“The Magic of Metal Detecting” by Jack Topping.
[2 May 2018]
By definition, a metal detector is “a device that gives an audible or visual signal when its search head comes close to a metallic object”. While this definition would be obvious to some, the intricacies in the art of metal detecting extends far beyond common knowledge. Often times, modern society will sigh or groan upon hearing “metal detector”, alluding to a different kind of device, specifically those tall, clunky machines found in airports or other buildings for security screenings. For those individuals who prefer the handheld apparatus, the chances of a spectacular find truly depends on the target location. These locations, such as a search through the woods or a quick stroll on the beach, can reveal items including building nails, bottle caps, military ordinance, and most importantly, coins. While not every search results in buried treasure, the thrill of the hunt reveals the true magic and mystery of metal detecting.
To discuss this fascinating topic, I spoke with a member of one of YouTube’s most popular coin hunting and metal detecting duos, known as The Silverslingers, who together have hundreds of thousands of combined views, more than 16,000 subscribers, and an endless supply of creative content on their social media platforms. Having extensive metal detecting experience, this team previously found exciting pieces of American history on their journeys across New England, including an 1789 George Washington Inaugural button, an 1857 Flying Eagle cent, various historic jewelry, vintage toys, and more.
Similar to the ways coin roll hunters notice a “diamond in the rough” so to speak, there is a level of shock and awe after any significant numismatic discovery on the metal detecting field. “When I first uncover a coin out in the field, I gasp and hold my breath” said one of The Silverslingers, further adding, “Sometimes I see just a rim peeking out, or the outline of something round in the dirt. Then I think ‘please be in good shape!’ I carefully pluck it out, hoping it’s either an old copper coin (like a Large Cent or King George), or an old silver (like a seated dime or a trime, for example). Those moments of anticipation are so precious!”
In addition to making discoveries out in the field, determining what those discoveries actually are is part of the adventure as well. Through numismatic education, the spark of interest and thirst for knowledge can strike anyone, not just subterranean searchers like The Silverslingers. In our exclusive interview, The Silverslingers discussed that first spark of curiosity and interest, saying, “Before I started detecting, I knew nothing about coins. Literally, nothing. I remember finding my first Large Cent. I was so blown away and spent hours pouring over coin books and, of course, Google. And while I am no expert by any means, I am now pretty good at identifying our coin finds, even the ones that are mostly corroded.” As for getting started, the detecting duo had advice for anyone interested in thrill of the hunt, saying, “I would tell [those interested] to invest in a decent machine. It doesn’t have to be the latest and greatest and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune, but it should be decent. White’s Electronics, the manufacturer I field test for, has an excellent entry to mid level detector in the $300-$400 dollar range, for example.”
While the positives in metal detecting are far reaching, the negatives do come at a price. The Silverslingers biggest pet peeves include other boastful individuals in the metal detecting field, saying, “My biggest pet peeve would be people with high-end, expensive detectors looking down on people who don’t swing a machine that equals their mortgage payment. I have seen people with entry-level detectors find amazing treasures, and quite a few coins and relics in my collection were found with a detector that cost less than 500 dollars. There are two secrets to this hobby: know your machine and know it VERY well, and find a good location.”
All in all, the opportunities for metal detecting enthusiasts extends far and wide. While not every outing results in amazing numismatic discoveries, the thrill, or “magic” of metal detecting makes all the difference in the end.
Many thanks to The Silverslingers for their contribution to this article.