First Year Detecting: A Beginner’s Journey into the World of Metal Detecting

I know there’s someone out there reading this who can relate! I feel like the beginning of this should start off like an AA meeting… Hello, I’m Cris, and I have an addiction to metal detecting… Normally, this would start with the around-the-room welcomes. I’ll start off with my share, so to speak. I started using a detector on and off about 6 years ago, nothing serious, but I always felt that I was missing something…this is literal and figuratively as I started with a Bounty Hunter Time Bandit. The Time Bandit is your $125 Amazon special, great for getting your feet wet in the sport or maybe you dropped something in the grass in your yard and you want to find it. I started off messing around in my yard a little with my daughter and digging a few coins, then progressed to some gravel parking lots and even the beach a few times. I was having fun detecting but I really hadn’t caught the bug yet.

My oldest daughter and I made the agreement that we would save all the coins we found and eventually buy a nice detector one day when the jug filled up. The highlight of almost 5 years of digging was one gold ankle bracelet and one silver coin. Fast forward 150 to 200 hunts later, and I think we had exactly $700 towards a new detector. Knowing a few people in the hobby, I entered what I consider my hyper-focus stage of research. Having ADHD is a blessing and a curse as it allows me to really focus on something to the point where I absorb literally everything I read and research, the tradeoff is that it is all-consuming and impossible to turn off. After probably 100 hours of research, I decided to get a used Minelab Equinox 800. I consider this the first real point of addiction.

My first hunt, I quite literally took it out of the box and took the kids to the playground by our house. The world opened up to me! There were coins everywhere! So many sounds and so much to dig! I was also lucky this was a park that had never been hit by a detector in the last 40 years! This first hunt produced $18 in probably less than 2 hours! I was hooked badly and I knew it… I got home and that night, ended up looking up clubs or groups I could join to learn more. I couldn’t think about anything else but getting out the next day and trying to find more. The next morning I woke up and got the kids’ breakfast and was itching to get out the door. I ended up going to another spot I know that has a big field and now has some history. My first target was a Free Mason’s silver ring! I couldn’t believe it, and well, at this point, there was no turning back.

Again in this journey, we will fast forward a month, I joined the San Diego Coin shooters, met Rick Hunter, did a ton of beach hunts and well found a ton of stuff. I bought the detector the last week of April and got it May 1st, I believe, the End of June marked my first wrap up with probably 30 rings, $200 in Clad and a good amount of silver jewelry and chains but no gold. By this point I was hunting 6-8 hours a day 6 days a week and the rest of my time was spent watching thousands of videos on YouTube and reading everything I could get my hands on every waking minute. My time was about to come! On July 2nd I found myself standing in the dark at 1 am in the morning with a headlamp and a scoop watching the tide and a rip current strip away a section of beach. Rick had moved on down the beach while I stayed where I was. Growing up on a boat and being on or in the ocean almost my entire life gives me a little advantage when it comes to reading waves and ocean movements. I started this hunt with a grid from the dry sand down and basically followed the tide down the beach as it progressed out, I nailed the spot, and right off the bat it produced a nice Gold wedding band! Might I mention there were about 10 other detectorists on the beach that night, I made sure to drag my scoop and claim my little section of beach, so to speak, small it may be, but I knew this was the spot. A half-hour later produced a silver ring, then another gold ring! And another! Soon I was up to 9 rings when all of a sudden I dug what I still consider my best find especially when referring to gold weight. A 38.2g 18kt gold chain with a crucifix… I was in disbelief, and this thing was huge! Earlier I had called Rick over to help cover the spot as I knew there were just too many targets to dig before the tide would come in again and cover everything all up. We worked that spot till the sun came up, and it produced a ton of jewelry and rings for both of us but this night was mine for the taking. I went on to win find of the year with that chain, and it still has to be the best beach hunt I have done.

Progression in this hobby and other hobbies I have done typically comes at a cost, in this one, it has been sleep and also monetary as I always feel at a point where I know it is unhealthy but just can’t stop. There were many points during my progression with the Equinox and during the summer that I would not sleep for several days in a row. Again hyper fixation can be a curse as I just can’t shut it off till I end up just crashing from exhaustion. Walking 350,000 steps a month during the summer in dry sand can also be quite taxing on the body. It also gets you in good shape, though on the positive side! The monetary aspect normally comes in the form of me breaking and or wearing out gear, and this is always replaced by top-of-the-line equipment, which has been carefully researched in my defense. Luckily this hobby pays for itself! I used the first lot of clad coins to buy another detector for my daughter (Minelab Xterra Pro) and a new Titanium Xtreme Scoop. I then bit the bullet and went with a Minelab Manticore, and yes, it is a Beast but more on that in another article.

Goals and milestones are something I always try to set early on in a hobby, and I try like hell to hit those goals. I set personal goals of 100 rings, 100 silver coins, and $1000 in Clad. I am also well aware that you are only as good as those you surround yourself with and detecting is no different from any other hobby in that aspect. I have a core group of detectorists now that I hunt with on a regular basis and we all learn and build on each other’s skill sets. As the beach season winded down, the shift to hunting grass started. I finished off the beach season with the Nox, and in September, I moved over to the Minelab Manticore. I had no idea just how different from the Nox, the Manticore would be. By January 1st I had met my ring goal of 100 and had surpassed my clad goal, silver coins sat at 74. At the Coin Shooters Christmas party, they count up the points for all the categories you won throughout the year, and my total put me in second place for the year and got a cool certificate as 2nd place detectorist and also won best find of the year! At this point, my shift to silver coins and relics had taken my fancy, and again a renewed drive to find what once was lost to memory and uncover history took the place of beach hunts and sandy shoes.

Enter the research phase. Everything and anything I can find in historical references has become my true passion. The history and the hunt are all-consuming. Jewelry is really just becoming another item of monetary value that moves through the collection. The history is amazing of an area if you’re also digging it up! Thousands of hours at this point have gone into research of spots, permissions, and getting deeper and older targets. I think certain detectorists are good at certain aspects of detecting. Some are especially good at finding rings, some are especially good at beaches, some are good at recovery and speed, and some dig deep. I dig deep, and I move slow, everything for me is about depth and the technical side of settings, and the fine details of picking silver from an iron bed or a ring out of a trashy fire pit area. I have read and watched probably 10,000 videos on the Manticore and what settings are what, just to end up ignoring almost all of them and developing my own programs. I custom-tune the detector to every spot I hunt now, and the results don’t lie. At the time of writing this, (3 March), I’ve upped my silver numbers to 162 more than doubling my numbers and January producing over 58 silver coins for the month and February another 29. Military buttons from WW2, Army, and Navy Academy badges, locks, keys, and pieces from long ago abound in my display cabinet. Some highlights include buttons from the California state militia 1861-1868, 300 plus Wheaties, silvers to 1892, and my oldest American coin being an 1845 Matron head large Cent and a Canadian large copper Nova Scotia Penny 1832.

What makes this hobby so much different from all the others I’ve had in the past is that there is no end to it, there is too much ground out there to run out of targets in my lifetime, and it’s always being replenished in some form. I still have a few months left till I can close out my totals for my first year swinging a real detector, so to speak but I do know that this hobby isn’t going anywhere and I’m going to be doing this one for a long long time to come. My take-away for one entering this hobby is that there is a ton of information out there at your fingertips. You just need to do the homework and find it. For the older generation of detectorists, who I find dislike the influx of new blood, so to speak, I have one thing to say, make contact and educate. I am fortunate to have some pretty good mentors and am fortunate in that aspect. There is a code of ethics and I do believe in respecting the moral values and duty to the hobby it instills. Tips I would include are reading Focus Speed’s articles, getting a good shovel (a longer handle will save your back), don’t skimp on your pinpointer, know your detector like it’s an extension of your arm, you only can get what you swing your coil over, and most of all remember to have fun!

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