Stubble: How often do you go metal detecting?
Bruce: As often as I can. Usually, oh, almost everyday in the summer. I try to get out a couple of hours every day.
Stubble: What got you into the hobby originally?
Bruce: Well, I had the interest back in the ’70s and then I bought my first detector in ’82. It was good therapy because I was a Vietnam veteran and stuff like that. All through the ’70’s I had kind of turbulent times and this calmed me down. It was a great sort of relief thing for me. It’s a good hobby, I still like it.
Stubble: Do you find something every time you go out or are some days more of a bust than others?
Bruce: Earlier today I was with a buddy of mine and we spent a couple hours doing some sites up in northeast Minneapolis and found nothing. Just a couple of modern coins. It was an old area, but nothing. You get skunked every now and again, but usually as the year progresses it gets better and better because of more construction and stuff like that.
Stubble: Are you going out looking for modern items or more historical things?
Bruce: If you go and look at that big marker stone over there by the basketball courts, the plaque says it was donated by the Elliot family in 1883, so that’s how old this park is. I didn’t find anything really old here, but back in March when we had that warmup I found a 1911 dime so that was pretty neat I thought.
Stubble: What’s one of the more interesting things you’ve found?
Bruce: I go over to England and detect over there. I found a Henry the Eighth gold sovereign. Mostly coins and artifacts too. I found a few dog registration tags from the 1800’s – one was over in Cedar Riverside. Those can be worth a few hundred dollars each.
Stubble: What about about the act of metal detecting do you find enjoyable doing for hours on end? You said earlier it was a really calming thing.
Bruce: You know, to me it’s like watching TV. You throw on the headphones and you’re really just into what’s in the ground. It’s a thing to avoid distractions. It’s a good thing to just forget everything that’s around you and get into it. That’s what I like. It’s an enjoyable relaxing hobby. Plus I have COPD and they say I should do exercises everyday and I figure this is part of it – it helps as long as I huff and puff a little bit. That’s what you have to do to keep your lungs at least halfway decent.
Stubble: And maybe you can find a few modern dimes to have a cup of coffee later if you’re lucky!
Bruce: Yeah, that’s right. I’ve been doing it for a long time too. I started in the same year I started in the post office and I’ve been retired for four years now, so that’s how long I’ve been doing it. This one outlasted the post office!
Stubble: The post office, I wonder how those can go together. Delivering things to people, finding things that people have dropped…
Bruce: You know, I actually used to get good leads from people who were letter carriers, up in Anoka and a few other places. They’d get permission for me and I’d go up and detect in houses. It was kind of neat, this was back in the 80’s and 90’s when there was hardly anybody into it.
Stubble: Now there’s more?
Bruce: Oh yeah. I belong to a club, the Gopher State Treasure Hunters.
Stubble: Now that I think of it, you’re not the first person I’ve seen metal detecting around the area, but you’re the first person I’ve seen right downtown doing it.
Bruce: Some people go out of their way to detect parks and find modern coins, but that’s not my bag. Once this is all sodded over, I wouldn’t even waste my time. Only when it’s all dug up is it interesting to me. That’s when the soil has potential, and the old stuff is pushed up to the surface. Everybody has their own niche, and mine is construction sites. I go where they are.
Stubble: There’s a lot of construction around here, that’s for sure. Like the new Vikings Stadium behind you.
Bruce: Believe it or not I used to have an apartment back where the Metrodome was, before even that was built. On fourth and Chicago, it was a big building.
Stubble: Maybe you could find your old coins if you went back there.
Bruce: Maybe, maybe! They don’t let anyone in these days, I knew where they hauled some of the dirt to. It’s off of Central and 109th, up in Blaine I think.
Stubble: That must be interesting, once you get into the hobby and you start noticing piles of dirt and know from memory where the dirt from a certain construction site is going. I have never really thought about that before. It impresses me you know that kind of stuff.
Bruce: That’s right, and there’s only going to be more construction in the summer, you’re just seeing the start of it now with the orange barrels and streets torn up. They’re starting to work on Minnehaha Blvd, but they haven’t really dug into the soil so I haven’t really been out there. I’ll get out there later, the season is just starting.
Bruce Langbein is a former mail handler who ran a letter canceling machine at the main office downtown and a current metal detectorist in Minneapolis.