Detectors do it for love – not much else

Tremaine van Aardt

TWO Port Elizabeth metal detector enthusiasts may only find the occasional antique coin when they hit the beach, but they have also turned their hobby into a “green” mission.

Their delight at finding something rare or unusual is an added bonus because these treasure seekers are also helping clean up the environment.

Kevin Bell, 60, a former marketing and advertising representative for Safmarine, began metal detecting 26 years ago out of curiosity. The hobby has seen him travel the coast from Cape Town to Port Alfred in search of “little pieces of history”.

After four years of trading metal detectors through the then Evening Post swop column and at the then Collectors Corner Antique Shop, he was joined by the owner of Collectors Corner, Graham White, 50.

“I have always been interested in the idea of metal detecting. And after I met Graham, explained and slightly trained him, he too was hooked. People are under the impression we find Krugerrands and all sorts of things.

“The truth is 90% of the time you find nothing besides bottle tops, glass, sinkers and other useless items. But we don’t do this for the money. It is for the passion of antiques. It is a great feeling finding an old penny or shilling. Occasionally we find jewellery, but hardly anything of real worth,” Bell said.

Bell, who started out with a R50 metal detector, has since upgraded to the Excalibur 2 valued at R4000 and said the machines weighed between 3kg and 7kg.

However, White advised people to start cheap and outside of Port Elizabeth as the two had learnt metal detecting was not for everybody.

“People buy expensive machines and end up quitting after two weeks because they don’t find anything and are forced to sell the machines for much less. There are many factors to consider when metal detecting such as location, wind and tides.

“Ideally one should search for items on beaches like Plett or Jeffreys Bay. These holiday towns have more valuables lying around. Commercial beaches such as PE and Cape Town are filled with junk most of the time.

“The most valuable thing Kevin and I have found in more than 20 years is probably a wedding ring,” White said.

“The things we find I sell at Art in the Park, but the money is mainly used just to maintain our machines.”

During each of their sessions, which last five to eight hours, both men dedicate about half of their time to cleaning the beaches, which they strongly urge others to do as well.

“While we are busy we pick up papers, bottle tops and anything we can carry just as our own little community service. We have both suffered from cuts because once you detect something you have to use your hands to dig for it, only to find a piece of glass.

“But we might have saved a little girl’s foot from being cut and most likely becoming infected. So our hobby is also our way of giving back to the sea for all the little treasures she gives us,” Bell said.

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