Tag Archives: AT Pro

Longest (and Most Successful) Hunt

19 Mar

18 March 2015

As I have a significant thesis milestone coming up at the end of the month, I won’t be able to get out as much as I’d like. Therefore I wanted yesterday’s hunt to be special: I wanted to spend a lot of time in the field and find at least one object of historical significance.

I set off at eight am through a dense fog, which didn’t lift until around ten. For the first couple of hours I could only see the ground at my feet; it felt like I was detecting in a cloud. I started off by traversing Peter Quince to reach Falstaff. The only thing I found along the way was a tiny buckle. On Falstaff I turned up my first real find of the day, a George V penny (1919):

I moved onto Sir Thomas, a field that was to play the central role in the success of the day’s hunt, but all I found after twenty minutes of swinging was a lead bag seal, pressed with an ‘E’ on one side and ‘BOWLEYS’ on the other.


Hankering to try something new, I walked across a newly planted field and made my way to some pasture near the farmhouse. There under a lone, winter-barren tree, I ate my lunch in the sunshine.


After lunch I searched along the pasture land for a quarter of an hour. I found another George V penny (1914),


as well as a ten ‘New’ pence piece (1979), one of the post-decimal but thicker ones.

It was now edging towards two o’clock, and as I had been detecting, digging, and walking since eight, my spirits were beginning to flag. Still, I decided to press on; your detecting luck can change in an instant, and one great find changes the whole feel of a day (also, as my friend Gerry says, even when detecting is muddy, cold, and fruitless, it’s still ‘good, clean fun’). I turned back to Sir Thomas, knowing that I’d found that spectacular silver antonianus there just two days before.

After awhile I found a damaged buckle, possibly medieval (similar to this one, but without the finish):


In a bid at self-psychologising, I tried to tell myself that this, at least, was a fascinating find — that this is what I’d spent six and half hours searching for. But the attempt didn’t take. I moved out across the field again, willing a spring into my legs despite my badly pulled groin (I think from crossing a fence days earlier). Not long later I found a cut or broken piece of coin, maybe with some silver content, too damaged to see anything on it. Again I told myself that this was more like it. Except it wasn’t. I thought about returning to the car and trying to get home before close-of-business traffic.

But then I found a Roman coin! Sure, it was a small and illegible nummus, but it was definitely Roman, something for the eventual collection I hope to turn over to a local museum.

As it turns out, that was just the beginning. As a fisherman, frustrated for hours, might hit a honey hole and begin landing fish after fish, I was suddenly on top of Romans. I breathed an actual sigh of relief as I pulled this antonianus (of Allectus?) out of the soil:

Five minutes later and just ten meters away, I got a cracking signal reading 81 on my AT Pro’s VDI. 81 almost always means aluminum can — I mean, it has ALWAYS meant that for me. But for some reason, probably the new-found buoyancy at digging the antonianus — I decided to take a shot. And out popped a coin with a beautiful glowing-green patina that felt as heavy and thick as a skipping stone in my hand. Another Roman, and so huge! I didn’t know what it was, but I suspected a follis or sestertius (it turns out it was a sestertius, probably of either Marcus Aurelius or Trajan).

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Obverse of Anotonianus of Allectus

Reverse of Antonianus of Allectus

Reverse of Antonianus of Allectus

While I was talking to my family via Whatsapp to tell them about the finds, I found another nummus. Four Romans! The tally finished as I recrossed the field after picking up my jacket, which I’d abandoned in the afternoon warmth: a tiny minim, the smallest Roman denomination. Later, I thought the five Romans looked quite nice ranged from largest to smallest:


I didn’t get onto the Romans until after 3:30 pm, at which point I’d been detecting for seven and a half hours! Persistence definitely paid off, and it was a worthy hunt to lead into the (reluctant) time off from the hobby.

I’ve been noticing lately that I average about a coin an hour. Strangely, this ratio seems to hold regardless of the type of coin or the terrain. And it was true of yesterday as well: I hunted almost exactly ten hours, and I finished the day with a sestertius, an antonianus, two nummi, a minim (five Romans altogether); two George V pennies; a modern 10p; a cut, unidentifiable hammered coin or jeton; and a Victorian ha’penny of 1901, the year she passed. I found this near the Roman zone, just after finding the second nummus.

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All in all a tiring — at times frustrating — but amazing day, arguably my most successful ever.

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UPDATE: Silver!

I cleaned the smooth and knackered half-coin I found yesterday and did the ad hoc silver test (spit in tinfoil which reacts to the tarnish)…turns out it is silver! So I had a silver coin (what was left of one) yesterday as well.

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Two More Digs

15 Feb
Photo © Gabriel Schenk

Photo © Gabriel Schenk

Dig on Friend’s P

A friend of mine in the detecting community uses ‘P’ as an abbreviation for ‘permission’. On the morning of Thursday the 12th, he invited me to his P to search. It was mainly overgrown pasture, with a couple of stolid Shire horses in residence, lazily cropping at the grasses. We detected for a couple of hours, but all I managed to turn up was £3.54 in modern clad coinage.

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I also found a feather (I think from a female peafowl, as there were peacocks about), which I want to keep in the hatband of the replacement kapelusz goralski I have ordered.

Because all the coins were modern, I decided to attempt a cleaning that I heard about on youtube using vinegar and salt. You’re meant to keep copper coins separate from other metals lest they all turn a pinkish colour, but although I obeyed this advice, the experiment wasn’t entirely successful. I left the coins in the solution overnight (it was similar to dyeing Easter eggs I thought, in appearance and smell), and in the morning the results looked like this:

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The dig was also of note for my use of new kit: an Evolution Pro Spade, which I customised with midnight blue powder coating and a D handle; wireless headphones for the AT Pro; and the Detecting Buddy Easy Swing, a detecting sling I wanted to try out in advance of the arrival of a new, massive NEL coil from the Ukraine, which I’ve ordered to really punch down into the pasture on my P. I am delighted to report that all of the new kit worked brilliantly. With the Easy Swing my detector weighed next to nothing, and the spade sliced through thick mud like a warm knife through butter. Best of all were the wireless headphones, attached via a receiver dongle to the Garrett headphone adapter. For the first time I didn’t feel as though the phones were being yanked off my head when I lowered the detector to retrieve a target. Here’s a picture of the receiver, mounted beneath the arm cup (and covered with a sandwich bag to keep out the wet):


Dig II.2

Today I took Gabriel and his cousin Toby with me to explore a field on my second permission. The mud soon caked our boots, and conditions on the field were incredibly quiet, but Gabriel captured some lovely pictures (all credits are his below, except for finds close-ups). We found a handful of shooting brasses, and three flat buttons, but precious little else (and all of that modern). We finished with a hearty pub lunch nearby.

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First Time on the Thames Foreshore (April 26th, 2013)

26 Apr

Good friend Dick Holmes was visiting from the Carolinas. He has done quite a bit of beachcombing and artefact hunting near his hometown in Robeson County (arrowheads and other objects), and he was keen to do some searching here in England. We arose far too early (4.45 am) and took the Oxford Tube into London. Low tide was meant to be at 7.51, but when we arrived at London Bridge, it looked to my rookie eyes to be still in full flood. Only when we got to the London flat of Dick’s cousin were we able to double-check times and confirm that it was in fact low tide. By the time we made it back and across London Bridge to some steps leading to the foreshore, we only had an hour and a half until the tide obscured the searchable area.

We made the most of the time we had, however, bending to the work with a will. In short order, Dick turned up some large bits of articulating iron. I found a lovely pottery fragment with a raised flower on it, as well as a (possible) pipe stem [Ed. note: Nope, it was rubber-insulated wire; 28/4/13]. I also found a modern, base-metal ring. Dick found a tile fragment, a large chunk of sea glass, and various bits of nautical ironmongery. In total we collected 28p in modern coinage, mostly corroded. 

Our finds were all eyes-only. We did break out the AT Pro for a moment, just to get a sense of the difficulty. I set iron disc up to 45 and used the sniper search coil. It did work well once I got used to listening ‘past’ the squelches: we turned up a couple of pull tabs hidden several inches down in the gravelly mud. But there were so many objects scattered on the surface that the machine didn’t seem necessary given our time and tide constraints. 

It was a fun hunt, and it was great to spend fair-weather time on the Thames with a mate. The experience also whet my appetite for more larking. Watch this space…

Dick with London Bridge in the background:ImageImageImageImageImage


(1.5 hrs, eyes only)


Return to Maldon

27 Mar

Armed with waders (well, one of us, at least), snowshoes, a floating sieve, and a glass-bottomed coffee can for seeing beneath the surface refraction of the river, we returned to Maldon to make another attempt at the foreshore’s secrets.

Low (spring) tide was at 6.33 am, so we had to get quite an early start. There were other difficulties, too, including a broken snowshoe, and our inability to work together as only one of us could dare the mud.

On the positive side, I began to sort out the signals the AT PRO was giving me in some very challenging ground (tidal water with plenty of junk iron). There were little rivulet intake streams cutting into the profound drifts of mud on their way to join the river; in periods of storm these must become more pronounced to drain adjacent inland areas, and they seemed likely spots for metal/coinage losses. In a couple of these I did find modern coins, and I also found an old spike of metal, probably lead.

After the tide came in, setting our bucket adrift and almost carrying it off, Kurt and I drove past the stature of the Saxon warrior Byrthnoth, who defended Maldon (unsuccessfully) from Danish Viking raiders in 991. Like the raiders, I suspect we will return to the river at some point, better armed and clad for its perils…


15 Mar

Over the last couple of days, I’ve made my first couple of gear mods. The first was a homemade waterproofing of my Garrett Pro-Pointer. To do this, I put non-hardening plumber’s putty on the threads of the battery compartment, and also into the speaker port and around the on/off switch. Then I covered the latter two areas and the lightbulb with a flexible, waterproof sealant similar to goop or RV sealant. I borrowed the idea from Beau Ouimette’s YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_1iYI8M0co. Joined with the waterproof AT PRO and waterproof headphones, I will be ready for completely submersible hunting (important for UK rainstorms).


The next project I took on was to make my own coin popper. In an earlier post, I talk about the value of the popper as a coin recovery tool, particularly in areas where shovels are a no-go. To make the popper, I bought a weed/root popper from B&Q and filed smooth the tines, as below. I also filed a phillips head screwdriver to a blunt tip, to be able to use it as a coin probe without scratching the targets.

ImageCoin popper detail:ImageThe final project was to prepare an ore-analogue for inclusion in a test garden that Kurt and I will be installing at his place. We will post more on this topic soon; essentially, a test garden allows you to get to know your detector well in tightly controlled conditions with various objects buried at known depths. In their You Can Find Gold With a Metal DetectorCharles Garrett and Roy Lagal recommend grinding down a penny to copper dust and then agglutinating the dust into a ball; placed in the ground, this will simulate an ore deposit for your detector. It took some time, but I used a hand file to reduce a penny to dust (for legal reasons, I will omit to say which currency the penny was drawn from. Suffice it to say it was mostly copper as opposed to non-copper alloy).

The filing process:ImageThe ad-hoc ore sample (the dust has been placed into a pool of glue and allowed to harden). Once buried, this will appear to a detector like a diffuse amount of conductive ore, rather than a solid coin:Image

Garrett AT Pro International: First Air Test in its New Home

26 Feb

Photo on 2013-02-27 at 02.47I got the AT Pro out of the box this evening and air tested a few coins. Because I bought it secondhand, I wanted to be sure everything was in good working order. It is! My brother and his wife are coming up to Oxford this weekend, and I’m hoping to bring them along on my first dig — the first with the Weekend Wanderers club and the first of any kind.

This week at Oxford is Torpids, the winter bumps racing event on the Isis. I was hoping the weather would defy low, late-winter expectations, but so far it seems to be reliably filling them. Bad luck for the rowers, but I don’t think it will put us novice detectorists off on Sunday!


Unpacking the Garrett AT Pro International

26 Feb

Unpacking a pile of treasure and detecting items…