Toilet Reading: Treasure Hunting

Tagline: ‘Britain’s Best Selling Metal Detecting Magazine’

Price: £3.85

Who is this magazine for? It doesn’t get much more romantic than buried treasure, does it? Sailing the high seas with men of questionable haircare choices. Racing the tides and moustache-twirling baddies hellbent on seizing your haul. Following a map that displays no more than a childlike grip on the intricacies of cartography (why don’t treasure maps ever include contour lines or a reasonable key?). This is the stuff of heroic tales, myths and legends. Treasure Hunting is for those who live life to the full.

Ah no, wait. It’s actually about plodding across a muddy field, wielding a strange plastic implement that resembles a hoover.

I was under the impression that all buried treasure was the property of the Crown – if you bag yourself a haul of coins, you are obliged to give them up to the police. Admittedly this knowledge was based entirely on the plot of a Roald Dahl short story, a tale included in the same collection as one which convinced me that, with enough training, you could see through playing cards by looking at them really, really hard.

However, the very existence of Treasure Hunters proves once again that the knowledge I so carefully accumulated during my childhood is so much bollocks. This is obviously a mag for people whose previous financial strategies – playing the Lottery, crossing their fingers, looking at playing cards really, really hard – have failed.

Disappointingly, treasure hunters have apparently decided to refer to themselves as ‘detectorists’. I would have thought ‘detectives’ would have been far less cumbersome, but then again, these may be people who wish to avoid attracting any attention from the police.

What did you get for your £3.85? The big giveaway that Treasure Hunters is for those literally seeking paydirt is that the magazine is full of adverts. At least a quarter of the magazine’s pages are given over to glossy double page spreads, extolling the virtues of one particular type of plastic hoover over another. And nobody is more likely to make an unwise investment in an expensive prop than someone who is completely convinced they’re a few hours of light wafting away from life-changing financial salvation. It’s like fat people and tracksuits.

The second giveaway is on the contents page (page 7, following six pages of ads), where the bottom third is given over to a fairly brazen offer: ‘Celtic hoards, large or small, we love them all. And we pay cash.’ The hoards in this case are coins, by the way, not massed ranks of Iceni warriors.

Elsewhere in the mag we find a news and views section, which brings tell of a new detector showroom opening at the Orchard Business Park, Kingsclere, a location that I imagine will not draw a great deal of passing trade. Treasure Hunters also offers a healthy sprinkling of features about various digs, a kit review, the dreaded club and rally round-up with WI level’s of trifling detail, and a how-to guide on building your own sand scoop. The latter is written by a Mr Beach, someone who is either impeccably qualified or who is working under a pseudonym. Perhaps his real name is Terry I’ve Never Made A Sand Scoop In My Life.

Treasure Hunting

You’d certainly be ready to hit Mr. Beach.

Features: The magazine’s writers make a decent fist of trying to make digging holes exciting. Nevertheless, there is a feeling through Treasure Hunters that quite a lot of effort is being put in to stretch it all to an acceptable length. The aforementioned sand scoop guide has 31 instruction steps, more than an Ikea sofa. This seems on the excessive side for an implement that is, when all’s said and done, a cup on a stick.

In a feature explaining how to get started on a tight budget, a balding man explains his move from Lotto tickets to detecting. After purchasing a cheapo hoover, the size of his finds steadily builds up; a quid in a bush, some small bits of copper, a silver sixpence from 1697, before building to his biggest haul – the fee for writing 700 words in Treasure Hunter magazine. Success!

Treasure Hunting

Useful insight here, just in case you’d forgotten in all the excitement what a tree was.

Adverts: Advertisers have to work pretty hard in the metal detecting game, because when all’s said and done, they only equipment you need to own to qualify as a bone fide treasure hunter is a spade. In fact, I suppose you don’t even need that. A pair of functioning limbs that allow you to scrabble about in dirt or sand would probably be plenty.

Additional tools – metal detectors, pinpointers, sand scoops, all the rest of it – are there to make you slightly more efficient in your digging, and therefore infinitesimally more likely to find something. The snag is that there’s a whole bunch of surface area out there. Regardless of how much you spend on those technological aids, buying a metal detector is a bit like giving a budding astronomer a pair of glasses.

That isn’t to say that there are plenty of companies out there having a good go at convincing you otherwise.

Treasure Hunting

Disgusting.

The language used to sell metal detectors is slightly unnerving to somebody new to the field. Deep, fast, vibrate alert, ribbed anti slip design – all common phrases, all guaranteed to make most of the advert achieve Carry On Detecting heights when measured on the widely-recognised Fnarr Index. On the demand side of the market, artefact buyers tend to go in to for the capital letters, block colours and anonymous email addresses combination that may imply a less than cordial relationship with HMRC.

Letters page: Treasure Hunters gives over a healthy two pages to readers. The star letter took up a full page, something I’d normally baulk at. However, in this case it was from a bloke who had woken up from a coma, taken up treasure hunting and found a gold ring.

Good on you Paul. Although the sentence ‘it was just great to be outdoor swinging low and slow’ gives no clear indication of whether you happened to be metal detecting at the time.

Rating: 7/10

I think it’s a wonderful thing that there are still many people out there living the dream of finding pieces of eight. It’s also been nice to write a blog with the word artifact in it, a term I thought I’d waved goodbye to after completing my GCSE History exam.

Detectorists, keeping following your hopes, but stop throwing all your money at all these shysters. Invest in a pack of playing cards instead.

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