Should I Buy A Used Detector?

By Monte Von
Novermber 1998

"Yes, I’ve found a few coins here, but nothing really exciting yet. Mostly newer stuff." I continued to search the school yard as a dad and his sons watched, trying to guess their next question. Most often it will be one of the more popular ones, such as: "How deep will it go?" or "What’s the most valuable thing you’ve ever found?", or maybe "Do you ever find diamond rings?" There are other common questions, however this time it was different. "Where did you find your first Indian Head?" they queried, figuring that I must have found one since I told them I’ve been at it for over thirty-three years. "That would be a 1905 I found in Liberty Park in Ogden, Utah, in March of sixty-nine." "North-east corner just about two feet from the sidewalk near ‘vee nickel’ row" I answered. In anticipation of the next question I added that it was about 3" to 3-1/2" deep. "Really!" he said with a touch of surprise in his voice.

Before the next question could come I gave an answer by way of a statement. "Most of the coins I have found are located in the top four inches or so, although there are quite a few deeper in the five to eight or nine inch range."

"So, what’s the best thing you’ve ever found?" came next and I decided to pull off the headphones and take a break as we talked about detectors and detecting. "Best?" "Well to me" I continued, "I consider ‘best’ to be ‘favorite’ and not necessarily most valuable." We enjoyed several minutes of discussion as I related my favorite find, an 1836 Capped-Bust Half-Dime. It’s my personal favorite because I found it at my cherished ghost town from about 6-1/2" in February of ‘91. I was using a Pillar 1 Reale with a stock 8" coil. Naturally I had to explain what a half-dime was as they had never heard of one. That was my second, the first being an 1838 Seated Liberty Half-Dime I found in the same ghost town in March of ‘87 with a Tesoro Eldorado, also at about 6-1/2". I have only found four and the third was an 1857 found at an old miner’s camp in

California in December of ‘89 with a Gold Mountain King Cobra with 8" coil. It was only about 2" deep. The last one, also an 1857, I got with a Tesoro MicroMax Bandido and 7" concentric coil in September of last year. It, too, was found in my favorite ghost town in Utah. Masked by all the nails and other trash it was only detectable after I raked down a couple of thirty to forty year-old bottle digger’s piles. It signaled from a depth of maybe 2" or a little more.

Our conversation then lingered on old coins and their worth, their locations and typical depth. Most of the older town sites that I have worked produced coins dating from that 1836 half-dime thru the days of the Barber Dimes & Quarters. The most often found coins in those towns were Indian Head pennies and Seated Liberty dimes. Those were followed by about equal numbers of Shield or "V" nickels and then Seated Liberty quarters. Barber Dimes were found in lessor numbers and the Barber Quarters

were found less seldom. Mixed with these more common US coins were a few Two-Cent pieces from the 1860’s, numerous (very numerous) Chinese "cash coins", and trade tokens. What surprised this fellow and his sons was that most of the coins, and coin-sized finds, were located anywhere from on the surface in plain sight to about four inches. They, like many others, assumed that since they were that old they would be deeper. Nope. Not so. Only where there had been some amount of ground disturbance,

such erosion or plant life deposition that covered them, or where there had been excavation, such as bottle diggers when the big craze hit in the mid-50’s to early 60’s, were the targets very deep. Deepest coin I’ve detected there was at 11", but there was no trash nearby to mask it or have to deal with. Due to conditions, you just usually can’t go deep anyway.

One of the boys said it sounded like I had a lot of fond memories about places I’ve been and things I have found. For sure I do, and I reflect on them often. Like a yard in front of an early 1920’s four-plex. Old grass removed and the dirt raked smooth for seeding I got the okay to work it and did so for five days straight. Mostly used a Gold Mountain King Cobra with an 8" coil except for in the very trashy parking strip and along a narrow side yard where the 4" coil was used. Got more "V" and Buffalo

nickels and Barber dimes and Indian Head cents from that one yard than I have so far in all of ‘98!

Worked a nice, wide, dug-up parking strip one day that produced quite a few coins and four trade tokens. Went back and worked it some more as the fellow kept digging it up by hand. My friend, David, and I had some really great success there. His Toltec 100 didn’t let him down, and my King Cobra and GMT-1650 made me a happy detectorist to be sure. Again, I mixed the use of the 4" and 8" coils.

Popped a second-known token from my ghost town, with that King Cobra, and in the next year and a half this same general site produced four more choice tokens for me. By "choice" I mean that one sold for $75 while the others ranged from $175 to $205. Had to work them out from amongst all the trash. Iron trash. Lots of nails and small iron bits, but the GMT 1650 w/8" and Tesoro Bandido (original) w/7" were faithful servants.

After a while I resumed my search at the school but couldn’t help but dwell on some of my favorite times spent working some cherished sites, or better still the time spent with very close friends who really enjoy this hobby. To share in their excitement of a special find is about as exciting as making it myself. Being with Debbie when she popped an 1880 CC $5 gold piece, again from my favorite site, using her Silver Sabre I sold her in May of ‘86. Richard’s satisfaction with finding his first Seated coin and "O" mint-mark coin (an 1859-O, if I recall correctly) with his trusty older Tesoro. I believe it was an Eldorado. I can’t forget the look on Dave’s face as he lofted an1874 Seated Dime overhead and exclaimed "Mine doesn’t have any holds!", making reference to an 1874 I had found near the same spot less than an hour earlier with two holes as if for a jewelry piece. We were using Tesoro Inca and Mayan models that day, but he was working with his Tesoro Toltec 100 on two later occasions when he claimed bragging rights to Seated Liberty halves. Little hesitation in letting me know about those finds, too!

Took Dave and our friend Ron to a site I had permission to work. The T-100 located his tiny silver Three Cent piece from the mid-1850’s, and Ron’s Teknetics signaled up a 1909-s VDB Wheatie and his first Barber Dime.

Hit a vacant lot where my first coin was a 1908 Barber Quarter. That particular lot gave up a lot of nice silver dimes and quarters, as well as many Indian Heads, to me and my Inca before we grided it off and had a club outing there. Oh, what an educational day that was for many members.

As I have reflected on many enjoyable times and friendships shared, I have considered the equipment I have used. Naturally, I would not have stayed so intensely interested and involved in this hobby if some of those early-day BFO’s and TR’s hadn’t worked well enough. And I certainly appreciate the era of the VLF/TR-Disc. models, when they reigned supreme even over many of the early-day motion discriminators. The late 70’s and early 80’s offered some really great detectors, for their day, and I know that if I had a like-new Gold Mountain VIP Deluxe today, I would put it to good

use. At least at those sites where it would be reasonable and fun to use. Today, however, we have quite a number of really good detectors. Most of them have their roots set in detector introductions of the early 80’s.

From the Inca, Tesoro models have evolved with the industry-acknowledged slow-motion, silent-search, quick response circuitry that has made them famous. Garrett has stayed competitive, especially with performance in areas of lower mineralization. Fisher’s CZ series has been around for several years now and is virtually unchanged. White’s has carried the 5900/6000 series for well over a decade with little change, and the Classic series performance has been blended with more modern packaging for better balance and battery life. Some very good detectors were offered by the likes of Compass, Gold Mountain, Teknetics and Pillar, to name a few. While some of these older detector makers have faded away, we see a new approach to getting what we want. That’s by

someone who wanted a detector designed the way they wanted it, and that result was in the SHADOWx2 by Troy Galloway’s design and Tesoro’s manufacturing.

Manufacturer’s may have improved their discrimination, such as the progression of the Tesoro design from what was in essence a D-90 to an ED-120 circuit for most models. The detectors have been packaged lighter than what we had in the 60’s and 70’s and early 80’s. Improved physical designs, like those of the Classics. LCD offerings for the CZ series. Some models have added tone ID or target ID circuitry. Changed power systems

for lighter weight, better balance, longer life or a combination of these.

Roots. Most of the popular models made today really have their "roots" in models offered since ‘81 to ‘87. A decade plus of good working detectors. Some were not/are not as competitive as other models, but most from the last decade or so are every bit as good at doing what we set out to do as many of the new models today. Maybe a different color. Maybe a different battery system. But still every bit as good a performer as they were then. Grassroots. That’s where most of the coins are really found. From surface to about the grass roots level (top 4" or so). There are sites with deeper coins, but there have been and are many very good detectors that will serve their handler well in a variety of hunting scenarios and under varied ground conditions, that will give the needed performance.

There is no doubt in my mind that I could make the good finds I have made in the past if I had the same detector in hand today. They worked. They worked well. There is not a single coin in anyone’s collection that was NOT found with a used detector, with the exception of the very first coin found with that detector. A SHADOWx2 and Classic ID I got earlier this year have seen far more use than the Garrett Scorpion I just acquired, used. They are "new models" in that they were just introduced this year, but they are used. If you bought an XLT this morning and you’re just about to unpack it, you have a new detector. If you got it a few days ago and used it yesterday, it is used. Perhaps only slightly, but it is used.

Shopping for a good used detector can be interesting. You can look in your local newspaper or "nickel ad" type paper. Contact a local dealer. Visit a local metal detecting club and ask members if they have any used detectors available. Search the various "classified ads" on Internet forums or individual’s sites. Read up on some of the older models and ask others about them. While reading through various forums, note which individuals comment about using some particular older model and then e-mail them directly to ask their personal views based upon experience with that model. Why did they buy it? How do they feel about it in general, and why haven’t they up-graded to some other model that might have replaced it? What do they feel a used one like their’s might be worth? Make sure you ask about the type of hunting application(s) they use it for and get some good input from a model user.

I have purchased several used detectors over the Internet, and a few through mail-order sources. I have had better success with those I have come across on the Internet. Perhaps that’s because you can communicate with them more often to ask about the detector. Maybe it’s because after you have responded on forums and directly with people they are more honest about what they have to sell or trade. For whatever reason, I have only received one detector that did not function properly. I re-calibrated it and it worked fine. Got one that was a bit more battle scarred than I hoped for, but then I pamper my equipment a bit more than a lot of others do.

There are many higher-volume detector dealers who advertise on the Internet, such as Al, who moved from Arizona to Georgia, who are active detectorists and can offer honest answers about some of the used models you might question. Other notable names, such as Keith Wills in Texas, provide repair service for many (most?) of the out-of production models, such as the Teknetics or Compass brands should you luck on to a good older unit that needs a little attention. Smaller dealers, such as Melvin Jr, also are sources for good used detectors. Most often they are gong to limit their trade-in acceptance to models that are sellable. Those that have more current technology and are "sellable", as that’s what their business is.

And then there are all of those who post on various forums and who have experience in this hobby. The ones who have used a lot of detectors over the years and have a good understanding of their principles of operation and are willing to share that with others. Seek them out for their input as you narrow down your selection of a good used detector. Once you have the new-to-you unit in hand, practice and read and ask all that you can. Most of these same people will be more than glad to help you learn and master your new-found toy.

Perhaps you have a favorite model you bought new and have used it exclusively and are satisfied with it’s performance, but would like to have a different type of operating style to compliment it. A good used detector might just do the trick. Having an extra detector on hand can serve as a back-up in case of field failure, or as a loaner for a friend. Also, I have used the second model as a way to get onto a property owner’s site by offering them the opportunity to join me in the thrill of the hunt.

For those who might wonder what a good used detector might be, it will depend upon what type of detecting you plan on doing. Here are some examples of a few detectors that would be appealing to me. I prefer to search older sites, as well as renovation sites, where I might encounter building rubble, dirt digging, brush and annoying trash such as iron nails. I also prefer slow-motion type detectors. There are times and places, however, where I wouldn’t mind using a faster-motion model that handles bad ground a little better.

Here are some of the faster motion models that I like:

White’s XLT, although many would just as soon use a Spectrum or an Eagle II SL

White's 5900 or 6000 Di Pro SL. Heavy, but very good performers.

Teknetics 8500-B or 9000-B. Good TID and audio tone ID as well.

Teknetics Eagle which was an upgrade of the 8500-B

Some of the slow-motion models I keep a close watch for are the:

Garrett Scorpion w/round coils

Gold Mountain King Cobra or GMT-1650

Pillar 1 Reale or 4 Reale

Teknetics Mark I Ltd.

Tesoro Inca, Pantera, Bandido, Bandido II, Toltec 100

Current production favorites include the SHADOWx2 w/Super 7 Inch coil and Tesoro Bandido II MicroMax w/7" coil. White’s Classic IDX w/stock 950 and 6" coil. Garrett Scorpion w/3x7" coil (or 8" round coil especially). I like the 4" coils that are offered with any of these models.

Some others that you might find appealing are any of the current Tesoro discriminators, or older Tesoro’s like the Sidewinder or Sidewinder MicroMax; Silver Sabre, Silver Sabre Plus or Silver Sabre II; Golden Sabre, Golden Sabre Plus; Eldorado. White’s Classic II, III, or ID are all very good picks. Garrett’s GTA-500 or 1000 or newer GTAx 1000. Even the Bounty Hunter Big Bud Pro and some other models will do. Fisher’s discontinued CZ-6a or any other CZ model. A good Compass Scanner

series unit, like the Coin Scanner Pro or Gold Scanner Pro, could also be considered.

It is a sad but true fact that there are a lot of very old units sold. Unfortunately, many of them are just too dated. Newcomers to the hobby might want to get started on a budget to see if this is really going to hold their interest and they buy a wrong used unit. If a person sticks to any of the models I have mentioned, and several that I haven’t, that are based on some of the more current technology without some of the extra flash and gadgety stuff, they can get a good detector.

Don’t get any of the older stuff that needs those hard to find and expensive batteries. It ought to operate on either AA’s or the common 9-volt. If looking at one at a dealer’s store or one-on-one with an individual, ask about the manual and also have them demonstrate how it works. If ordering a unit or dealing via the net, still ask about a manual. Don’t sink $50 or $100 in an old and basically worthless TR from the early 70’s just because the price was right. Shop for something that is worth investing in, and then learn it. Oh, and don’t forget pawn shops or swap meets. I got a mint condition Bandido at a pawn shop for $75. They were asking $95 and I asked them if they had the manual. When they didn’t they started dealing. Heck, I’d love to find deals like that everyday!

Got a good used unit for sale? Put the word out. Let it be known, but don’t try and rip others for a bunch of $$$, and be as honest as you can when describing it’s condition and performance, etc. If you happen upon one of the models I am looking for, shoot me an e-mail. If you have a good condition used detector for sale, tell me about it as I might know of a buyer, or contact Melvin Jr. Most reputable dealers will take trades, and that can save you a good deal on a newer detector, too. This is too great a hobby to let some good equipment sit idle somewhere for no good reason. Get out there and put your used detector to work!

Best of success to everyone!


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