The Dishonest Detectorist


Have you ever been at a hunt where no one has found anything of any consequence, and suddenly someone comes walking up, all smiles, with a pouch full of sensational finds?  It’s usually someone new, or someone you don’t know very well, but occasionally it’s a person who’s been in the hobby a while. You’re happy for them, even though your mind is trying to rationalize a slight suspicion of disbelief, because 50 other people, with the majority being experienced, hard core hunters all just got skunked. 

Now it’s possible this person just hit a hot spot, and you know from past experience that it’s possible to dig great, unexpected stuff, while others have mediocre finds. The suspicion festers though, when this person continues to perform the same detecting miracle at the next half dozen hunts. 

You see them detecting haphazard with an arched swing, and their coil 4-6 inches off the ground.  You wonder how their machine can even hone in on a target, never mind find anything. They usually hunt alone and always seem to disappear for a while, but at the end of the day, they show up with their pouch full of goodies, yet again. 

Rumors begin to circulate, and you start to watch this person more carefully, inspecting their finds for the telltale signs of dirt, scratching, or anything else to indicate it came out of the ground.  In your mind you know they are pulling a fast one on everyone, but you don’t call them out on it. You have no proof they bring their own finds to a hunt, and even if you did, you wouldn’t present it because you feel sorry for them for feeling they have to do that.

There seems to be one, or a few of these types in every club.  I usually feel sorry for the person, who obviously wants to be accepted and/or recognized by their peers. It’s just unfortunate they feel they have to be dishonest. Detectorist’s are a fun loving bunch, and whether someone found anything or not, we’d accept them just the same. 

When I started in this hobby, it never occurred to me that people did such things until I overheard a few of my fellow club members discussing a certain person’s finds. Even then, I naively refused to believe it, and assumed they all must just be jealous.  

But over the years, I’ve come to realize there is a huge competition in detecting, for being the best, having the best finds, and being recognized in certain detecting circles.  Some people just want to have a bit of recognition, and don’t care how they achieve it.

I, myself, have witnessed this phenomenon first hand, from a fellow club member who I thought was a highly skilled hunter. It was always the same scenario.  He would disappear for a few minutes, then suddenly reappear with a great find. Usually a colonial copper, or some other type of silver coinage, then he would disappear, and reappear with another great find, again, and yet again. I was always amazed and quite happy for him, and at times even a bit envious of his luck and skill. 

This pattern continued, hunt after hunt, year after year, until Captain Obvious smacked me upside the head, and I couldn’t ignore it anymore.  Despite my minds insistence that this guy truly was a most awesome detectorist, logic eventually intervened.  There was just no way, skill or no skill, luck or no luck, that the detecting Gods were allowing this guy to find several of the most pristine condition colonial coppers and/or silver coins at every single hunt, while I had never witnessed him dig anything of value, or significance, in all the years I had known him—ever. 

Coincidence? Überly suspicious? Perhaps. It’s possible his machine will only find stuff when no one is around, or maybe he really does bring his own finds to a hunt.  I don’t really know the truth, I just know what my gut and Captain Obvious is telling me. I’m not saying its not possible, I’m just saying its not probable.

I’m also disappointed that I fell for the illusion. We all need people to aspire to, and  competition can be a good thing.  Seeing someone else’s great skill with a machine can make you work to hone your own skills, up your finds rate, and dig better targets.  After all, if no one ever found anything good, then this hobby wouldn’t be a hobby. 

I’m sure I will get some flak for this post, but hey, I point stuff out, its part of what I do. Agree, disagree, whatever, in the end its really just mine (and Captain Obvious’s) observations and thoughts.  Don’t worry though, we won’t be eyeing your finds at every hunt and questioning their validity or your skill, or maybe we will…     Happy Hunting!

More words of wisdom from Captain Obvious:

12 thoughts on “The Dishonest Detectorist

  1. Ha, love it. I knew someone like that years ago. He was a club member who soon left when people finally caught on and said “yeah, that’s nice Bob” and walked away.

    I think this sort of thing happens big time and more frequently on social media but what do I know. We humans are a strange breed.

    1. Yup, we’re a strange breed. That pretty much sums it up. And yes, it does happen, but we’ll never really know, well we will know, but we won’t say anything, unless you’re me and write a post about it.

      1. Hey! Great read.
        It reminds me of a guy in a club I once belonged to, who entered a battered relic in the ‘Find of the Month’ competition claiming it was a 16C English Civil War battle helmet of the the Parliamentarian Army. This was successfully challenged by another member who worked in the motor trade who identified it as the inner headlamp shell of a 1950’s Morris Minor saloon car. The saddest part of all this is that no-one else in the club knew any different.

        1. You made me literally laugh out loud–thanks. Sometimes I think we could just go into our junk finds buckets, pull out a random item, give it a name, tell people its 16th century, and no one would be the wiser.

  2. I’ve met the Captain here and there over the years. I’m not nice enough to not say something. Our groups over the years have handled it by not inviting to future hunts. You can’t fix public hunts. Just ignore them and yes feel a bit sorry for them. I always feel sorry for the guys with the detecting tattoos also.
    That’s committed.

    1. You know the Captain too? Awesome. You’re braver than me if you call them out directly on it. Whenever I’ve mentioned it, people are like–no that’s not true. But, um, whatever. As for the tattoo’s, that is total commitment. People think I’m weird enough already, I don’t need to be flashing tattoo’s of Indian head pennies in their faces 🙂 ‘Cause if I had to have a tattoo, IHP are my favorite coin. But that could make for another interesting story…

  3. Loves your article as always.

    I know one guy who bought a reale off ebay then said he found it – not realizing we remember him posting his debate as to whether or not to purchase said reale…

    So I belong to a few paranormal investigation teams, too. Same story: there’s always one clown who fakes evidence and always has things happen to him. He calls himself a “ghost magnet”.

    One night he was nonchalant about all the “activity” we were witnessing on a particular device (K-2 meter). We suspected he was setting it off with his bluetooth earpiece held in his hand. He left for 20 minutes and we all pretended and went crazy over all the alleged activity while he was gone. Suddenly Mr. Nonchalant’s eyes got wide and he was excited “really?”, “no way?!” etc.

    He was called out on it, he denied it and sadly he has since appeared on tv episodes, books, documentaries, etc.

    I guess there’s “that guy” in every field. I’d rather get skunked and be known as CansLaura than a faker! LOL!

    1. Thanks Laura, I’m always happy to entertain. That guy could’ve at least purchased two reales, and then said he found the one not posted before . I can’t believe the amount of messages I received today over this post. Made me kind of sad to think it happens way more often than I thought.

      I do wish folks would call me a “Reale Magnet” though, but you have to actually find them frequently enough to earn such a title. I’ve been skunked more times than I like to admit, but like you, I’d rather not be known as a faker. I’ll just settle with “Detectorist”, and keep it real. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. It’s all part of the hobby.

      Stay safe, and Happy Hunting!

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