Mark Branton is known for promoting metal detecting, being an ambassador, showing how the hobby is for all ages, and promoting the best practices.
He has been detecting for over 45 years and is a current Board Member and former President of Michigan Treasure Hunters. Mark was featured in Chapter 17 of Finders: Secrets of Success by T.D. (Tom) Bunce. He has his metal detecting finds on display for others to see in local libraries in and around Lake Orion, Michigan.
Observing his impressive collection of finds from various posts on social media, I asked if I could interview him. Below are my questions and his answers.
What detector do you prefer using, and how long have you used it?
I have eight detectors and two pinpointers. However, I carry three in my car. The reason being is that I feel that there is a need for all three. I use my Tesoro Silver U Max for tot-lots; it has a quick response time and minimizes the target area, which in turn, the recovery is very fast. The same notion applies to seeded hunts, the recovery process is phenomenal. The second machine I carry is a Minelab Explorer. I’ve used this metal detector for maybe 10 years and it is an outstanding silver machine, which is my primary reason for utilizing it. I will look at the cursor on the display, but the high tone usually tells the story. I was using it today and was able to recover a 1952 Ben Franklin Halve and an 80% 1965 Canadian Dime. I also have a Nokta Makro Simplex, it keeps me busy digging. It is a workhorse and I am at the point where 90% of the time the targets are identifiable. It has been a game changer for me.
What are some of your more interesting finds?
A 1776 Spanish 2 Reale, Crop Picker Tokens,10k,14k, and 18k rings, a 1796 King Charles Half Penny, a Barclay’s Doughboy from World War I, a 1921 Morgan Dollar, and a 1925 Peace Dollar.
Growth of Metal Detecting.
Preserving the Hobby
With metal detecting growing and becoming a popular hobby again, how do you feel the metal detecting brands can educate the newer detectorists?
I really think that the technology of these machines is phenomenal compared to yesteryears machines. I feel that the new technology could overwhelm a beginner, and I think that is what Minelab and Garrett had in mind when they came out with the Vanquish and the Apex. I’ve known people who have been “pumped up” to start metal detecting, only to get discouraged because of the learning curve, and end up putting the machine in the closet. I think the online tutorials are a very good source of information and most companies have them available.
What would you like to tell the younger detectorist to help preserve the hobby for future generations?
The boundaries. Our Native Americans were just on the front page of our local paper. They stated that their graves in their cemetery had been robbed and desecrated. When the reporter asked who was responsible, the spokesperson said metal detectorists. This has to stop and if it takes a future generation of detectorists to do this, then my hat is off to them. I would tell them the biggest commandments of metal detecting: pick up your trash and bury your hole. I would also tell them about the library displays that I do. Speaking at hobby days at local schools could be influential in getting more people interested in the hobby.
What do you wish metal detecting influencers (YouTubers, TikTokers, Instagrammers…) would do more to help promote the hobby in the right direction?
There are so many groups on social media nowadays and YouTube has become inundated with videos. A question I ask myself is, who do I want to watch? The thing about YouTube and metal detecting channels is that they all have become redundant. The YouTubers, TikTokers, and Instagrammers should give lessons in proper metal detecting etiquette, methods of cleaning coins, how to obtain permissions, and digging techniques such as how to make proper plugs, to when it is right to utilize a shovel as opposed to a digging trowel.
What do you feel metal detecting clubs should do more to promote ethics and best practices?
Taking the time to teach people about proper digging techniques. This could be the key to the future of our hobby. We have a club on the other side of the Detroit River in Windsor, Ontario, known as the Sun Parlour Treasure Hunters. The city of Windsor and the Parks and Recreation Department had banned metal detecting for the past two years because the holes had trash left behind. Not to mention the holes themselves were a mess. This was Windsor’s reason for posting the ordinance. One of the club members had to endure a year of legislative meetings to semi rid the parks of the ordinance. Now you have to belong to a club and have a certificate stating you know how to dig and fill your holes as well as take away your trash before you can apply for a park permit. In the United States, we had a famous statesman by the name of Thomas Paine who wrote a book called Common Sense. If we want to be able to stay in the parks in the future then don’t go there with a long-handled shovel, just take a look around when you approach a park.
Metal Detecting Tips, How to Approach Various Locations
Tell us some of your favorite tips for detecting older parks and getting older coins from them?
By way of aerial maps, it shows what was there years ago as far as houses, outbuildings, and such. Plat maps can help as well.
When detecting schools, what areas of the school grounds do you find are most lucrative and why?
The play areas, obviously. However, you may see an indentation with grass that is not growing. That is because many schools have elected to go with new playground equipment, which leaves remnants of the areas that I spoke of. This may sound funny, but I always detect a lot on the leftfield of baseball diamonds because there were more right-handed hitters than left-handed hitters.
If you get permission to detect an urban residential property that is older, how do you approach detecting the yard? What tips can you give us?
I try to treat the property as if it was my own. In this circumstance, if the lawn is pristine, you don’t want to be digging holes; the prober is a very effective tool for this. On older properties, I always tell the owner if the signals are deep, I’m going to dig down for them or let them go and see where the owner stands.
What tips can you give us for detecting farm fields?
After you get permission, ask the farmer/owner of the property questions. Such as did any Native American activities take place here? Was there a union store? If there was a union store, you could find out where it was. You could find crop picker tokens or arrowheads on the land.
I would like to thank Mark Branton for his detailed answers and for all the work he has done to promote metal detecting in a positive direction. His work helps preserve the hobby for future generations.
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.