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Bold: Have metal detector, will treasure hunt

Members of the Northern Ontario Relic and Treasure Hunters like to use metal detectors to find things that other people have lost or forgotten
050822_LG_BOLD Metal Detectors PHOTO 1
Richard Jacobs, a founding member of the Northern Ontario Relic and Treasure Hunters, was at the recent annual Sudbury Gem and Mineral Show.

I found a $5 bill on the ground one day when I was a schoolboy. It was right there beside the curb on Keele Street in North York, close to where I lived by the Royal Canadian Air Force base at Downsview.

Finding five bucks was something that just thrilled me, partly because you could buy a lot of stuff with $5 in the 1960s. But I think the thrill of just finding something was the main thing. I found it. It was free. And now it's mine.

That might be one of the reasons why a small Sudbury-based group meets on a regular basis to talk all about their hobby; metal detecting.

The group is known as the Northern Ontario Relic and Treasure Hunters (NORTH). One of the founding members of the club is Richard Jacobs of Sudbury who said his original passion is collecting old bottles.

Jacobs said he and some friends began exploring with metal detectors back in 1982 and the group of eight to ten individuals decided to hold monthly meetings. 

That was 40 years ago. Jacobs said the group still meets, usually the second Wednesday of every month.

"We have a running membership of around 15. Now, people drop out and new people come in," said Jacobs.

He said some of the regular meetings dropped off because of COVID-19, but even getting eight to ten people to show up was a good turnout. The group talks about the technology of metal detecting along with some of the treasures they have discovered; things like coins and jewelry. The group has a Facebook page where members can showcase their discoveries with photographs. It is also where people can inquire about membership. 

Jacobs said having a metal detector right away is not a mandatory thing for membership. 

"I myself was in the club for a couple of years before I got my metal detector because it's a treasure hunters club. And I'm a bottle collector first and I have a huge bottle collection," Jacobs said.

He said many of the members now have two or three metal detector machines. Improved technology is often a reason why members might buy a new device.

A detector resembles a flat, round or hoop-like device about the size of a pie plate on the end of a metal stick. By waving the device back and forth over the ground, electro-magnetic waves are sent out. Anything metallic that is on the ground or a few centimetres beneath the ground, will send back a signal tone or a beep to let you know you've found something.

"I tell everybody it's like going fishing," Jacobs said. "You get a nibble on your line and it's like getting a signal on your detector."

He said you might find a pull tab from a pop can or you might find a rare coin or a ring. Jacobs said that many years ago, he found a wedding ring. He said he eventually had the ring cut in half and it became part of the wedding bands for both himself and his wife. 

"So it's quite interesting. We've gone out on outings out of town. We've gone to ghost towns and spent two or three days camping in the bush and picking up relics and all kinds of stuff," Jacobs said.  

"And it's a social thing too, plus fresh air exercise and you never know what you're gonna find."

He said the group also puts their treasure-hunting skills to work to help people out.

"We do like public service as well. We look for people's property pegs. Anybody that's lost a ring or something valuable, we'll go and search for it," said Jacobs. 

He said such services used to be provided free of charge, but with the cost of gasoline, some members might charge a nominal fee.

A brochure produced by NORTH outlines that the club has strict rules to follow especially when searching on new land. The brochure said there is a code of conduct members must follow for such things as respecting private property and not searching any land without the landowner's permission.

Members must also practice good search habits by replacing any dirt or sod they dig up when checking out a signal. The brochure said that if members find something of historical value or significance, it should be reported to local museums or other authorities. 

The important thing, said Jacobs, is that members out on the land must always make sure that they leave everything as pristine as they find it. Club members also agree not to leave any litter and to remove any trash they discover in their searches.

Len Gillis covers mining and health care for Sudbury.com. Bold is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.