As a young boy, Alan Barnett’s parents gave him a metal detector. A toy, really. It beeped on anything from gum wrappers to pennies.
One day as he was walking past a baseball field near his home, he saw a man with a metal detector, digging in the ground.
“Another penny,” the man said, but to Barnett, the penny symbolized the beginning of a lifelong passion.
After realizing he would need a better metal detector, Barnett drove from Richmond to Florida at age 16 to get it.
“I started finding better stuff and it became a passion. Ever since then I’ve been hunting. To me, it’s like magic,” Barnett said.
Over the years, Barnett’s love of metal detecting has grown into more than a hobby. In the past ten years, Barnett helped start a club called Central Kentucky Research and Recovery Team. There is a fee of $30 a year, but once a month, the group gets together to have a barbecue. Every Christmas, the group hosts a party with door prizes as well.
The group includes people from all walks of life who share the common interest — metal detecting.
Part of the fun for Barnett is finding something someone has lost.
An elderly couple contacted Barnett after the husband lost his wedding ring while doing yard work. Barnett came over with his metal detector and searched all night but was unable to find it. Barnett came back the next day with a friend and, within 20 minutes, they were able to locate and return it.
“They were so happy. I don’t charge anything for that, I just like doing it. It’s the thrill of finding it,” Barnett said.
Throughout the years of hunting, Barnett has found a countless number of coins. But after a while, he said, one gets tired of finding pocket change. So when he found a belt buckle from the Civil War, he was ecstatic.
“If you think about it, the last person who touched that was about 150 years ago. He lost if off his belt and it was just waiting for me to pick it up,” said Barnett.
But Barnett never sells what he finds. To him, it is like selling a member of his family. Especially if it was found locally, Barnett enjoys having it around so he can tell the story behind it, like a championship football ring from Eastern Kentucky University he found.
When Barnett started his coin shop, he knew he wanted to sell metal detectors too. He would put a few up for sale and almost immediately they would sell. Since then, Barnett said he is one of the biggest sellers of metal detecting equipment in the state of Kentucky.
There are lots of different types of metal detectors and equipment to choose from, but Barnett said it’s like any other sport.
Prices range from almost $60 to $3,000, but the best brands to choose from are the ones that have been around the longest, such as White’s or Garrett’s, Barnett said. Most people also buy headphones to wear and get a small shovel to dig with, too.
Another thing Barnett recommends is following a code of conduct when metal detecting.
• Always ask permission before you start hunting.
• Cover up any holes you make.
• Take any trash you may have.
• Always be friendly to others.
Some of the best places to go are areas where people used to congregate frequently, like old fair grounds or churches. Other places like state parks are sometimes off limits. Always find the property owner to ask for permission before you start, said Barnett.
“It’s good, clean fun and it gets you away from the real world for a little while,” Barnett said.