The path to an old outhouse, the ground beneath a clothesline, a clump of big trees or an odd ring of mushrooms in a yard may not seem like the best places to find buried treasure.
But take it from the pros, Ringy and K.G.: Such locations can be gold mines. At least for amateur metal detectorists.
"We always race to the biggest tree, and one day I went to one side and he went to the other. And sure enough, I found a silver dollar," George Wyant told a group of about 25 hobbyists Friday.
Wyant and Tim Saylor, stars of the National Geographic Channel show "Diggers," were in town to present a workshop, "Digging for Dollars." The event was part of the summer seminar program the Colorado Springs-based American Numismatic Association hosts every June. The two-week program offers educational classes for collectors of coins, paper money and tokens.
Known by their nicknames, Saylor is The Ringmaster, or Ringy (because he kept finding a lot of rings), and Wandt is King George, or K.G., (because he seemed like the king of metal detecting), the pair travel around the country in search of historical artifacts. Using basic metal detectors and a few simple tools such as a small sharp shovel and a pin pointer, Ringy and K.G. have unearthed a mound of buffalo nickels, silver, tokens, jewelry, guns, tools, pewter, a gold coin in New Orleans and, of course, trash such as bottle caps, pull tabs and rusty nails. Ninety-five percent of the good stuff they find goes to museums or the landowners, says Wyant, a copper miner.
Most isn't worth much, dollar-wise, says Saylor, who writes software for insurance companies.
The thrill of the hunt is what's most appealing.
"We're all hunters, basically," Wandt says. "You never know what you're going to find."
"If you did know what you were going to find," Saylor says, "it'd take the thrill out of it."
Saylor, 51, and Wandt, 45, live in Montana and became friends about a decade ago after discovering they enjoyed metal detecting. They started a website, Anaconda Treasure, as a joke, but followers were hungry to know more about metal detecting. So they filmed an Extreme Metal Detecting DVD series.
Now they're invited by archaeologists, property owners and historians to dig for long-lost objects. K.G. found a hat pin that could have been worn by a soldier fighting with Pancho Villa and the Buffalo Soldiers. Ringy hauled up a solid brass old-time screw that Al Capone may have used to torture information out of rival gang members.
"We always go after some crazy thing and almost always never find it," Saylor said. "But sometimes we do. We found part of the atomic bomb in South Carolina. They didn't even send cameras with us, and within 15 minutes, we'd found it."
On air, they're known for funny bantering and talking in jargon they've created around the pastime.
Chuck Shelby, a retired DISH Network manager, drove to Friday's event from Cheyenne for the chance to meet K.G. and Ringy and learn some of their techniques.
"I love their show," he said. "They seem real. The way they jump around and yell, and they've got a great camaraderie between them."
"These guys are awesome," said Glenn Holsonbake, a coin dealer from Folsom, Calif. "They're just down to earth and fun."
Objects they uncover on the show have not been planted, Wandt said. It takes five to six days of filming in four to five places to get 22 minutes of air time.
"National Geographic wouldn't allow us to do that."
The show, which just finished its second season and is in contract negotiations for a third, has a huge fan base of kids, Saylor said.
"It's something they can watch with their families and then go try themselves, getting outside and doing physical activity."
Shelby Plooster, a 14-year-old from Evans, Ga., participated in the workshop to perfect her metal detectorist skills. She's the only one in her family interested in the hobby and watches Ringy and K.G. on TV with her dad. "When they find something and get excited, it makes me excited," she said.
TREASURE HUNTING TIPS
- Ask permission before you dig anywhere. Invite the landowner to go with you or show them what you find when you're done. State and federal lands are generally off limits.
- Fill in your holes and leave the area free of trash afterward.
- Test your metal detector by burying a coin 2 inches deep.
- Wear headphones to hear subtle clues of buried objects and to not attract other people.
- Learn to distinguish the different sounds of your metal detector. In general, high-pitched beeps indicate silver, aluminum or lead. Mid tones usually are picking up signs of nickel, gold or can flip tabs. Lower-pitched sounds signify iron, such as rusty nails.
- Talk like Ringy and K.G. Nectar is anything cool extracted from the earth, Richard is a gear, as in Richard Gere, and H.O.I. (pronounced "hoy") means Hunks Of Iron.