Senior Moments From The Past
By: Dick Stout
I have tried to contribute when I could to W&ET because it's a magazine that I have a lot of respect for, and one that has helped the pastime tremendously over the years. When I noticed that the deadline for the "Juniors & Seniors" issue was fast approaching, I was at a loss as to what to write. Last year I elected to share my experiences with the younger generation, recommending that we make a concerted effort to pass this great hobby down to the next generation. This year I was baffled. Suddenly remembering a phrase my wife attributes to me often, I decided to share a few "senior moments" and reflect on the past 25 years of my involvement with both the pastime and the business of metal detecting.
In The Beginning
I became a detectorist early on as a result of collecting old coins. Finding them was a lot less expensive than buying them, and needless to say I became addicted to swinging a searchcoil. The very first coin I found with a metal detector? A 1954 quarter. Not exactly earth-shattering, but silver and a reinforcement that indeed the contraption in my hand really worked as advertised. The detector? A Coinmaster 4 from White's Electronics. I purchased it from Joe Attinello, a White's dealer in Milford, New Jersey, and a one-of-a-kind detectorist and friend. To this day I've never seen anyone probe a coin out of the ground as quickly and as cleanly as Joe could!
I entered the pastime during the BFO vs. TR era, and was exposed to both methods of finding treasure. TR soon won out, and discrimination became the buzzword. Next came VLF/TR, and "whipping the coil" became the craze. I found that particular era a good one, and while I cannot statistically back it up, it seemed that I found a great deal more then than I do now. Certainly that can be attributed as one of those senior moments.
Next who could forget "Good or Bad" target detectors. Wow, a meter that would tell you whether the target you detected was good or bad! They simply shot to the right if the target was good, and to the left if it was junk. That was okay, though, because it had never been done before- and it worked to some extent. Then along came the target ID meters... "Penny," "Nickel," "Dime," etc. Not foolproof, but a definite improvement on the right-and-left target identification theme.
From there we went to computerized circuitry, a very dramatic and major step in detector technology. Instruments could now be programmed to make it so easy that we would all be rich. (At least that's what we all thought.) Adjustments were automatic, push pads superseded switches, and LED readouts took the place of meters. Frequencies as well could be changed to our liking, and sensitivity and discrimination could be fine-tuned to the nines. While this technology has certainly left us a lot more time to ponder signals, it has not proven to be the end-all we thought it would be; but as history always proves, the best is still yet to come, and frankly I don't want to know too much ahead of time. I may not be here when it arrives...
What can we expect in the next few years? It's hard to say, but certainly we will see an improvement in the accuracy of target identification, and we should also see an improvement in the depth capabilities of our detectors. Will we see a detector that will literally show us what is beneath the coil? Perhaps someday, but my personal plea to the manufacturers would be to forget the bells and whistles and give us more depth!
The Writing Experience
I became so obsessed with detecting that I started writing for this magazine (I believe somewhere around 1980). The title of my first article, as I recall, was "My Favorite Hot Spot," and it was published in an affiliated bi-monthly magazine called World of Treasures. It was about a site that I had searched hundreds of times, and that never failed to offer up an old, collectible coin each time I went there- Seated Liberty, Barber, Indian Heads, and lots of '50s silver. Obviously, I was noncommittal about its whereabouts.
After writing a few more for W&ET, I penned one called "What the Future Holds," and little did I know that it would change my life in more ways than one. In it I suggested that the pastime needed an organization to represent it. Certainly plenty other pastimes had associations and clubs, so why not one for the detectorist? I even went so far to suggest a national organization that could represent the hobbyist.
Encouraged by Rosemary Anderson, this magazine's managing editor, I pursued the project, and in 1983 the FMDAC became an effective and very viable organization. Originally, it consisted of clubs from the New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware area. We met monthly in Haddon Heights, New Jersey and began tackling local problems, as well as putting on a yearly boardwalk hunt in Atlantic City. Metal detector manufacturers, as well as clubs from across the country suddenly became interested in the effort, and we quickly became a national organization, and represented both the hobbyist and the manufacturer at congressional hearings in Washington, D.C.
The FMDAC has accomplished a great deal over the years, and I hope it will continue to do so in the future. It certainly changed my life. Soon after our trip to England to participate in the Longleat Rally, I went to work for one of the major manufacturers and moved my family to Texas. For someone with roots and family in the Northeast, this was a major commitment. My involvement with the company ended about a year and a half later, and I was suddenly in a new part of the country, without a lot of clues as to where to go and what to do. The Southwest was a whole different ball game for me, and I had to adjust my thinking and planning... and my detecting.
Starting from scratch, I began working in retail, and more importantly began to enjoy the physical aspect of metal detecting once again- getting out in the field and finding things again- a simple process that had been put on the back burner while I was working for the company. It was a renewal for me, and amazing what it did for my spirit. I was once again whole and enjoying life.
I stayed in touch with my contacts overseas, and the next few years were spent looking forward to visiting friends in England and France. Detecting was good again, and the finds were getting better. Today, while I still long for the lush and green Northeast, I have accepted the fact that I am in the Lonestar State and will adjust my hunting techniques accordingly. With family back in New Jersey, I can still look forward to enjoying the easy digging and the older, more valuable coins there a couple of times during the year.
I have been very fortunate to be involved in such a great pastime, and to have met many of the wonderful people who have contributed so much to it, many of whom are no longer with us. I was going to name a few within this text, but I did not because I would undoubtedly experience one of those senior moments and forget one or two, and do so would be a cardinal sin. Suffice it to say that this pastime owes a great deal to a great many who came before.
What The Future Holds
I am optimistic, but not entirely sure what the future holds for the detecting pastime. The average detectorist is a hardworking individual, interested in nothing more than pursuing his hobby in his spare time. Most of us want nothing more than to find an old coin or a lost ring at the beach. The obstacles we face are sometimes difficult, whether in the form of local laws, or state and national restrictions. I do know, however, that while we are small in numbers, we are extremely large in enthusiasm, and my best guess is that we will stay the course and continue to enjoy our treasures for years to come. But make no mistake- we must all come together for the betterment of the pastime, and fight to pursue our right to search.
How this happens is up to you, the coin hunters, the relic hunters, the prospectors... the readers of this magazine. Obey the Treasure Hunters Code of Ethics, be an ambassador of the pastime, and pass on your enjoyment to those who come after. If you do that, we will still be beeping for many years to come.
As for me, I'm training my two best friends- Barnum & Bailey, my pugs- to coin hunt. If all goes well, Barnum will sniff out the targets, and Bailey will tell me whether or not they're good. Yes, I know this is probably another one of those senior moments, but so what? We'll have fun anyway!