shannon
If you are not a beginner, but more of an intermediate or advanced metal detectorist, which one of your books would have tips that could help improve one’s detecting skills?
My book Metal Detecting the Treasure Coast and my third book, the Treasure Coast, pretty much concentrate on beach detecting. Detecting the Ottertail and Turf to Surf is more for inland detecting and covers a broader spectrum talking about detecting yards, parks, cellar holes, old forts, and detecting in general. I wish you all much luck as you enjoy this wonderful hobby of ours.
Are you working on any other books and if so what will the topics be focusing on?
I will be writing more but at this time have not decided on a topic.
Our readers rave about your YouTube videos, saying how much they learned from them and how they are still relevant years later. They are wondering if you will be making any more videos?
When I first started making the videos, it was fun and I hope informative. Writing a book is very time-consuming and the videos have taken a back seat, but every year a few more videos are made with the help of others in our hobby.
I would like to thank Terry Shannon for letting me interview him. Please consider buying his books to read when you can’t metal detect or buy them as a gift for a detectorist friend.
Purchase Terry Shannon’s Books
Joanna Jana Laznicka, a Czech-Canadian residing in Southern California, is passionate about all things associated with metal detecting. She mainly detects on the West Coast, from Southern California to Northern British Columbia. As the founder of Focus Speed, her goal is to bring quality content to metal detectorists.