Patrick Wagner moves politely through the crowds at Myrtle Beach, SC, with his metal detector swaying left to right over the sands of the Grand Strand. He’s wearing two rings right on top of one another that seem to fit him perfectly. One is silver and the other is gold. He found the silver ring on this very beach last year and the gold ring he found here just last night.
Wagner goes hunting with his metal detector in parks near his home in Springfield, OH, about twice a week.
“I am just playing,” insists Wagner. While on vacation at Myrtle Beach though, Wagner admits that he goes out for hours each day.
Back in Springfield, Wagner says that the most interesting things he has found have been Civil War tokens that were used as currency. He says that they are not really valuable but are still a cool find.
Wagner purchased his metal detector on Craig’s List for $250.00. His has an 8-inch coil and will detect metals up to 10 inches down in the sand. He says that a premium metal detector can cost up to $1,500.00 but there are pros and cons other than price.
The more powerful metal detectors, Wagner explains, are also heavier and while they can detect metals up to 17 inches down in the sand, you have to be willing to dig that deep.
Dick’s Pawn Shop, which has four locations at Myrtle Beach, sells new and used metal detectors ranging from $179.00 to $259.00.
Front counter employee, Jeremiah says, “People lose a lot of jewelry at Myrtle Beach.”
He says that he has had customers come into Dick’s Pawn Shop and buy a metal detector and return the next day with enough metal to pawn to recoup the price of the metal detector. Rings are the most commonly discovered treasure but Jeremiah says that people find all kinds of jewelry and old coins as well.
What does Wagner do with his unearthed treasures? He takes many things to pawn shops to sell. If it’s gold, however, he says he gets a better price from “gold to cash” establishments. I asked him about the plausibility of buying a metal detector and finding enough treasure for it to pay for itself.
“Absolutely,” affirms Wagner looking down at his own, “this one has paid for itself many times over. You won’t get rich off of it though. It’s just a fun hobby.”
I follow Patrick Wagner down the shoreline for about fifteen minutes. He hears a beep in his headphones four times and stops and digs with the small shovel he carries in his left hand. Each time is a miss but it only takes one good find to make a metal hunter’s day, or even week at Myrtle Beach.