The TV reality show Diggers debuted over the National Geographic Channel on Tuesday night, February 28, 2012. Treasure hunters George Wyant a.k.a. "King George" and Tim Saylor a.k.a. "The Ringmaster" employ their metal detectors to search for lost coins, tokens, artifacts and other booty at such locales as the old Montana Territorial Prison and a South Carolina plantation.
Diggers is one of the latest TV reality shows from the National Geographic Channel. It follows two metal detecting enthusiasts as they search for hidden coins, relics and other treasure on public and private property.
Diggers Debuts on the National Geographic Channel
Diggers debuted on Tuesday night, February 28, 2012, over the National Geographic Channel. Here viewers were introduced to Tim Saylor a.k.a. "The Ringmaster" and George Wyant a.k.a. "King George," a pair of treasure hunters who use metal detectors to look for buried coins, tokens, relics and other artifacts.
Appropriately, episode #1 takes place in Montana – nicknamed "The Treasure State." Saylor and Wyant are granted permission to search the grounds of the old Montana Territorial Prison. In 1897 the bodies of buried inmates were exhumed and moved to another cemetery, but speculation abounds that maybe they missed a few graves. The place also holds a few other historical notes, including a 1959 prison riot which left the warden and two inmates dead before being put down by National Guard troops.
The guys go to work with their metal detectors, digging small holes and pulling up various odds and ends. One of their best finds is a 1910-S Lincoln penny, which is valued at $20-30. Other discoveries include bullet casings, clad coins, nails and an old tube of prison-issued Listerine toothpaste.
Their next stop is Chevallier Ranch near Helena, Montana, which dates back to 1871. The self-proclaimed detectorist "King George" gets all excited when he registers something big about four inches down. There's the outline of a gun, but alas no prize as it proves to be a badly decomposed toy pistol from some indeterminate era. The guys later hit pay dirt in a field populated by cow dung, however, pulling up a number of old merchant tokens from what was obviously a "spill." They include saloon tokens ("Good for one pack of cigarettes") and a highly prized Helena Light & Railway transit token circa 1905-20 which is later appraised at $30.
George Wyant, left, and Tim Saylor of Diggers on the beach - National Geographic Channel
Diggers in South Carolina
Episode #2 takes place in South Carolina. Here the two treasure hunters secure permission to hunt the grounds of an old plantation. Their finds include an 18th century King George British coin, an 1886 Indian Head penny, some old military buttons and several Civil War bullets, including a smashed .69-caliber specimen. The Indian Head penny is bought by a local collector for $40, who had wanted it because of its historical significance. Charleston, South Carolina, had been hit by a massive earthquake in 1886 – the date of the penny.
The treasure hunting duo take a side trip to the beach where they search for lost coins in the sand and surf, deftly using webbed metal devices to scoop up their finds. In an hour they have accumulated a fair amount of clad coins plus a damaged sterling silver ring.
Diggers: Amateurs vs. Professionals
Metal detectorists and casual viewers will find some interest in Diggers. The two stars are certainly enthusiastic about their hobby, all fired up as they hunt for goodies resting below the surface. George Wyant, whose handle is "King George," can be a little annoying, talking in a nasal tone like some heavy from a 1930s gangster flick. His partner, Tim Saylor a.k.a. "The Ringmaster" (the guy likes to retrieve lost rings, hence the moniker), is a little easier on the ears.
Both treasure hunters throw out various terminology as they conduct their searches. "Juice" refers to anything really good; "round" refers to coins, tokens and rings; "civ" refers to American Civil War items; "cologne" denotes items from American Colonial times, and "rev" references Revolutionary War artifacts. At times the dynamic TH'er duo get carried away, jumping up and down like school kids with Saylor literally running up a tree in South Carolina after making a nice find.
The pair also engage in various bets which border on the juvenile. During the Montana prison hunt, for example, the treasure hunter whose final booty was the least valued had to take a pedal bike ride off a ramp into freezing cold water. The loser was "King George," who was also compelled to take his plunge while dressed in a yellow prom dress and wearing Viking horns. Geez, where's Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis when you need them?
Diggers, along with another show of its ilk called American Digger (Spike TV, debut date March 21, 2012), have caught some flack from professional treasure hunters, metal detectorists and archaeologists. Iowa State archaeologist John Doershuk, who reviewed both half-hour episodes of Diggers, voiced this criticism: "The most damaging thing, I think, about this show is that no effort was made to document where anything came from or discussion of associations – each discovered item was handled piece-meal." As for the metal detectorists, some more vocal opponents have posted online that they believe many of the "found" items were actually planted.
Well, judge for yourself. Will Diggers last, or merely be buried or lost to the ages in the timeless dimension known as television...
- National Geographic Channel TV logo - National Geographic Channel
Copyright © 2012 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved.