A rational look at detecting "Reality" shows and the Amateur/Professional debate
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  1. #1
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    A rational look at detecting "Reality" shows and the Amateur/Professional debate

    Hey everyone.

    I felt the need to chime in on the recent Diggers/American Digger shows and the debate between professional and amateur archeologists. I believe that the knee-jerk reaction to the show is just as detrimental to our hobby as the show itself. Anyone interested in our take on the debate isn't going to be persuaded by coming to the forums only to find namecalling and making fun of some vocabulary. There are serious issues to address, and they ought to be addressed in a rational manner.

    I've posted my thoughts over on my blog. I know I'm a bit longwinded, but I do hope you will read it and let me know what you think.

    Thanks! Tony
    http://detectingsaxapahaw.blogspot.c...shows-and.html

  2. #2
    us
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    Re: A rational look at detecting "Reality" shows and the Amateur/Professional debate

    gtoast99, although I only read about half of your blog, I don't think you'll appreciate my 2 cents.

    Then again, I'm only basing this on what I read. in your first paragraph, you seem to have proclaimed yourself as a spokesperson for this hobby.

    "Let me first begin by saying that nobody (amateur detectorists, relic hunters, professional archeologists, nor myself) are particularly fond of the idea of these shows".

    After reading many of the various threads and posts it seems to me a great deal of the hobbyists here enjoyed the show.

    Now what really caught my attention was the "Part One: The Skewed Reality of Detecting "Reality" Shows"

    You mention

    "The first is a depiction of relic hunting solely as a means of financial gain, a concept which neither professionals nor amateurs agree with. Now donĺt get me wrong, metal detecting is one of the few hobbies that can pay for its own equipment in the long run. A man at my detecting club recently purchased Big Dawg search coil for his detector, and on his second trip the unique geometry of the coil allowed him to find a gold ring which paid for the coil. If I were to sell my Civil War relics, I would certainly be able to pay for my equipment and then some (though I have been fortunate enough to make a few lucky finds which contribute the bulk of the worth of my collection)".

    That statement just appears contradictory to me Purchasing equipment from finds does appear to be a finical gain. Just curious, what do you say about those treasure hunters that are in it solely for the money I didn't see any mention about them.

    I'm sure your heart is in the right place, but I don't get that from the blog

    Not to worry though, I won't be watching those shows anyway


  3. #3
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    Re: A rational look at detecting "Reality" shows and the Amateur/Professional debate

    Thanks for the response! I'll see what I can do to clarify.

    I apologize if it sounded as though I was proclaiming myself spokesman, that was not my intent. From my experience reading the plethora of topics on various forums, the overwhelming majority of relic hunters have been upset with the airing of Diggers, and show serious concerns over the press releases from Spike concerning American Digger. There are, of course, some exceptions.

    I don't believe my comments on financial gain are contradictory. Yes, you can make a bit of money from this hobby, but the vast majority of detectorists will never make enough to cover the massive time input that it took to make it. Hobby detecting and the selling of finds will never be a lucrative career, contrary to the message sent by shows which depict cash-tallies of hyper-inflated prices. This, of course, excludes professional salvage operations with huge financial backing.

    I'm really glad you asked my opinion of treasure hunters that do so solely for profit! I'd have brought it up in the blog, but I've written a small novel there already, HAHA. In my introduction, I made it clear that the scope of my article would be limited to relic hunting. The overwhelming majority of "for-profit" detecting has been geared towards modern gold jewelry, which I don't think anyone has a problem with. I don't think I've ever met a "for-profit" relic hunter in my life.

    But honestly, I don't see a problem with selling detected relics, either (though in my opinion the location of finds should be recorded to preserve the history of the relic). It can be reasonably assumed that anyone willing to shell out money for a detected belt buckle is doing so because they want to preserve and cherish the history of that artifact. The digger has made some money which they can use to further their hobby, and saved the artifact from further degradation and eventual destruction by time, the elements, and human activity.

    Thanks again for the comments, they are much appreciated

  4. #4
    mts
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    Re: A rational look at detecting "Reality" shows and the Amateur/Professional debate

    I agree with spartacus53 (although I read the whole blog post). Overall your points are valid. But the concept of relic hunting for "profit" or "valuables" could use a little work in my opinion.

    I personally enjoyed the show. Then again, the idea of these guys putting "values" on items didn't bother me at all. And I don't think anyone is going to watch those episodes and say to themselves "WOW" those guys are making a LOT of money doing this. I'd better run out there and get me a detector!". Most people are going to see wheat pennies, axe heads, toothpaste tubes, and other such "treasures" and think that these guys are nuts to be spending so much time on this hobby just to find things that most people consider to be worthless or trash.

    I commend you for showing restraint and not letting the archeologists have it for being mostly motivated by profit as well. You allude to it in your blog post but you don't come right out and say it. For that reason, your blog post will likely be viewed in a more positive light by those that are on the fence. However, the reality is that this needs to be pointed out as well. Archeologists will NOT dig if they are not payed to do so. And they will only go after "history" that is "worthwhile" or "valuable". They want to retrieve the history that is likely to have the biggest impact on their careers, museums, and future funding. When they do find a piece of history, it is likely thrown in a drawer unless they feel that it is going to bring in more money being displayed in a museum. Countless artifacts exist only in drawers in collections owned by museums, archeologists, and universities. Trust me, if those relics would make them money by being displayed then they would be on display to the general public. The bottom line is that although they don't want to admit it, archeologists are just as likely to be motivated by profit as everyone else is. They put themselves up on a pedestal and try to make us think that it is all for the love of history. But we all know better.

    And what is "valuable" anyway? When you dig up a common button and decide that it is not worth keeping, what do you use as your basis for that decision? It could be a number of factors but more than likely the price you could sell it for (should you be so inclined) would be at the top of the list. A common button that can't be resold is probably not valuable. But a civil war button that might fetch $300 would be something that you would decide to keep. Even if you have no intention of ever selling the item it is natural to try and assign it a monetary value. It makes no sense to dig something up, show it on TV, and then make vague references about how much intrinsic value it has. That doesn't mean that items don't have intrinsic value to us. We all have countless items that couldn't be sold for even $1 that we would never get rid of because of sentimental or other reasons. But if you intend to tell someone else how "valuable" something is you are almost always going to come back to monetary value sooner or later.

    So even though the Diggers seem to be profit oriented, I believe that like you and me, they are not. Like all of us they simply use monetary value as the main way to determine relative value of an item. I personally did not take their actions to imply that they dig solely to make a profit. Sure, if they find a relic that is worth a significant amount of money then they are likely going to think about selling it. But I did not get the impression that they are motivated solely by profit. Quite the contrary. They appear to me to be motivated by the thrill of the hunt and a love of history. And that makes them just like the rest of us.

  5. #5
    us
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    Re: A rational look at detecting "Reality" shows and the Amateur/Professional debate

    I have no objection to the profit motive in metal detecting and I think just because "it's that hobby that (might) pay you back" it somehow gets viewed as "not a hobby".

    My biggest gripe isn't against the show per se. It is all the fly-by-nighters that jumped into this hobby when gold and silver prices skyrocketed. Thier ignorance and/or lack of care led them to making messes in areas I like to hunt, they became a general nuisance, and now places that used to be open the metal detecting are getting locked down. Most of those guys didn't stay in the hobby long, once they found real work and practice is involved, but they've already done their damage.

    Now these scripted "reality" shows showing the vast fortunes that can be made metal detecting are going to encourage a brand new crop of marauding idiots leaves holes and trenches all over again.

    If these shows gave an honest assessment of what metal detectign was really like, I'd encourage them. But reality isn't sexy enough for TV, so we have to opt for scripted reality.

  6. #6
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    Re: A rational look at detecting "Reality" shows and the Amateur/Professional debate

    @MTS

    I completely agree about the motivations from the guys at Diggers! I believe, just like the rest of us, that they do it for the love of the hunt and the history. But I fear that that message has been corrupted by commercialism, and that wouldn't be their fault, but the producers. I know Bob and Ric from American Diggers are motivated by the right factors, too. But based on the press releases, you'd never know it.

    And that's the problem I have with these shows. I'm not against the idea of a detecting show. Check out Minelab's production of "The Civil War Uncovered". That's a show I can get behind, and will be highlighting in my next blog post.

    @Smudge, yep, that's what I was trying to get at. Showing inflated prices and cash tallies will only encourage more irresponsible "fly by nighters", in my opinion.

  7. #7
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    Re: A rational look at detecting "Reality" shows and the Amateur/Professional debate

    gtoast99, as I mentioned, your intention is a good one, but it doesn't come across that way when reading it. Those were the only 2 points I had an issue with

    Parts 2 & 3 are fine they way they are.. Again, just my opinion.

  8. #8
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    Re: A rational look at detecting "Reality" shows and the Amateur/Professional debate

    I reworded my introduction slightly:
    "Let me first begin by saying that most of the opinions I have seen (from amateur detectorists, relic hunters, professional archeologists, and my own) are not particularly fond of the idea of these shows."

    On the issue of financial gain, we'll have to agree to disagree.

  9. #9
    mts
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    Re: A rational look at detecting "Reality" shows and the Amateur/Professional debate

    So are you saying that it is wrong for someone to gain financially from their finds or are you simply saying that going into the hobby with the mindset of making a profit is probably not the right attitude? If it is the latter then I agree with you. But if it is the former then I certainly disagree. But perhaps I'm not understanding you.

    I agree with spartacus that sections 2 and 3 are fine. It is the idea that this show is wrong to show values that I have a problem with. Yes, it could potentially have been done in a better way. They didn't need to do the whole "lets show the final tally in dollars" bit for example. But I see nothing wrong in quoting values in dollars (as long as the values are not greatly inflated). We all know that the first thought that goes through our minds when we dig something up is to wonder how much it is worth. Even if we have never sold a recovery in our lives we still likely know its relative cash value.

    And I see nothing wrong with metal detectorists WANTING to make a profit. We shouldn't have to apologize for being partially motivated by money (even relic hunters). Those professional archeologists are motivated primarily by money too. Otherwise they wouldn't be digging. I bet you'd be hard pressed to find one that would do all their digging for free considering they have mortgages just like the rest of us. When was the last time someone bashed an archeologist simply for taking a salary? Why should we feel bad because ONE of the motivating factors in continuing our hobby is the possibility of a big score or making some money on the side? And why shouldn't a show on metal detecting also cover this aspect of the hobby? We all do it. And yet everyone wants it to be hush-hush...

  10. #10
    us
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    Re: A rational look at detecting "Reality" shows and the Amateur/Professional debate

    Thanks, MTS. No, I don't think it's wrong for relic hunters to gain financially, nor to even WANT to gain financially.

    I have a problem with a show promoting the financial aspect of relic hunting disproportionally to the important historical significance of these finds. And even more of a problem when they use inflated monetary values to do so. This is a misrepresentation of the motivations of the majority of relic hunters. It encourages new detectorists with the wrong mindset who are mroe likely to ignore common sense ethical detecting to "get rich quick". And it hurts our reputation as a positive activity in the eyes of the general public, who we rely upon for site access in many cases (whether it be private property or voting down restrictive legislation).

    I hope this clears things up a bit. Thanks to this thread, I now have an excellent subject for my next blog post

  11. #11

    Feb 2008
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    Re: A rational look at detecting "Reality" shows and the Amateur/Professional debate

    A shorter look at the situation.
    Simple problems of the show:
    No logging of the items recovered being shown. An easy solution to the Archeologist attack. A gps and a ruler to show depth, and a log book.

    Ethics of Mding need to be shown.

    And as for the lingo, well "juice" , and so on sounds a bit like drug users: which LE seems to think goes along with say pot hunting or what they call twiggers. Now they can relate it to MDing.. Great,,,, Not.

    Yet I do understand the excitement of a find of artifact/ relic/ Mding. Most of course most people will not. To most people the idea it is done for just the money that can be made, is their view of the reality. Archeologist seem to be taught that looting is all about the money. They ignore the fact such is with in the law. Even the statement by the SAA
    has "is contrary to the ethics of American archaeological practice, highly destructive, and possibly illegal."
    Found on links at this page
    http://archaeologistforhire.blogspot...rsdiggers.html

    You wont see the donation to a museum, or the return of a class ring and so on. Well maybe that will show up in the shows.

    Any thing that is done on this show, and shows like them, will directly reflect upon the rest of the MDrs: and how some one out swinging will be looked at by the general public.
    It can and will present a view that will be placed upon the rest.

    As for profit, if it is within the law, so what. Let em do it. That is what the owners of the show want. Money.

    If true records were kept, by MDrs, and other artifact / relic hunters, they would not show a true profit. Most cases it would show a loss, due to equipment, fuel, and so on of costs.
    Of course the show will show the wins, and not the losses. Same for the most part with this and other boards, magazines etc.

    It exists, and with the controversy I suspect will continue for a time.

    It seems to me; from all sides ,the word respect: should come into the situation, yet reality TV and respect see to be a contradiction.

    Cross reference this thread for some statements.
    http://forum.treasurenet.com/index.p...,455746.0.html





  12. #12
    mts
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    Re: A rational look at detecting "Reality" shows and the Amateur/Professional debate

    Quote Originally Posted by gtoast99
    Thanks, MTS. No, I don't think it's wrong for relic hunters to gain financially, nor to even WANT to gain financially.

    I have a problem with a show promoting the financial aspect of relic hunting disproportionally to the important historical significance of these finds. And even more of a problem when they use inflated monetary values to do so. This is a misrepresentation of the motivations of the majority of relic hunters. It encourages new detectorists with the wrong mindset who are mroe likely to ignore common sense ethical detecting to "get rich quick". And it hurts our reputation as a positive activity in the eyes of the general public, who we rely upon for site access in many cases (whether it be private property or voting down restrictive legislation).

    I hope this clears things up a bit. Thanks to this thread, I now have an excellent subject for my next blog post
    Thanks gtoast.

    As for inflated monetary values, I really don't think they were terribly inflated. Yes, there were some that were higher than they should be. But heck... don't we all do the exact same thing when we find stuff? That $5 nickel I found is probably realistically nly worth $1.50. But in slightly better shape it COULD be worth $5 to the right buyer. So I claim it is worth $5 until the day I try to sell it.

    Plus, a lot of people are forgetting that the prices should also be based on the context of the find. For example, in the show they listed .30 cal rifle cartridges at $1 apiece. Granted, I'm NOT going to get $1 apiece for once fired brass that I found in some random field. But once fired brass that was known to have been fired in a prison skirmish at a well known historical jail may be worth many times that amount. A museum curator who is trying to put together a display about that event might be willing to pay me $10 apiece for those very same cartridges. The same can be said for that used toothpaste container. I don't see anyone else making this connection. All I see are people complaining about how brass cartridges are technically worthless.

    I've seen a lot of people complaining about the prices listed but in general they weren't too inflated. Yes, there were some slightly inflated numbers. But the world is not black and white. They were within the realm of reasonable prices given that they were found on historical grounds. But I don't disagree with the basic sentiment. I do not want to see inflated prices being displayed for things that are actually considered junk by most people. And we don't need people to think that digging up a bunch of trash is going to make them rich. But we also know that it is human nature to overprice things. One look at eBay and Craigslist tells us that everyone thinks they are sitting on a goldmine with their pile of nick naks. Reality of course is much different.

    Storage Wars, American Pickers, Meteorite Men, and many other shows do the exact same thing. So we all know to take these values with a grain of salt. As long as they keep the values reasonable then I don't have a major issue with it.

  13. #13
    us
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    Re: A rational look at detecting "Reality" shows and the Amateur/Professional debate

    Quote Originally Posted by mts
    Plus, a lot of people are forgetting that the prices should also be based on the context of the find. For example, in the show they listed .30 cal rifle cartridges at $1 apiece. Granted, I'm NOT going to get $1 apiece for once fired brass that I found in some random field. But once fired brass that was known to have been fired in a prison skirmish at a well known historical jail may be worth many times that amount. A museum curator who is trying to put together a display about that event might be willing to pay me $10 apiece for those very same cartridges. The same can be said for that used toothpaste container. I don't see anyone else making this connection. All I see are people complaining about how brass cartridges are technically worthless.
    Ya know, that's an interesting point I haven't heard before. Thanks for sharing that.

  14. #14
    mts
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    Re: A rational look at detecting "Reality" shows and the Amateur/Professional debate

    Quote Originally Posted by lostcauses
    A shorter look at the situation.
    Simple problems of the show:
    No logging of the items recovered being shown. An easy solution to the Archeologist attack. A gps and a ruler to show depth, and a log book.

    Ethics of Mding need to be shown.

    And as for the lingo, well "juice" , and so on sounds a bit like drug users: which LE seems to think goes along with say pot hunting or what they call twiggers. Now they can relate it to MDing.. Great,,,, Not.

    Yet I do understand the excitement of a find of artifact/ relic/ Mding. Most of course most people will not. To most people the idea it is done for just the money that can be made, is their view of the reality. Archeologist seem to be taught that looting is all about the money. They ignore the fact such is with in the law. Even the statement by the SAA
    has "is contrary to the ethics of American archaeological practice, highly destructive, and possibly illegal."
    Found on links at this page
    http://archaeologistforhire.blogspot...rsdiggers.html

    You wont see the donation to a museum, or the return of a class ring and so on. Well maybe that will show up in the shows.

    Any thing that is done on this show, and shows like them, will directly reflect upon the rest of the MDrs: and how some one out swinging will be looked at by the general public.
    It can and will present a view that will be placed upon the rest.

    As for profit, if it is within the law, so what. Let em do it. That is what the owners of the show want. Money.

    If true records were kept, by MDrs, and other artifact / relic hunters, they would not show a true profit. Most cases it would show a loss, due to equipment, fuel, and so on of costs.
    Of course the show will show the wins, and not the losses. Same for the most part with this and other boards, magazines etc.

    It exists, and with the controversy I suspect will continue for a time.

    It seems to me; from all sides ,the word respect: should come into the situation, yet reality TV and respect see to be a contradiction.

    Cross reference this thread for some statements.
    http://forum.treasurenet.com/index.p...,455746.0.html
    Do you use a GPS and log exact locations for each thing you find? Perhaps you do. I don't nor should I be expected to. And 99.9% of metal detectorists do not do this either. So why should these guys be expected to do anything that regular metal detectorists are not expected to do? To appease some ivory tower archeologists? Why? What these guys did was not illegal. They should not have to make excuses or act like they are doing something wrong. I don't understand why we want to kowtow to the archeologists when in fact they are the ones who are wrong.

    There is an important fundamental issue that gtoast alludes to in his blog post:
    Not all historically significant sites are also archeologically significant sites!

    If a site is not archeologically significant then there should be no reason for me to use GPS and archeological field methods to recover things there. For example, a street corner in Manhattan can be considered a historical landmark because some famous person once made a speech there. But that doesn't mean that there is anything significant to be recovered from the site by digging.

    The jail in the first episode could be considered a historical land mark. But it is clear that the archeologists have never cared to dig there. It's not like it is a new found site. It's been there for a long time. And the archeologists have decided that it is not worth digging based on the current information. Therefore, why should someone digging there go to great lengths to provide detailed logging of non-archeologically important items that were brought out of the ground? Just so that we can appease some ivory tower archeologist? I don't see the point. They won't be satisfied no matter what we do.

    Instead, let's show metal detecting as it REALLY is. Don't sugar coat it other than to make it as entertaining as metal detecting can be made for the common viewer. If we feel the need to do something on TV that is not expected of us in day to day life then we have a serious problem.

  15. #15
    us
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    Re: A rational look at detecting "Reality" shows and the Amateur/Professional debate

    Quote Originally Posted by mts
    There is an important fundamental issue that gtoast alludes to in his blog post:
    Not all historically significant sites are also archeologically significant sites!
    YES!!! Much more succinctly stated. haha

 

 

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