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Fri Aug 2 2013 15:58:26

Metal Detectors: A-OK or Declasse?

By: Julia Wilkinson

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Someone I know recently bought a fancy metal detector, and now he spends his early mornings or late dusks swinging it to and fro on the beach near his home. He's collected quite a stash, and gotten no flack, but that's apparently not the case for all "detectorists": a recent Wall Street Journal story reported that they "get hollered at on beaches and chased away from parks." And it goes on to say that "even the ultimate pop-culture endorsement - a bunch of reality-TV shows like "Dig Wars"...are seen as a diss." 

"They make us look bad," one detectorist, a Mr. Thompson, said. On one show according to him, "They'll pull out a backhoe to dig up a parking lot. We don't excavate." One metal sleuth was yelled at on a beach; another had the police called on him as "a suspicious man carrying a rod."

It's gotten so bad that some metal detectorists resort to ploys like using a detector that looks like a cane. Some others skulk around under cover of the night, apparently known as "nighthawking."

As a teen who lived in the beach town some summers, I used to feel bad for what I deemed the old fogies who had to resort to roaming around with their divining rods for what might amount to a few coins. But the detectorists in the article and my acquaintance who just started detecting have dug up some pretty interesting things: a Spanish real from 1780, an old gun, a bullet, two toy cars, and even a civil-war button from a uniform.

My Florida friend has found all kinds of rings: a Coach ring, a class ring, part-gold rings with small stones. Nothing earth-shattering yet, but he roots these things out regularly.

All of which begs the question: is there something ethically wrong with this? Would the person who lost the item have come back and found it, or is it simply finders, keepers?

What about historical and antique artifacts? Should they all be fair game, or should there be limits? Certainly no one is talking about digging around in graveyards...at least I hope not!

What do you think of the practice of metal detecting? Do you do it, or would you do it? Is it fair or foul? Post a comment here!




Comments (14) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Metal Detectors: A-OK or Declasse?   Metal Detectors: A-OK or Declasse?

This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie
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Fri Aug 2 16:46:56 2013

72 Years Later, Lost High School Class Ring Returned

ABC News link: http://abcn.ws/jTk0e2

Metal Detectors: A-OK or Declasse?   Metal Detectors: A-OK or Declasse?

This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Sat Aug 3 09:50:12 2013

Surprisingly, I don't see that many folks using them on the beaches. I thought I would see more. Maybe they are using ''canes''.

The only ''excavation'' I notice is for Drum Circles. They are trying to control that since people were falling into the holes the next day.

I wonder if the chance of finding things increases if the beach gets ''combed'' by the tractors used to groom them.


Growing up,  when farmers plowed their fields, many drove very slow & kept an eye out for Native Indian arrowheads & artifacts. Just in the small town where I lived, some of the farmers had amazing  collections they would show off if you came to visit.  Even on the same plot of land, more would turn up the next time it was plowed!

I even found some myself, just playing in the fields or near a creek.

Kinda parallels what the metal detector folks are doing.

Metal Detectors: A-OK or Declasse?   Metal Detectors: A-OK or Declasse?

by: Steevo This user has validated their user name.

Sat Aug 3 12:07:47 2013

I think using a metal detector on a public beach is your right if you care to do it.  

It's not illegal. Nor should it be.  

Metal Detectors: A-OK or Declasse?   Metal Detectors: A-OK or Declasse?

This user has validated their user name. by: Ed Gadfly

Sat Aug 3 17:40:16 2013

Beaches

Where does Ed Gadfly get rid of the pennies in the ash tray?

Metal Detectors: A-OK or Declasse?   Metal Detectors: A-OK or Declasse?

This user has validated their user name. by: juliawww

Sat Aug 3 20:37:04 2013

LOL Ed. Basset, that's cool about the native American artifacts...in fact in the little neighborhood where I live, an article was written years ago when some native American items were found here on a dig. Hm, wonder if there are any in my backyard..I'm sure hubby would love to see me digging pits back there. ;)

Metal Detectors: A-OK or Declasse?   Metal Detectors: A-OK or Declasse?

This user has validated their user name. by: juliawww

Sat Aug 3 20:38:25 2013

Annie, thanks for that link...what a sweet article! :) (And video).

Metal Detectors: A-OK or Declasse?   Metal Detectors: A-OK or Declasse?

by: midcenturygallery This user has validated their user name.
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Sun Aug 4 00:45:28 2013

I purchased an at pro metal detector before my last trip to South Padre. Me and the kids had a lot of fun learning but only found change. Since then I have been to a few local parks and lakes and found a couple gold rings along with a few thousand can pulltabs. One thing not mentioned in this article is the good people with metal detectors do. When I go out I pull all kinds of trash/ fishing hooks glass from lake beaches where kids and families swim and throw it away. I have seen other metal detectors and they always refill the holes and take out lots of trash. As far as the chance of the rings I found ever being returned I would gladly but I don't even know if the owners are still alive as they were found about a foot under ground and date from the 1920's / 30's. Anyway it's a fun hobby for not only the old fogies but for anyone with a love for treasure hunting!

Metal Detectors: A-OK or Declasse?   Metal Detectors: A-OK or Declasse?

This user has validated their user name. by: The End

Sun Aug 4 15:35:06 2013

Someone I know, recently found a penny minted the very FIRST YEAR of coins being made around 1776. Condition - Good to Excellent. The value is somewhere in the SIX figure range. It was in a corn field 2" under freshly tilled dirt! A metal detector is only as good as the person on the "Business End" of it. Of course, only use the Highest End detector to make it worth your while. White's detectors are pretty good :o)

Metal Detectors: A-OK or Declasse?   Metal Detectors: A-OK or Declasse?

by: BackInBlack This user has validated their user name.

Sun Aug 4 23:25:32 2013

Under a federal law, it's illegal to possess Indian artifacts, but in Oklahoma (still Indian territory, divided into five tribal areas), everyone did it.  The arrowheads were *everywhere* especially near creekbeds, rivers & lakes, and you could sometimes find others, like spearheads, stone axe heads, etc. Found a grain grinding stone at my ranch once, right in the front yard!
Metal detectors?  Sure, nothing wrong with them as long as the users don't trespass or excavate.

Metal Detectors: A-OK or Declasse?   Metal Detectors: A-OK or Declasse?

This user has validated their user name. by: Bijoux Dragon
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Sun Aug 4 23:36:38 2013

I'm one of those "vintage" fogies and have a blast.  Nobody's ever bad vibed me and kids love to look at it.  This is rural Maine though and not some cutthroat city beach.

Most valuable thing I have found - the nails and broken knife blade the idiot roofer dropped in my parking area.  Saved a $1,000 set of tires :)

Metal Detectors: A-OK or Declasse?   Metal Detectors: A-OK or Declasse?

by: DR Scarlett This user has validated their user name.

Sun Aug 4 23:48:07 2013

@BackInBlack

What federal law makes it illegal to possess Indian Artifacts?  Are you talking about Human Remains?  I've not heard of a law that makes possession of arrowheads a criminal offense.

Just out of curiosity, would a metal detector be able to detect flint arrowheads?  I thought they only detected metal objects.

Metal Detectors: A-OK or Declasse?   Metal Detectors: A-OK or Declasse?

by: BackInBlack This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 5 01:41:57 2013

@DR Scarlett - I don't know; was just always told *any* Indian artifacts could not be collected; perhaps it was an Oklahoma state law, but I thought I'd heard it was federal.

No metal detector can detect flint arrowheads; I was responding to the OT discussion of Indian artifacts.

Metal Detectors: A-OK or Declasse?   Metal Detectors: A-OK or Declasse?

by: FREDDY This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 5 06:13:34 2013

I think it is fun. Even get a little exercise.
Always ask permission if I go on private property, which I rarely do. Best thing I found was an old hunting knife in the woods. Found some coins once in a great while. Found a car key but no car :-(.
Did see and talk to a gentlemen who was in the water, maybe a foot deep, looking around. Said he found a couple of rings, coins, lures nothing of real value-just enjoyed doing it as he was retired.
Nothing more than interesting fun and probably better odds of finding something of value than the lottery.

Metal Detectors: A-OK or Declasse?   Metal Detectors: A-OK or Declasse?

by: Mr. P This user has validated their user name.

Tue Aug 6 11:06:27 2013

I am a ''metal detectorist'' using a lower end Garrett model for 5 years. I have found hundreds of US coins, a few match box cars, rings, tons of metal trash, and a 14K gold/diamond pendant worth $1500.
I do playground and park hunting and beaches in SC. No one has threatened to have me removed from any area (check local laws if municipal/public land).
If anything, most are curious as to your ''finds'' and wish you good luck as they leave.
As long as the detectorist gets permission to metal detect on private property, replaces any removed turf, fills in their holes and carries away the trash they should be allowed to persue their hobby in peace.



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