Yes I see you, giving me and my detectorist friends that look as we are metal detecting in your line of sight. Some of you even snap pictures, and post them on Instagram or Twitter with a comment like “Beach Better Have My Money” or some other overused phrase. Some pull your kids away like we might be Lepers or even worse, call the cops on us.
But I am here to tell you about a lot of the amazing things we do, why you should welcome metal detectorists as opposed to treating us like we are a nuisance, and acting like we are shady and shouldn’t even be there. Let me explain to you how metal detectorists make the parks and beaches safer, how we have helped solve crimes, and even filled crucial gaps in history. Now, like any group in society, there are always a few bad apples. We call such people the nighthawks. They illegally dig on historic land where there are laws against metal detecting. But the good metal detectorists have strong ethics and what we do for the community and environment ought to outweigh the few bad apples.
Who Is a Metal Detectorist
Some are police officers, some are veterans, some are major CEOs, film directors, award-winning musicians, and some are the local handymen, painters or machinists. Some are simply retirees, enjoying some outdoor adventure. Some of us are moms and dads using detecting as a way to destress from parenting. Basically, we are from all walks of life. It is a hobby where white and blue-collar individuals can find a common ground. From the outside, we mostly all look alike. We don’t dress fancy because we get dirty and sweaty. It is the kind of hobby or sport where you shower after you get home, not before. At times, we might look homeless because we look dirty from digging, but don’t treat us like we are of a lower cast. Most of us detectorists are probably doing pretty good if we are detecting because, trust me, the equipment we use isn’t cheap. Most of our equipment, the detector and accessories, shovels, pinpointers, bags, and so on, easily add up to over a thousand dollars and most of us own more than one detector.
How Metal Detectorists Help Keep Kids Safe
Instead of thinking of metal detectorists as “ugh why are they here?”, think of us as people who care for the well being of other people. We clean up beaches and parks of sharp dangerous items that would quickly put adults and children in the ER, or in need of calling poison control. Yes, along the way, we find some coins and, on a good day, a historic item, or a ring, even a necklace that is a precious metal, but to do so, we have probably found syringes, razor blades, other drug paraphernalia, vaping devices, and open, sharp, rusty, pocket knives. Sometimes even live bullets! We routinely find mounds of trash, random shaped sharp metal objects, rusty nails, jagged wires, or soda cans with sharp tabs on any random day. As a detectorist, we have an unwritten code of conduct that we pick up the bad stuff and litter and dispose of it properly. We don’t do this for us, but for fear, it injures a child or an adult, and a desire to help clean up the environment. The beach metal detectorist finds rusty, nasty, fish hooks and often these items are found where children play barefoot. For instance a year ago I found an old Victor metal pedal wooden rat trap that was set a couple inches under the sand right beside a kids sandcastle. Imagine a child digging in that spot and getting their hand stuck in that rat trap.
How Metal Detectorists Help Adults
If you didn’t think the paragraphs above were enough to explain why detectorists are a positive thing to find in your park or beach, think of the potential ER bills for your kids who might find a syringe or a rusty fish hook that impales them, or impales you! Imagine the family vacations or family days that us metal detectorists save you by getting rid of such dangerous items because one would have had to rush someone to the ER!
It isn’t just about us cleaning up sharp dangerous objects, we also know the parks and beaches better than most because we frequent them often. We don’t just frequent them, we study them, from conditions of soil, water, weather, frequent visitors, and we notice which times are busy or slow. So, if a metal detectorist comes up to you and suggests you don’t swim there, we probably know the water conditions have dangerous pollutant levels. Or if a detectorist says it is not the best place to walk, it could be we probably know unsavory people, or dangerous animals hangout there, and that it’s best for the naive to not be treading in that direction. Most metal detectorists are not into chatting up others, especially strangers, but if one of us does approach you, they are probably telling you something important and it would be smart to at least hear what information we think you need to know, so please do listen.
Metal detectorists also help by identifying property markers, and pipes for land owners, real estate agents, and contractors. We often find lost keys for cars, homes and offices. If it is metal it is often the case that a metal detectorist has probably been asked to help locate it. In any case, many of us will volunteer to find it, glad to be of help.
However it goes beyond what we find. This hobby has helped those who are suffering with PTSD, Anxiety, Agoraphobia, Autism, and other health conditions. There are metal detecting clubs and individuals who work with mental health professionals and organizations to teach adults and children with PTSD, Anxiety, Agoraphobia, Autism, and other health conditions, to metal detect because of how therapeutic it is, being a meditative activity. Anyone who metal detects can explain to you how meditative, and calming it is.
Metal Detectorists Reunite, Not Only Sentimental Objects but Families.
You might have read stories of a detectorist finding class rings and finding the owners, or helping newlyweds who have lost their wedding band while on their honeymoon. Sometimes you hear of us finding military tags from World War II and returning such things to the families. For Instance today I will be going out to locate a ring made with a child’s ashes for a mother who lost it while hiking. But us reuniting sentimental objects to their families isn’t where it ends, metal detectorists have helped people in dark places and assist them in reuniting with their families.
How do we reunite families? Metal detectorists are very street smart and can read people quickly. We need to be, for our safety. Because of our street smarts, and because we become familiarized with all the corners of where we detect, we can pick up on the small details. We can tell who is out of place. While metal detecting, we come across people who, by terrible circumstances, are suicidal, runaways, or financially helpless, and we are able to provide comfort and guidance, hopefully talk them out of those hopeless mindsets, or just offer new perspectives to lift them back up. Often just being kind to such people, or listening can brighten someone’s day. Many of us have fed them with our own snacks, or even go so far as to provide them a roof over their heads until their families can come from other cities to get them. Metal detectorists are not cold people but people who have very big hearts. For instance, six months ago I came across a young woman who came to Southern California for a job which promised housing and good pay, but ended up being a scam. After her boss made inappropriate moves on her, she ran out the door with nothing, leaving everything behind. With nowhere to go and no money, she was living at the beach. I found her crying and lost about what to do. She looked and sounded out of place, so I approached her, worried and asked if she was OK. I knew it was one of the worst beaches for a young, attractive, clean-cut woman to be hanging out alone at, much less sleeping there! I brought her home to stay at our home until her parents could come and get her. I felt better knowing she was safer staying with us than on the beach, prey to any number of hostile influences that might con her with in-genuine offers of help…my mind imagined worst case scenarios like human trafficking. With few options, desperate people do desperate things.
Metal Detectorist Help Authorities
Lifeguards, park rangers and police come talk to us, and we have a mutual understanding; we aid them if need be. Lifeguards may ask us for help keeping an eye open for children who are lost, knowing good beach detectorists cover a lot of ground. In addition, law enforcement is very grateful when we call in guns found because it helps solve cases. Sometimes police ask for help locating evidence from detectorists because we know a location better than they do. We are an extra set of eyes who are detailed and find things most would miss.
Metal Detectorist Gaps of History
Seasoned metal detectorists don’t just go out and dig. We spend countless hours researching areas. We take old maps and overlay them over new maps and spend countless hours finding areas to dig. We sometimes stumble across and go detect areas even historians didn’t know about, bringing forth a wealth of information to add to our history records. Some of us share our finds with schools, museums, and historical societies, so it can get children and adults more enthused about local history. The media may portray a feud between archaeologists and detectorists, but I haven’t seen it. Instead, I have seen quite the opposite. We have been asked to come onto archaeological sites to help find items, and there are archaeologists who are detectorists as well! There are even books co-written by archaeologists and detectorists. We can and do coexist symbiotically together.
Which Leads Me To
The next time you see a metal detectorist at a park, beach, or on a hike, maybe instead of giving us that snarky judgmental look, thank us for helping the environment and community, or simply give us a warm smile. Maybe get to know us, because there is a lot more good that comes from us than bad.
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.