Ever the optimist, Paul Charman seeks a heads-up on likely metal detecting

Ten-year-old Connor is mad keen on metal detecting. He's lived most all of his life in Singapore but this month Connor, younger brother Fergus and their Kiwi-born parents Craig and Rosemary, are on holiday in New Zealand. We'd like the boys (my wife's grandsons) to experience something special, by fulfilling Connor's dreams of finding buried treasure.

Back in Singapore he's found interesting coins, old metallic nicknacks, fishing sinkers and other bits and pieces.

"In New Zealand I'd like to find a horse-shoe and maybe if we are in a freshwater river, some small nuggets of gold. I would also like to find some cool old coins and some artifacts from the Maori Wars," he told us.

Naively, we thought to investigate prime locations by asking around the fossicking community.


But the cagiest fisherman would be an open book alongside this lot.

Fossickers put on poker faces to sweep beaches, parks and other public places.

But any cheerful inquiry, such as "found anything today?", is likely to fall on deaf ears.

I tried it on Hatfields Beach, but the old guy just ignored me and kept sweeping the sand.

I'd pictured a kinder, gentler sort of hobby, perhaps one directed by a weekly newsletter, a bit like "Fishing with Geoff".

You know: "This week gold and silver coins are turning up in abundance along East Coast beaches; Rollex watches are in quite shallow sand along the Firth of Thames and Rotorua lakefronts are producing plenty of wedding rings..."

Yeah, fat chance of that.

It seems fossicking is the one hobby nobody discusses openly.

A few dangle undated photos of booty in online galleries - images of coins, jewellery, artifacts and metallic valuables - but always zero info given as to location.

Enthusiast and equipment dealer, Chris Goodson, says there's nothing dodgy about the hobby.

It attracts all walks of life, all ages, both sexes and many income levels, he says.

"Fossickers pick up and remove a huge amount of metallic rubbish, including sharp things, so it can be a win for everyone."

Historic places such as old pa sites are off limits. But public spaces, beaches and parks are up for grabs and many a private land owner is approached for permission to fossick.

To purchase a metal detector you can spend a few hundred dollars through to several thousand.

"A lot go 'coin shooting', for one and two dollar coins, but Eftpos is probably going to kill that over time," Chris says.

"If it's old coins you want, the older ones are best. Silver New Zealand coins from 1933 to 1946 had only 50 per cent silver, but before 1933 the silver content of English coins was 90 per cent."

Chris knows fossickers who fill jars with coins, often to be emptied out at Christmas to help cover festive season expenses.

He was bitten by the bug after finding a gold ring "in a park", whose hallmark was dated 1863.

But as to locations, Chris says the etiquette among fossickers is "don't ask - don't tell".

Fierce competition exists among the metal detecting community, with some posting finds on the internet and many more "lurking in the background", ready to act at speed upon whatever clues to likely locations get published.

Still, it would still be nice to give young Connor a heads-up some real buried treasure...

Maybe that cache of gold sovereigns reputed to have been hidden on Arid Island, out in the Hauraki Gulf more than 100 years ago. Or like that gold watch, from the Land Wars era, discovered in the Tangarakau Gorge, Taranaki, which must have been dropped by one of Von Tempsky's Forest Rangers.

So care to share any fossicking tips around New Zealand? Reveal your hints in the comment section below.