A few months ago I told you about Ed Burke, well know treasure hunter and friend to the pastime.... Now Iíd like to share with you another individual, whom Iíve known for many years....Mark Schuessler. Not just a friend, but a dedicated treasure hunter and a difference maker.
I first met Mark in the early 80's, while I was in the midst of getting the Federation going. We ran into each other many times, either at club hunts, or FMDAC conventions. We became friends, and have managed to stay in touch over all these years.
Mark, his wife Kathy, and their two children, Lana and Nathan, live in upstate New York. He is employed as a CAD/CAM programmer, a machinist/toolmaker, and is a retired Navy Reserve Chief Petty Officer. Heís been detecting for over 30 years, is the legislative officer of the FMDAC, vice-president of the Northeast Chapter, and has one of the largest collections of old metal detectors that I know of.
Add to all that his memberships in the Genesee Valley Treasure Seekers, Susquehanna Valley Metal Detecting Club, Enchanted Mountain Treasure Huntes, Silverseekers, and the American Society for Amateur Archaeology, and you begin to see his dedication to the pastime. Lastly, Mark is just a darn nice guy!
Why am I sharing his story with you? Because I think over the years Mark has made the pastime better for all of us, and he should be recognized. There are certainly many others who have made a difference, and hopefully over time they will be featured within these pages as well. Now, however let me share Markís story with you via this informal question and answer session...
It was the early 70's on a family vacation in the New England area. We spent a day on the beach where I saw a man detecting. I followed him around for a while, watching him dig quite a number of coins. When I returned home I began saving for a detector!
The first one was a mistake. It was a Radio Shack kit. Hey, it was cheap (in more ways than price). Couldnít make it work, and took it back for an assembled model. That too, didnít do the trick and I received a refund. After researching some, I finally bought a Garrett Groundhog in 1976.
A rusted tin can top. Came out of Dadís lawn. I was pretty proud that my detector actually found metal, but of course my Dad was very impressed. Then there was the foil backed shingle in the front lawn incident. It was a foot deep, and I had to make a really big hole to remove it. Once again, Dad wasnít impressed!!
On the serious side, other than a few coins, the first that I really remember was what I thought to be a tin emblem off a bike. Dug it out of my grandparentsís lawn. I was going to throw it away, but my mother saw it and let out a scream. It was actually a silver cane emblem.
When my father was stationed in Germany in the 50's, he would buy these at the different places he went, and we would tack them to a cane. On returning home from Germany my parents lived with my grandparents for a short while. The cane hung near the door, and my grandfather borrowed it one winter day, as it had an ice pick on the bottom. On his return, an emblem was missing. My dad put the cane away and it didnít surface again until it was reunited with this emblem. I was unaware of the caneís existence until this time. I am pretty sure that finding this emblem redeemed me for the shingle incident!!
To find coins and jewelry of course. I was a kid, and the stuff was there for the taking. I was hoping to add to my coin collection, and I did!
Bought a few magazines and sent for literature. My father found someone at work who had a detector, and he directed me to an area dealer.
The best find is a tough one. In my eyes it is not necessarily monetary. The cane emblem ranks up there for obvious reasons. Also in the running would a railroad baggage tag found in a lawn next to where my great grandparents lived. It is just a short distance from the former station on the tag. The tag dates to a time frame of 1880-1894. It is a nice piece of local history with the possibility that my great grandparents actually used this tag.
The other that sticks out is a 1500's Iroquois Indian brass fishook. Itís a rare item for this neck of the woods, and was found while working on an archaeological dig. The particular project was outlined in the October 2005 issue of Western & Eastern Treasures.
The oldest identifiable coin is an 1822 Large Cent. There may be a few older, but they are in really bad shape with no dates visible. I am still waiting to break into the 1700's.
I would have to say the fishook. I used to pass it around freely when doing talks. After a conversation with the archaeologist, in which the possible value of the piece came up, I decided to just leave it in a case from then on. I have several coins in the $100 range, but I have not hit any large dollar finds.
The most important would be find a different hobby!! That will leave more for me (just kidding). You have heard this before, and I will say it again. Learn your detector well. An expensive detector in the hands of someone who doesnít know it well will find less than an inexpensive unit in the hands of someone who has mastered itís functions.
Also, donít be afraid to dig the questionable audio responses. It may be a good target with a piece of trash or some other interesting trinket. I once pulled a silver dime out of a rusted bottle cap! People rely too much on the target ID to recover targets. They are only a guide. If you allow them to determine your efforts I want to hunt right behind you.
At the present time I am mainly using the Minelab Explorer. I occasionally will fall back on the Fisher 1265, and the Teknetics Mark 1 in certain situations. They are much easier to use and interpret. The Teknetics is a mid-80's unit that was far ahead of itís time. I also use the Fisher 1236 in competition hunts.
Quite simply to continue to enjoy the hobby. The fun is in the thrill of discovery. After 30 years I still get a thrill every time a silver coin shows itís face. It is not really the possessing the item, but the finding it that makes this pastime so great. My real goals are to uncover a silver dollar and of course a gold coin.
I cannot even begin to predict. I am sure it will continue, but I am not sure in what form. We must find a way to change the minds of the ďelitistĒ archaeologists and/or get the legislators to see our views. It would be nice if they would take a lesson or two from Great Britain on these issues, where they learned to coexist, and actually furthered the field of archaeology.
Until that happens we must all follow the rules no matter how much we disagree. Breaking them only hurts yourself and the entire hobby. Take an active role in fighting any bad legislation, and work to promote the hobby in a positive light. We all have a lot of money tied up in equipment. Invest a little time and effort, and even a few dollars, to insure you can continue to use it.
Take a more active role in helping to protect the hobby. They have the most to lose. We would lose our pastime, they would lose their business. Yes, they do donate to clubs and events, and it is very much appreciated, but I feel they need to be more outspoken.
Itís a lot tougher today. Any sites that are even remotely obvious or easily researched have been searched, and many searched hard. The detectors of today are deeper seeking, and are picking out more finds from those hard hit areas, but with much less frequency.
The days of going out and digging 75 plus coins, with one to two dollars face value are gone, or at the very least a rarity. It was not unusual to come home with an Indian Head cent or two, a buffalo or V nickel, and a Barber coin, along with an occasional silver half. Now any of those finds in a single outing makes for a pretty good day.
Todayís detectors are definitely more advanced. I would not say that they go tremendously deeper, but they are able to sort the signals out a lot better. I feel they may be a little too automatic which makes the operator a bit lazy. In the early days you had to make the detector work, and you dug virtually everything. A lot of trash surfaced, but you got a lot of trinkets that I feel are missed today due to all the bells and whistles.
My wife Kathy is a school teacher. Weíve been married for 18 years, and have two children...Lana, age 10 and Nathan, age 12. Both of them have detectors although they like competition hunts better than regular hunting. Nathan will be out of the kidís age bracket next year, and will hunt with the big boys. I might mention that both of my kids have been in hunts since about age 5. Between them they have won 5 detectors. Me...Iíve managed to win one in 30 years! In fact Nathan just returned from a hunt and won another detector and a television to boot!