Now before I start I want to make it quite clear that I am neither a so-called "expert" nor do I have any vested interest in the industry other than tramping around muddy fields looking for treasures. I have written this guide because I know from bitter experience some of the pitfalls you can make when choosing a detector and would like to help others avoid the costly mistakes I have made over the years.
When choosing a detector I strongly advise you to think about what you really want it for. Are you likely to be using it very occasionally to look for coins down the beach (perhaps on holiday?), are you a bit more serious in your intentions and you are hoping to start exploring a bit of local history, or are you a seasoned pro who knows exactly what you are doing?
You see, like most things you can pay virtually anything for a metal detector from a few quid to a cool thousand pounds - and there's a whole range of prices in between too !
Now the cheapest detectors which you see are great for kids and messing about on the beach - they usually detect to a depth of a couple of inches and "beep" everytime they pass over something metallic. If your lucky that will be a coin, if your really lucky a piece of jewellery and if your me then it will be a ring pull from a drinks can (or the can itself).
More expensive detectors use something called "Discrimination" to help you reject rubbish such as pull tabs and rusty nails. And this is where the problems start for the more discerning buyer. You see many Manufacturers and Retailers make use of widely exagerrated claims for both depth of signal and Discrimination ability of their detectors. There are loads of Detectors on Ebay that claim all sorts of things but the truth is that unless your machine is by a reputable manufacturer AND (in my opinion) costs more than a hundred pounds then it is probably going to be an expensive toy. I have bought many detectors in the last few years and I know that some of the worst (whilst sounding the best) are re-badged cheaply produced Chinese models. Sure, the retailer will make them look good and sound good but believe me they will only make you want to cry if you are serious about detecting. Some of the worst are sold by a major Ebay retailer in Germany - they make really exagerrated claims for their machines but try asking them where they are made ! (China). " Last finding gold ring in Spain" etc etc...they've been using that tired old line for 2 years so if the last finding was 2 years ago then the finder was extremely lucky on two counts !
When considering a more serious detector check out one of the online Field Tests available - just enter the model and make into your favourite Search Engine and read to your heart's content. There are few "real" retailers who offer a solid warranty and aftersales Service, and who sell quality detectors at a fair price. Fortunately some of them sell through Ebay (yeah !).
I went through the route of buying a "bargain"...not finding anything and giving up. Then buying a better detector(just) and finding a couple of interesting things. Then I began to wonder if I had a better detector would I find more (yes !) but I still went for a mid-range model and so I had to upgrade again when I became serious about detecting. Its cost me way more than it should have - and would have if I could have got some friendly advise before I began.
So to sum up :
If you want it for a kid or to have a go then please buy a 50 quid cheap and cheerful model - there are loads on Ebay.
If you are serious (or think you might get serious) do yourself a favour and either buy from a retailer on Ebay in the UK and expect to pay not less than 100 quid (more realistically 200-300 quid spent now will save you money in the future), or buy secondhand from someone with a good reputation who knows what they are talking about (ie not "it belonged to my late father-in-law's friends uncle so I don't know much about it/ it worked ok last time I used it a couple of years ago.... etc etc)
I myself use a Laser Hawkeye (my 7th detector) of my 2 Detecting buddies one uses the same machine and the other uses a Minelab Sovereign XS. Since we started detecting together in July we have made some excellent finds - silver coins from 1683, a Pilgrim's Ampulla, loads of George II and III coins and other stuff. Its fun and we get out at least once a week.
Update - I have recently found a second Ampulla, a lovely Elizabethan Sixpence 1580, a James I sixpence and many other interesting odds and ends. I have seen buzzards nesting, foxes playing and been chased by bulls. It doesn't get any better than this !
End of year finds update ! I have found a Charles I sixpence, a Roman stylus and an Iron age brooch too!
Spring update - I have bought a Minelab Explorer II - its brilliant ! I have found loads of goodies in the last few weeks - small hammered coins and 3 rings within 100 yards of each other !
Please feel free to contact me if you want some impartial advice regarding what detector to buy or whatever.
If you are in Gower on holiday this year get in touch and perhaps we can do a days detecting on some of the farms I have permission to search?
All the photos are of finds from one field of maize stubble in the last few weeks ! - I can't wait 'til they plough it.
If you are bored check out our Club website - lots of pictures of members finds and some useful links - PLEASE sign the guestbook and tell them how you found it (me !)http://swanseamdc.com/
Finally - if you have read all this and you have found it of some use please go one step further and click to say so ! - loads of people have read this but not so many have been kind enough to vote.
Happy Hunting ! - Hugh