How to be a Good Detecting Bridesmaid

How to be a Good Detecting Bridesmaid

“They say you’re a frog prince swollen with pride. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” – The Magnetic Fields

Recently I was detecting with Jonathan James.  It was the middle of a weekday, and we were having a problem getting anyone to answer a door in the area we had decided to hunt, so I decided to take him to one of my personal hotspots – an off the grid street that had produced some amazing finds.   We got permission, and I found several bullets and my first saddle shield.  Jonathan dug the rare Wisconsin Militia button pictured above.   Three days later, I’m detecting with another veteran detectorist, and he digs a complete federal brass spur after moving around to the backyard of a house while I’m concentrating on the front.  I can sit here and say in both instances, I was genuinely ecstatic for them, and didn’t have any hint of a feeling of remorse or regret because the find wasn’t mine.   Is this because I’m such a great person?   Ha – that’s a joke.  No, I think this is because I’ve reached a level in my detecting experience where I’m finding my share of great stuff and finding more stuff hunting with others than hunting alone, and I’ve developed good relationships with the people I detect with such that I want to see them succeed – I sincerely enjoy seeing them find something great even when I do not.


On his website, recently a legendary middle Tennessee Civil War detectorist posted that he had just found one of the few items remaining on his bucket list.   He said that previously he had been the bridesmaid on recoveries of a few of these, but had never recovered on himself.

When your detecting partner recovers a rare, amazing “monster” find, such as a gold coin, rare civil war relic, or expensive piece of jewelry, while you are detecting together, you are the “bridesmaid”.

This can be fairly painful, especially if he/she recovered the find walking right behind you where you were just detecting, and the little devil on your left shoulder might be telling you that should be your find.


Human nature is to just stand there and congratulate your partner while thinking that find could have or should have been yours.  This is one of those things we have to surmount and overcome in order to take our detecting to another level.  It is a great feeling to finally reach the point where you detect with others and realize you find more and have more fun, more adventure, than detecting alone.  When you and your detecting partner/s are both finding plenty of stuff, you can hope you’re partner finds a “monster” find every time you go out together and feel really good about it when he/she does.   That is being a good bridesmaid.  Sure its ok to give them hail about it and call them a choice name, but its all in good fun and not in jealousy.

 I think it is much easier for an experienced veteran detectorist to be a good bridesmaid.  The veteran has found his/her share of monster finds in the past, and has the research, permission and actual detecting skills to continue to be able to do so.    For beginning or even intermediate level detectorists, it can be tough, because “monster” finds can be so tough to come by.

You have to set aside is the automatic assumption that you could have, should have, and would have found the killer find.  Sure maybe, but trust me more often than not a given coin or relic just has someone’s name written on it.   It is completely possible you may have walked right over it, swung right around it and missed it, or just otherwise would not have recovered it.  Happens all the time.  Last year hunted a yard one last time that had been pounded to death by me and another really good detectorist.  And he finds a Walking Liberty half-dollar at six inches right in the middle of the back yard.  And we are both thinking how is it possible we missed that as hard as we hunted the site in the past.  And this type of thing happens all the time.    

 As you hunt together more and more with a specific partner at a comparable skill level, and you get to the point where you each have found some great things together, then it is easier to be a good bridesmaid.  You want your partner to find something great at least almost as much as you would like to find something great.    Down here in the South, we even have a great saying to tell the person that has found the monster find:  “Go sit in the truck!”

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