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In the 1980s pretty much every kid had a metal detector. There were magazines and TV programs about them and we even had books like Masquerade that had secret clues and codes hidden in the pictures and puzzles in the book that lead to real treasure, the golden hair worth a reported £50,000. It took some time for a reader to unearth it and it was eventually found, rather controversially, by one of the writer's mates to claim the money. We were all treasure crazy and never had so much mud and grass been dug up for so little reward. It was exciting to go to a field or wood and start sweeping your shrieking and whining device over a totally random spot, only to detect a rusty nail and your dad's keys. And once you dads metal bits started to shriek you couldn't resist doing it over and over again. I once found a horseshoe. But it wasn't a lucky one. Clearly.
In Northampton we have an old Iron Age fort up on Hunsbury Hill and we used to sweep there as kids in the hope of finding a Viking hoard. Today the forts earthworks are overgrown and riddled with rabbit warrens and so hidden treasures could still remain, the best of them on display in the towns central museum. But my elder more reclusive brother insists, still to this day, that the treasure is there and is occasionally sweeping it, why mums home still posses metal detectors.
So I decided to buy him a new one for his birthday (well, it was off Ebay and considerably cheaper than its ticket price), the Fisher F4 Treasure Seeker, the idea being that he gets back into it to help him get over his depression. People that are naturally withdrawn from the social world are far likely to be depressive - and metal detector owners. At least he's not a trainspotter. They actually have bus and coach spotters in Northampton you know, middle aged men that hang around the Greyfriars Bus and coach station and write down the numbers from the side of the buses. Oh boy!
So a good detector needed road testing and so we took it out to a site we really shouldn't have (the Battle of Bosworth one) and started work. It was a gothic winter so the farmers were busy shooting at crows and hare coursers not to notice'. Weighing in at 1.3kg (and twice that packaged at 3 Kg) they are quite durable things and just the right size and weight for hopping over fences when being 'legged' by farmers.
The idea with these things is to sweep over the ground you have identified as possible treasure territory, seeking an enhanced beep, then dig up your hoard and retire. If you do find something important and historically valuable you are supposed to declare it as treasure trove and then the government will pay you a set amount for the treasure if you found it legally. Most finds are split 50/50 with the landowner when Treasure Trove is declared, a term referring to unknown ownership of the goods before they were dug up. Its very much finders keepers. The law was 'loose' so to deter people just keeping very important finds and selling them to black market collectors. You occasionally see a news story where someone has found a random hoard of treasure out of the blue but if you dig deeper (excuse the pun) it's often the case they found it somewhere else and just trying to evade the landowners cut. Pretty much all of the nations beaches are owned by the crown and so you need to get a permit for that area.
The kit works though something called an oscillator that produces an electrical current that passes through a coil producing an alternating magnetic field. Another coil is then used to measure the magnetic field (acting as a magnetometer), the change in the magnetic field why the metallic object can be detected, hence the change in the beep. Nope, no idea what the manes either. Modern models like the one I bought are fully computerized, the circuit technology allowing the user to set sensitivity and discrimination levels for different metals and hold these parameters in memory for future use. Certain metals are denser than others and the software can calculate what metals they are down there to a reasonable degree, experienced metal detectors like my brother able to tell just from the beep what's down there.
We didn't find anything on our first trip of note, some rusty nails and farm machinery earning early pings. We wasn't expecting to. But the experience guys (and it's always guys, regardless of how young and cute the girl is on the front of Metal Detector Weekly) do their research on where they detect and many become historians through that. You have the option with the detector to listen with headphones or you can have the audio setting so you can be heard in the next county, not the best set up for night raids. Think the Dads Army episode when Private Jones can't get over that electric fence obstacle and keeps setting off the alarm all night and day and you are in the right ballpark.
There are harness versions of detectors for steadier reading and the newer models seem to make the most of aesthetic design to charge more, the case with the Fisher models. This one is waterproof and the cases suitably molded and telescopic to pack away easily for the quick getaway. The headphones are the larger version that you see black guys and cool cats wearing in Camden Town although you can just by the more intimate ear phones if you so choose, the phone jack a standard. This model has rechargeable batteries (2x9 volts) included and an LED display that shows varying wiggly lines when you detect something metal. It also shows you how deep down the stuff is although anything over 18 inches down it will struggle to detect. It claims to 'tell the difference' between coins and other things. You can set it to eliminate wrought iron detection. It also has a welcome one year guarantee.
On the whole it seemed to work well and so good value at one third the ticket price of £270.
* Target Indicator: Provides visual cue of nearing target
* Power/Sensitivity Control: Reduces electromagnetic interference
* Discriminator: Eliminates unwanted metals from detection
* Proportional Audio Feedback: Speaker volume varies depending on depth of buried target.
* 6½" Weather Resistant Coil
* Lightweight, Ergonomic Design: Provides ease-of-use and comfort for hours of productive detection.
* Motion All-Metal Mode: Detects all types of metal
* Depth Detection: 6" for coin-size objects; 2' for large objects
* Operates on Two 9-Volt Alkaline Batteries (not included)
* Low Battery Indicator
* Preset Ground Balance: Neutralizes the response to ground mineral content