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From Harbor Freight To V3i: How I Used $5 To Get To The Top Machines

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I've always had to do more with less. Nonetheless I'm usually able to do far better than I should. With very little disposable income I'm still able to use the latest iPhone, MacBook Pro, and some of the best metal detecting equipment money can buy. I've done it the same way. I set my sights on what I want to be my end point, but I'm willing to start at the bottom and work my way up. The goal is always not to spend any more than I've started out with, and I keep track. This is my second leap into the world of metal detecting and treasure hunting. When I first started out I traded a generator I wasn't using for a Minelab X-Terra 70. Several months later and not having made much progress with the machine, save for a WW1 military dog tag, I decided to sell it to help finance home renovations. Instantly I regretted it. One of the rewards of this hobby is just the idea that you may find something exceptional, the spirit of adventure and imagination that goes with it. That was now gone. 

A year later, when spring arrived I began combing through the ads. I found a Harbor Freight 9-Function for $5. I picked it up and didn't expect much from it. But something happened for me with this machine that didn't happen with the Minelab. I was better able to control it. I understood it almost instantly. Within a couple days I pulled a jar full of coins out of my lawn. Seeing how much more progress I made with this machine vs. a far more expensive machine last time, I began in depth study of everything to do with metal detectors. 

I continued to keep an eye on local ads. Shortly after I found a Bounty Hunter Pioneer 505 for $25 and sold my HF for $30. I learned the extra functions it had, and monitored the ads. I sold it for $120 and bought a bundle of two machines, two diggers and a pinpointer for $100 from a husband and wife team who quickly tired of the hobby. The two machines were a Fisher F2 and a Bounty Hunter Quick Draw 2. The Quick Draw 2 was too similar to the 505, so I quickly sold it for $100. At this point I'm up an F2, a pinpointer, two diggers, and $125 (not to mention my finds). I got on very well with the F2 and the pinpointer made my life much easier. Still, I kept my eye out. 

Next up was another Bundle. A Bounty Hunter Discovery 3300 and Gold Digger for $80. I sold the F2 for $150. Now I'm up $185 with two machines and accessories. Enter the Land Ranger Pro for $150. Sold the Discovery 3300 for $130 and the Gold Digger for $60. Now I'm up $225 plus a Land Ranger Pro. I'm a very happy camper at this point. The Land Ranger Pro seemed to have everything I wanted and I had no plans to go any further for a while. I particularly liked to be able to notch out targets by one VDI at a time and set my tone breaks where I wanted to. The F2 was good at sorting most pull tabs from nickels. This one was even better. 

Shortly after though, the best deal yet popped up as far as I was concerned. A Fisher F75 LTD for $300. That would be a good deal even now, let alone a few years ago. I jumped on it, agreeing to travel all the way to PA for it the next day. I sold my Land Ranger Pro for $200 (still very new at this time). Now I'm up an F75 LTD plus a balance of $125. I missed my notching feature, but with the depths I was able to reach I began pulling up relics, much older coins and jewelry. Now I wanted a water machine. I found a Fisher Aquanaut and two Lesche diggers with some haggling for $125. Another steal. Now I'm a Fisher guy! And I'm dead even with two great machines as far as I was concerned. Many people would be happy to stop there. 

Enter a diving buddy who had a closet queen AT Pro. He offered to trade dead even for the Aquanaut so he could explore off the Florida Coast while diving. I agreed, never going further than my waist myself. At this point I cashed in my clad for over $150 and bought my girlfriend a used Garrett Ace Bundle which included the machine, two coils, an underwater box, a Digger and a pinpointer. 

Due to the discomfort of developing cancer she didn't last long in the hobby, unfortunately. I pieced the Bundle out to make back $340. I sold the AT Pro for $450 and bought an MX Sport for $550. Now I'm up $240 with an MX Sport and an F75 LTD. Another buddy had purchased a V3i back in 2010 that he never got on with. Being a fan of the MXT and always wanting to try the F75 LTD  he agreed to let me trade the F75 LTD and $200 for his V3i. Now I'm up $40, A V3i and an MX Sport, several diggers and Bullseye TRX pinpointer. Now I'm a Whites guy lol. This doesn't take into account that I've kept 90% of my finds without yet cashing them in.

I'd have to imagine that most people would be happy to end up here and would look no further for equipment at this time. But today I see a CTX-3030 with a pinpointer and a few diggers for $800. Hmmmm, my brain is working overtime. Before the weekend is out, that CTX may just be in my hands with some cash to spare toward the Equinox. It took me several years and patience to do it, but I have equipment that most people in the hobby would respect and some would even envy. There are always deals to be had in this hobby, thanks to the high turnover rate of people whose wallets were bigger than their ambitions. I've used this same method to acquire everything from my phone to my computer, watch, and much more. To this day I continue to buy machines low and sell them at going used rate to make extra money. It has allowed me the privilege of using just about any good machine out there for a while and making a few bucks when I part with them. 

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You don’t make money selling horses, you make money buying horses.  Our friend has laid out a textbook example of this old truth.

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I always say I enjoy the technology and the machines themselves as much as the hobby itself. From the aesthetics to the features, I enjoy appreciating the designs and playing with the features, testing and comparing, and thinking of ways they could be improved. When I invest in a machine I want to be sure it's not only a good deal now, but months or years from now so I can stay on top of the game.

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Holy Crap! A CTX locally for $800?!!???

Please tell me it followed you home.  I'd be all over that as a spare if I could test it before buying.


And congratulations on the way you've made the hobby work for you!


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I never did make it out to buy that CTX-3030. Someone did. When I realized I couldn't make it I began pushing friends to purchase it. A lot of people spent too much time being suspicious of the price. My experience has been that my intuition about sellers is always correct, and I think the sale was genuine. I just wasn't in a position to liquidate my MX Sport and run to Ohio from NY at the time, and I wasn't willing to part with my V3i for it, as I've been in that position before. Thankfully my tax returns should be here any day now, and I'll be keeping my eye out for more deals along these lines. It's not the first time I've seen a CTX under $1,000, and it won't be the last. I did eventually part with my MX Sport because I'm going to buy the Equinox 800 and see how I like it compared to the Sport and the Multi-Kruzer. I have a lot of guilt about it though, as I've tried to support and promote USA machines. 

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I have found enough in clad and jewelry to pay for every detector I have owned. I bought my ETrac in Sept of 2016 and only went out a cpl times last year so it hasn't paid for it's self yet but does not count the cost of gas etc I have used to go to detecting spots. I did a trade with my AT Pro for a pistol and I thought it was worth $300 and come to find out it was a collectors item and I got enough to pay for the Equinox plus. So I sold my V3i and with the money I got for it and the pistol I had enough to buy a CTX. I still have to make the ETrac finish paying for it 's self plus the Equinox and the CTX.. I see a lot of detecting in my future..LOL

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Wow that’s so awesome how you’ve traded your way up. I love/hate reading these stories because it makes me think I can do it too, and I end up buying stuff nobody wants.

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