Treasure Hunter Profile: Debbie Smikoski

This detectorist loves finding the good stuff, but her treasure also comes from helping others

Chicago, IL (June 22, 2020) – Debbie Smikoski is a recognizable name and face within the North American metal-detecting community. While her official title is Minelab Business Development Manager, North America, most metal-detecting enthusiasts attending detecting events around the United States simply know her as “Debbie from Minelab” or “that helpful and knowledgeable lady I met who figured out within 30 seconds what I’ve been doing wrong with my machine.” That’s all fine and good with Smikoski. “I just want to help people learn so they can enjoy more success,” she says.

Smikoski covers a lot of ground, both with and without a metal detector in her hand. A resident of the Chicago area, she travels the country in her Minelab-wrapped Jeep Wrangler, attending metal detecting events where she promotes Minelab metal detectors, helps others learn how to better understand their specific machines, and picks up more than a few tips from long-time detectorists.

“I really like teaching people how to gain more insight into how their machine works, which allows them to find more treasures. I also enjoy the travel,” says Smikoski, who flew to most of her events before COVID-19. “Flying saved a lot of time, but I didn’t get to see much of the country from 35,000 feet,” she says. Now that she’s driving, Smikoski says she’s grateful for the opportunity to see so many parts of the country close up. “I never really realized how beautiful and diverse our nation is. I appreciate the chance to see so many new and interesting things every day.”

Smikoski’s busy travel schedule affords unique opportunities to seek and find treasures. She recently returned from California, where she had the chance to hunt for gold nuggets inside several old gold mines with the new Minelab GPX 6000 gold detector. “Nugget hunters are going to love this smart, all-gold detector,” Smikoski says. “It only weighs 4.6 pounds, so you can hunt for longer periods without getting tired. It’s also really durable; it was tested in extreme heat and heavy rains in Australia, Africa, and the Middle East, so it will stand up to almost anything a normal detectorist will encounter.”

Smikoski has found quite a few exciting treasures over the years, but her favorite may surprise you. “I found a barrel from a pepper-box pistol at an abandoned gold mine site in California once,” she says, referring to a type of firearm popular in the early 1800’s before the Civil War. “Different models had three or four barrels with a single shot each, which had to be turned by hand to ready the next bullet,” Smikoski continues. “I love history, and every time I look at it I wonder about the stories it could tell.”

Another favorite find was a gold nugget, also found in California. “It wasn’t the biggest I’ve found, but it was the nicest looking one!” Smikoski also enjoys searching for Civil War relics and has quite a collection of historical artifacts from the bloodiest period in American history.

Debbie attends detecting events all over the country. She even goes to an annual Minelab event in Nome, Alaska. She most recently attended events in California, Michigan, and the Red Dirt Festival in Oklahoma. She is headed to an Alabama Gold Camp next month, then up to Nome, Alaska in August.

“I spend most of the time teaching newcomers about how to use their machines, but I also talk to experienced detectorists,” Smikoski reports. “Of course, we talk about what they have found and where, but it always seems to lead to opportunities for me to answer questions they have about their detectors.” Smikoski says the education flows both ways. “I often end up learning something from them, too, that I can pass along to others.”

The most common question Debbie is asked is how deep a machine will detect. She explains that it depends on the object’s size and composition, how long it’s been in the ground, soil characteristics, and other factors. Another frequent question is what kind of detector a newcomer should purchase. “When I get this question I ask about the kinds of detecting they plan on doing and what they hope to find, then I can show them the different Minelab metal detectors that can best meet their needs,” Smikoski says. “For most beginning and even advanced detectorists, it’s hard to beat one of Minelab’s VANQUISH or EQUINOX series detectors with Multi-IQ simultaneous frequency technology,” she says. “That helps them find any metal in any soils without having to select a single frequency. There are good reasons why the Minelab EQUINOX is the world’s best-selling metal detector,” she concludes.

Personally, Smikoski hunts with several different Minelab machines. “I have a bunch of favorites,” she says. “It depends on where I am and what type of items I’m searching for. Most of Minelab’s detectors are basically turn-on-and-go-start-finding-things machines, but they have more advanced settings that allow users to fine-tune and really tailor their machine to the conditions in which they’re hunting.”

Smikoski has two primary pieces of advice for any detectorist who wants to maximize the results they can get from their machine, regardless of the make or model. “Definitely take the time to read your owner’s manual and familiarize yourself with the different buttons and settings on your metal detector. Know what each one does, even if you don’t plan on using it,” she advises. Smikoski’s second suggestion is to build a test garden – not just once, but any time you want to go out in your yard and practice with your machine. She suggests burying different types of common targets – coins, jewelry, gold, silver, etc. – as well as common trash like aluminum cans, pull tabs, nails, bottle caps, and scrap iron. You can jot down what each item is and how deep it is buried on a small piece of paper and place it above each target. “This is a great way to invest time in learning what your machine is telling you with its different sounds and readings,” she says. “Like anything else, practice makes perfect, so keep building test gardens and practicing with your detector until you understand what it is telling you. Do this and you’ll dig a lot less trash and have a much more enjoyable and productive time when you actually go out hunting.”

Smikoski also suggests that beginning detectorists resist the urges to watch detecting videos on YouTube. “There’s certainly a lot of content out there, and much of it can be helpful, but I usually tell people to become comfortable with the basic operation of their machine before watching much of it. It can easily confuse people,” she says. “Wait until you understand the nuances and operation of your own detector before trying to pick up tips and tricks from the experts.”

One of those “experts” you may be familiar with is Gary Drayton from the hit History Channel show, The Curse of Oak Island. Smikoski is friends with Drayton and says he’s as friendly in person as he is on television. Drayton lives in Florida and spends a lot of time detecting the state’s beaches with his Minelab CTX 3030 when he’s not filming up at Oak Island in Newfoundland. He has written numerous fascinating books on finding treasure in the sand and water with his Minelab.

In addition to detecting, Smikoski is a talented photographer and also loves to fish. “If and when I ever retire I’d love to sit in a boat near Hayward, Wisconsin, and fish all day,” Smikoski confides, “but that might be a long way off. I am having too much fun now.”

Catch up with Debbie at a Minelab or other detecting event near you. Visit for more information.




Minelab is an Australian, multi-award-winning business that has successfully scaled world markets to command global leadership in its key areas of operation. Based in Mawson Lakes, South Australia, with regional offices in Cork, Ireland; Dubai, UAE; Monterrey, Mexico; Itajai, Brazil; and Chicago, U.S.A., the company specializes in advanced electronic technologies. Since its origins in 1985, Minelab has been the world leader in providing metal-detecting technologies for gold prospecting, treasure hunting and landmine clearance. Through devotion to research and development and innovative design, Minelab is today the major world manufacturer of handheld metal detector products. Over the past 30 years, Minelab has introduced more innovative and practical technology than any of its competitors and has taken the metal detecting industry to new levels of excellence. Minelab is a Codan Limited company (ASX: “CDA”). To learn more about Minelab, visit


Josh Lantz

Traditions Media