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Metal detecting finds nickels, dimes, Bronze Stars, murder weapons

Treasures found by Neil McElroy
Treasures found by Neil McElroy
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EUGENE, Ore. - You have seen the commercials for metal detectors: a guy on the beach, content with his metal detector, proclaims: "I was finding the good stuff my first day!"

The Coil & Diggers Club of Lane County feel the very same way about finding the good stuff.

Club President Neil McElroy, said that he became hooked on metal detecting when he was 8 years old at a birthday party when he was more fascinated with a metal detectorist searching the park than the birthday activities.

"I have now been metal detecting for more than half my life and I am addicted," said McElroy.

Maybe you have seen the club's postings in the community Lost and Found section of Craigslist. They offer their detecting services to help search for lost personal items or old heirlooms free of charge, out of love for the hobby.

McElroy said that he often finds things that people don't know that they lost and are pleased to be tracked down to get their possessions "returned" to them.

Items often found include keys, cell phones, tools, wallets as well as older items that hold true sentiment like jewelry, class rings, and military badges.

The hobby is currently banned in parks run by Lane County Parks because it is seen as being destructive to the land. McElroy has fought in defense of detectorists by proposing that a permit system be implemented to ensure people are respectful with their detecting and understand how to dig responsibly.

McElroy has worked with Eugene Parks in rewriting the rules for metal detecting to avoid causing damage to grass and soil where detecting is allowed.

In a letter McElroy wrote to Lane County Parks, he highlighted that metal detecting can have a positive impact on the community.

In 2008, the Eugene Police contacted the club to help locate a firearm that was used in a murder in 2006. The Diggers Club worked with the police, and Detective Dan Braziel and found the weapon promptly.

"What took them 10 months took us 10 minutes," said McElroy.

Debris such as scrap metal, open pocket knives or other dangerous items are found during digs and removed from parks and other public places where they could be hazardous.

The Diggers Club was founded in 2006, and their membership is growing. The club currently has 42 members of metal detecting enthusiasts. The majority of the club members are retired men, but there are active members of all ages.

"The women tend to find the really good stuff," said McElroy.

The club hosts outings of detecting competitions in parks and other public lands where they tally up the treasures to determine the days winner, used to ultimately name The Metal Detectorist of The Year (the title went to McElroy in 2012).

They also make a record of what is found to determine the Best Find of the Year. The best find in 2012 went to Rosie DeLise, who found a Bronze Star medal.

The group meets monthly at the Elks Lodge on W. 11th to compare the best finds of the month.

For information on the club, pictures and the murder weapon story go to


Here is the ad if you want to refresh your memory with this 1990s throwback.

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