by Susannah Kriegshauser
There are two types of detectorists who hunt private property—those who keep their finds and those who give them to the landowner. Many detectorists believe that because they have the landowner’s permission, whatever the detectorist digs up is thereafter his. Others believe it’s not right to keep what could be considered the personal possessions of the landowner. This is a controversial subject!
I personally always believed there was a middle ground, and years ago I set out to find one. Honing the following method brought me many, many hunt jobs, and as I’ve taught it to my students, it’s brought them more jobs too. Now, with the GMDC operating under this method as well, the club as a whole is also receiving more permissions from landowners who had been leery of detectorists in the past.
All of this comes about because the Genevieve Method generates good will between landowner and detectorist. It also promotes metal detectorists as responsible, ethical, environmentally-friendly people, a huge plus in our profession. Here’s how it works—
- Begin with a box lid, shoe box, or other container large enough to contain every find plus every piece of trash. If you think there might be a lot of beer cans, or perhaps big iron if on a farm, for example, bring a bigger box! Or two.
- Next, before you begin, ask the landowner if he has lost anything, and ask him to describe it. If you find this item, it must be returned promptly to the landowner. Tell the landowner that you will be bringing him everything you find for him to look at. If he says he doesn’t care and that you can keep everything, that’s great. No need for the Genevieve Method, and you will just take all the trash you find with you, like a good detectorist, right? However, if he doesn’t, then continue below.
- Hunt the property, placing every single thing in your box. Don’t clean it, rub the dirt off, break off rust, straighten it, or do anything else to it. Put it in the box the way you found it. This includes trash.
- When finished with the hunt, you will have a box full of dirty, maybe muddy, rusty pieces of trash and finds. Good! Now take all of it to the landowner. You hold the box while he stirs the stuff around. (One landowner wanted to just take the box and dump it in the trash—no, no, no! Hold the box so he can’t do this. I’ll tell you why below).
Never, ever answer any question about your finds. VERY, VERY IMPORTANT! If you are asked what an object is, say you don’t know. Another good answer, especially for iron pieces and broken bits, is that it’s a “partifact” (a broken part of some artifact). Smile and just shrug your shoulders. These are truthful answers, because at this point you really don’t know for sure what it is until you clean it.
If you are asked how much something might be worth, again–you don’t know. And if you are asked how old something is, you don’t know. Usually you won’t know anyway, and this is not a lie because most of us are not experts, but if you say something like how much a find is worth, for example, and you are wrong, the potential could be the homeowner coming back to you as misleading him on value. In our litigation-happy society, who knows where that could go? So—you don’t know anything.
In all the years I have been doing this, I have only had one, count ‘em, one landowner who ever took something from a box. Isn’t that amazing? Think about it. The landowner looks into a box filled with crumpled foil, pulltabs, rusty bolts, a few crusty coins, muddy iron pieces, broken junk, a bent spoon, and the broken bottom half of a kewpie doll. He sees dirt, crud, and rust. He is amazed that all this came out of his yard, and he is very appreciative of the detectorist for getting it out of there. He tells you to keep it all, and thanks. You have now made a good impression as a responsible, ethical, environmentally-friendly detectorist in his mind, because you held nothing back. Don’t you feel good about yourself?
What he didn’t see, and probably wouldn’t know, was that under the mud and ants on the broken kewpie doll feet was the personal signature of the original inventor, Rose O’Neill, still worth money today. (True story!). You had looked at it as best you could (without cleaning it) when you dug it up, but the landowner was just looking at a piece of muddy, broken junk (to him). You were completely honest in presenting it along with everything else in the box, and you now have a free conscience when you take it home.
- Now while the landowner is standing there feeling good about your methods, hand him either a GMDC card with your name and number on the back, or something with your info on it. Ask him if he knows of anyone else who would have property for you to detect. This is crucial! And this is where almost all of my next jobs come from, because everyone knows someone.
One club member does wonders with this method—after doing the original property, she goes to all the neighbors, handing out cards and saying, “I just did so-and-so’s property and they were very pleased. You could contact them if you like. Would it be possible for me to detect your property? Is there anything you’ve lost? Do you know somewhere else I could hunt?” From one job, she may get two or three more, then two off of that and so on.
Always keep in mind that many detecting jobs are from word of mouth. If you get the reputation as an honest and ethical detectorist, word spreads, and many property owners who would never have let a detectorist on their property will now be happy to enlist your services.
So when a nervous homeowner asks what you will do with their finds, you can reassure them that you will use the