Chris Roark, [email protected]
As Bob Turner and Terry Schick share stories of some of the interesting items they’ve discovered metal detecting over the years, Schick recalls an 1895 silver dime he recently found near the Waxahachie Post Office.
“You turkey,” Turner said to his friend, laughing. “I went there and didn’t find anything.”
For these two Waxahachie men, metal detection has become a friendly competition. But it’s more than that—a hobby, a history lesson, a chance to help others, and an opportunity for camaraderie.
Now they want Ellis County residents to experience it too.
Schick and Turner are exploring the idea of starting a metal detector club in Waxahachie to give people living south of Dallas a better chance to participate.
“There are clubs in the Metroplex,” Turner said, noting clubs in Irving, Fort Worth, Dallas and Garland. “The problem is that they are so far away.”
But these local metal detector enthusiasts, or hunters as they are known in their hobby, say metal detection has many benefits. And many unique items just waiting to be found.
Turner and Schick spent years hunting. Turner has sold metal detectors at Standing Liberty Metal Detecting for the last 10 years and was naturally drawn to the hobby. Schick was introduced to metal detection by a friend and was immediately hooked, he said.
The things they’ve found underground over the years have made it easy to stay interested.
For Turner, his most prized possession is a rare buckle from the Waco Guards, a volunteer infantry company that was part of the Confederate Army and organized by Hiram Granbury.
Turner said the buckle, believed to date from 1861 to 1865, has a brass rarity rating of “9,” one grade lower than a “10,” which is considered unique.
“Not much was done about that,” Turner said.
He also prefers a 1.5 ounce silver handle that he found at Lake Waxahachie.
Then there’s a 1904 wedding ring that he found on site. There is a “14” printed on it, but no “karat”.
“In 1906 they started putting ‘karat’ on it,” Turner said. “If you see a ’14’ and not a ‘karat,’ you know it’s old.”
Other finds include a ring with a tiny dog bone printed on it – probably not that valuable, but nice to have – and a lot of jewelry from James Avery.
“Some of James Avery’s pieces sold for $50 because they’re collectible,” Turner said.
Some of Schick’s favorite pieces over the years include an Indian arrowhead and a button believed to be from a Civil War uniform.
“When you discover metal, you learn about history,” Schick said.
Schick found silver half dollars, quarters and dimes. Silver was removed from dimes and quarters in 1965 and from half dollars in 1970.
He found dimes, dimes, and half dimes.
“I didn’t even know they existed,” says Schick.
He also found an 1895 Canadian nickel while hunting in Midlothian.
“How did that get there?” said chic.
He once went hunting near the Red River with a club and found gun parts and bullets from a gun believed to be from the 19th century.
Because the valuable items protect Turner and Schick. Others are simply added to the box. Turner cleans and inserts current coins. If it’s a ring, he adds it to a large key ring to join the hundreds of others.
How it works
Unlike many hobbies, metal detection doesn’t require a lot of equipment. Something to dig and a metal detector.
Turner said the detectors are easy to use, but like most things, the technology has evolved over time.
As soon as the hunter walks over an object containing metal, the detector will make a sound and a number will appear on the screen. Each number represents a different type of metal.
“It gives you a good idea of what you’re going to dig up,” Turner said. “You just have to know your numbers.”
Serious enthusiasts like Turner and Schick have multiple detectors. Schick has 12 and a friend of his has 27 of them. Turner said he held on to his top-notch detector for years.
Knowledge of the rules is also required. In fact, there is a code of ethics for metal detection that they and the metal detection clubs follow.
Policies include limiting hunting to non-private property, asking permission if they wish to hunt on private property, and making efforts to reassociate an item with its owner. Repairing holes made during excavation is also part of the code. Turner said it’s easy since most hunters use hand diggers or 5-inch scrapers.
history is everywhere
Where do Schick and Turner hunt? Wherever there is history.
They said the key is finding old places, and in a community like Waxahachie, that’s not hard.
Schick said he recently found half a dollar of 1908 silver while hunting in Getzendaner Park.
“It’s an old park and people have been looking there for years,” Schick said. “But the stuff is still out there.”
He said there’s a lot of land in Ellis County where people used to gather. The trick is to hunt there before the land is built and covered with concrete.
The lakes are also the best for treasure, Turner said.
“I can’t believe some people go to the lake with stuff that expensive,” Turner said.
And yes, Turner will step into the lake.
“Up to here,” Turner said, jerking at his chin as he described how deep he would go into the lake.
But their search isn’t limited to Ellis County. Being more than casual hobbyists, they participate in Seed Hunts, where members pay an entry fee and spend a day competing with others in finding buried objects. Whoever finds the most objects can win prizes.
“A group of us takes a truckload of people,” said Schick. “We spend a day hunting, cleaning up and then coming back. I have traveled to Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Florida. You start meeting the same people.”
Many of the set hunts have lucrative prizes. For example, Treasure Fest 6, scheduled for October 2023 in Arkansas, has a $10,000 grand prize.
At a sedate event in Arkansas, Schick received as a prize a Union-fired Civil War cannonball that was discovered during a hunt.
Hunters can even purchase adventure packs to send to hunting events in places like England and Scotland.
Aside from finding this unique and often valuable item, Schick and Turner say metal detection has other benefits.
Schick said it’s an activity that families can do together, adding that he often takes his granddaughter hunting.
It also offers a service for people who need help locating a lost item.
“People will come up to me and say they lost a ring and ask if I’ll look for it,” Schick said. “I’ll tell them if I find it and if they can identify it, I’ll give it back to them.”
Turner said he also helped a woman locate 109 gold coins her family had stored in a large property.
“Most of these were 1 ounce gold coins, some were half ounces,” Turner said. “The total value was $125,000.”
According to Schick, metal detection also helps keep the community clean. He said detectors often come across an item that is later considered garbage.
“So we just throw it in the trash or recycle it,” Schick said. “We’re getting the dangerous stuff out of there.”
As part of a club, there’s the camaraderie, Turner said.
“It’s good for making friends, having community, learning strategies and techniques, and doing product reviews,” Turner said.
He said clubs allow other hunters to hear about the successes of others.
Turner said a friend was out hunting at Boat Ramp Park in Waxahachie and picked up a 41-gram 14k gold necklace with a broken clasp. A melt value of $1,300 was determined.
“He said, ‘I just paid for my gear,'” Turner said.
Turner said many clubs give out Finds of the Month awards.
“I won a lot of those things,” Turner said. “It motivates you to go hunting.”
Turner said a waxahachie club would open up opportunities for more hunts.
He said if he finds a suitable location, he will usually contact the property owner to request permission for an event. He said a club typically pays the property owner based on the number of members attending.
“Sometimes you come to a place to hunt when you have a club,” Turner said. “When you’re an individual, sometimes they say no.”
Visions for the club
One goal of one club in Waxahachie is to restore interest in metal detection.
“It’s a hobby that many older people and pensioners pursue,” says Schick. “It’s difficult to get younger people involved. They don’t have the time or are into things like video games. We try to encourage that and bring them out into the fresh air.”
Turner said while interest seems to be waning, TV shows like “The Curse of Oak Island” and “American Diggers” are attracting some people to the hobby.
Schick said once the club is up and running he hopes to work with several local organizations that could benefit from the club. An example is Scouts BSA, which has a merit badge for collecting coins.
He said forming a partnership with local law enforcement could be beneficial, as hunters could use their equipment to help officers locate pieces of evidence.
Turner said when starting a club, one of the first steps is finding a meeting place. He said the goal is to hold his first meeting in January.
“Hopefully we’ll find enough interested parties because it’s a good hobby,” said Schick.
Anyone interested in starting a local metal detector club can contact Turner at [email protected].