Invention of the Metal Detector

At the end of September 2021, Dave Sadler of The Archaeology and Metal Detecting Magazine explored this subject. I was intrigued. In the past I have explored this several times, the first in a rather whimsical way.

World’s First 

 I enjoy looking at old magazines. In a copy of a publication devoted to metal detecting and published over 30 years ago, the following report attracted my attention. The title of the short item was The World’s First Metal Detector? The author’s name is unknown. He (or she) told how the old, faded and partly insect-eaten illustration had come into their possession. The friend who had given it had guessed that it would ‘interest me’. Here’s the picture:

Searcher Magazine – August 1989
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Just a Button . . .


The Bedford Button – Courtesy of Joe Tilt

‘Just a button’ is how Joe Tilt described one of his recent finds when writing on a detecting forum. In a way he was apologising to the members for ‘only’ finding a button. There was no need. His find was much more interesting than a hammered coin or Roman brooch where information is sparse or non-existent. The humble button spoke volumes and told us a lot about our recent social history.

Today we have Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOS) but in the middle 1800’s we had reformatory schools, a way to provide care for children involved in criminal or anti-social behaviour. In later times these young people were referred to as ‘juvenile delinquents’. It was a humble die-stamped two-piece copper-alloy button from an item of reformatory clothing Joe had unearthed.

Bedford Reformatory School, a penal institution for young offenders, was opened in 1857, with room for 30 boys. Its purpose was to provide an alternative to prison. The inscription BEDFORD REFORMATORY is surrounded around a beehive (called a skep) surrounded by flying bees and has a simple looped wire shank, not back-marked. Similar depictions of bees flying around the skep –   symbolising industry, diligence and effort and the concept that work is rewarding, can be found on many late 18th century tokens.

Sir Clive Sinclair

Today’s news is that Sir Clive Sinclair, the inventor and entrepreneur who helped to bring home computers to the masses, has died at the age of 81.

 “What a guy he kicked started consumer electronics in the UK with his amplifier kits then calculators, watches mini TV and of course the Sinclair ZX. Not to forget his quirky electric car. R.I.P Friend.”

Lord Sugar

it’s very sad to hear that Clive Sinclair has died. He changed the many lives. And arguably, the digital age for us in the UK started with the Sinclair ZX80, when thousands of kids learnt to code using 1k of RAM. In the 80s the Spectrum was like a Rolls Royce with 48k. I mucked around with my mates machine … and then bought a Dragon 32!

Sir Clive Sinclair is widely considered the pioneer of home computing and other consumer electronics, as well as the bizarre Sinclair C5. Most have heard about the Sinclair ZX81 / ZX Spectrum, but his company also produced the TV80, a cathode ray tube-based portable mini television. Unfortunately, the Sinclair FTV1 (TV80) was a commercial flop, with only 15,000 units produced. Read more for two videos, including one on his quirky C5 battery-powered vehicle.

The Black Watch

In August 1975 Sinclair introduced the digital Black Watch at £17.95 in kit form and £24.95 ready-built, although this wasn’t available to buy until January 1976. Including a five-digit LED display, it suffered from technical flaws related with the design of the case, the chip, the battery and accuracy. Not only was the watch unreliable. Sinclair was not able to fulfil the orders it had taken. As a result, Sinclair made his first loss in the financial year April 1974-April 1975. The Black Watch fiasco had a devastating effect on Sinclair’s finances and the company would have gone bankrupt had not the Government, through the National Enterprise Board, stepped in to support it.

Is Your Detector Really Necessary?

From the 19th century story, Dick Whittington and His Cat, we got the saying that ‘London Streets are paved with gold‘. Alas the phrase, expressing the land of opportunity, is partly ironic. When Dick went to London he saw that the streets were uninspiring and grimy. Eventually, with persistence and a dollop of luck he became successful.

It turns out that the streets of New York really are paved with gold. Meet the urban prospector Raffi Stepanian, the guy with the same qualities as the good detectorist – persistence, determination and luck. Please note he doesn’t have to be a good videographer.


The Street Gold Miner

I know it sounds incredible, but Raffi walks down the streets NYC looking for gold and precious metals. The pieces that have fallen off people help Raffi
to make his living.

He explains that “Materials fall off clothes, from the bottom of shoes. Drops off jewellery, and it all falls in the dirt and sticks to the gum on the street. People are always running around and dropping stuff without realising it. And, by the time they realise, the fallen-off bits may have already been scattered to a different place as a result of wind or rain.”

Once Raffi was visiting a diamond exchange near 6th Avenue. He noticed that there were gold scrapings on the floor. This made him realise that if there are precious scraps on the floor of the exchange, there might very well be bits of precious metals lying around outside. This is especially true near the jewellery shops and exchanges that can be found in abundance on 47th Street.

Now that his success has reached the media, it may not be long before we have another gold rush – especially when we learn that Steffi’s earnings were over $1000 in just 15 days. Even so, that doesn’t attract me. I’m out.

Continue reading “Is Your Detector Really Necessary?”