It’s taken some time, but I have managed to fix another popular post from 2012 relating to that curious children’s toy, the shy cock. Alas, all the comments and some of the updates have been lost. 

The original title was a big mistake, but very popular with search engines directing thrill seeking surfers to my blog. Because I didn’t want them to be too disappointed, I changed the title to Child’s Toy Found by Detectorists.

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Something quite unusual is happening in the UK at the moment. We’re basking – in my case melting – in the heat. But I’m not complaining. Not much anyway. The catalyst for this this blog post was an item on the BBC website and the Sunday Times about the perils of the English countryside where they mentioned cows, wild boar, adders, deer … but not much about the little critters … the insects!


Sunday Times Detail

For detectorists out in the field, kepi-type hats are essential to protect the neck from the sun, but how many have to good sense to take other precautions … until it’s too late!

The threat of mosquitoes was far from my mate Dave’s mind when he set off last weekend for a couple of days detecting. After all, this was England and not the Med! He’d remembered the cans of beer.

When he returned home, his arms and legs were a bloody mess, both literally and metaphorically. On the Monday, he had to take a day off work because he felt so ill.

Anyway, I guess the farmer is pleased for this very un-British summer. The crops are lusher than normal due to the best growing season for years, and insects are also having a whale of a time. Through the shimmering humidity, detectorists should be aware, not just of the mosquitoes, but clouds of other potentially dangerous insects. This is a very bad year for biters. The ants are also on the march!

Horse flies are flourishing and are also capable of giving a painful bite to humans.  In the North East we called them ‘clegs’. Then there are the blood-sucking ticks that can transmit Lyme disease, which can result in death if untreated. It’s a battlefield out there!

Then there are the irritants! When encountered in the field, they can drive you crazy. I’m talking about thrips or thunder flies. On days like this it is far too hot to leave doors and windows closed. I’ve just read hundreds of solutions for keeping them off plants … but none for suggesting how I can prevent them from getting behind my computer screen!

If this situation becomes the norm then I’ll be seriously thinking about buying shares in companies that make insect repellant! But remember, it’ll only take one bout of severe cold winter weather to banish silly thoughts like that from my mind!

A find from the Thames foreshore proved initially to be a bit of a poser for the UKDFD identification team. Nigel Nicholson eventually came up with the definitive answer he had gleaned from an article in the March 1997 copy of The Searcher magazine.


© UKDFD 11921

UKDFD 11921 shown below illustrates a white metal die-cast toy variously known as a clicker, cricket or sometimes referred to as a clacker. I remember having one of these shaped as a frog when I was younger. The picture below shows how it was placed in the hand. To make the noise, you pressed down on the metal strip inside the housing and then quickly released it – click-click! I seem to recollect that the versions of my childhood resembled a small plastic box.


© Searcher Magazine

Chris Littledale, the founder and director of the Brighton Toy and Model Museum said that these cheap toys were made all over the world for a very long period and this example probably dated from the early 1900’s. The diagram below shows actual size the four elevations of a frog-type clicker.


Frog Clicker © Searcher Magazine

The maker’s identity can be determined by the initials CR and ‘Paris’. Charles Rossignol (1868-1962) specialised in painted tin clockwork vehicles. Incidentally, but I’m sure that you know, the word BREVETE is French for patent. Although I haven’t seen any of these toys around lately, I am told that dog-trainers use clicker-training to great advantage and is an easy way to train your pet for they don’t require strength or much coordination on the part of the trainer!

Adapted from an article originally published in the UKDFD newsletter Borrowed Times, April 2008. Pencil illustrations by kind permission of The Searcher magazine – March 1997, page 28.


Update 1

‘Hutch’ of the British Metal Detecting forum has told me that my post has solved a mystery for him. One of his found objects has now been identified after reading this blog post. His find also incorporates a whistle. Thank you for allowing me to post the object on here. It is appreciated.

Mystery Item solved

© Hutch

Update 2 – April 2013

I was delighted to see another insect clicker in the shape of a wasp on the Detecting Scotland forum. The finder, Greig Getty has kindly allowed me to show it on here. You must agree that it’s a cracker! … no, a clicker!


© Greig Getty

Update 3 – 3rd September 2013

Mike Morgan sent me the picture of an artefact that was causing some confusion within the detecting community with ID’s ranging from Roman to Medieval to Victorian. Then he came across my blog and all was revealed. Mike was pleased. I thank him for the picture of the (hare?) clicker and that of the underbelly too, which is so important.


© Mike Morgan

Update 4 – 23rd July 2014

Tartan Wonder of the Detectorist Forum posted to say that he’d found something similar about 5 years ago and thought it was perhaps the lid from a tobacco box. At leas he now has a positive ID! He also supplied 3 great pictures, which I have stitched together.


© tartan wonder

Update 5 – 24rd July 2014

Hoops McCann from the Detecting Scotland Forum has sent me these fine examples he has found. Thanks for sharing, Hoops.


© Hoops McCann

This blogpost has not only been resurrected, but more material has been added making it just a little more comprehensive and interesting … well, I think so!

The Lead Whirligig

22 July 2014 — 22 Comments

Some of my favourite and often visited old posts have disappeared forever; the blog posts on the kind of children’s toys found by detectorists were popular, especially the one on ‘Shy Cocks’; so hot with search engines that I had to change the title to ‘Unusual Toy’!

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One of the most popular posts of the last three years was the one dealing with how others view metal detectorists and a light-hearted questionnaire for hobbyists to see whether they really deserved the appellation of ‘geek’. I saw my words copied and posted on detecting forums all over the world. A sure sign of popularity … pity the copy and paster posters hadn’t bothered to acknowledge the source!

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Un nouvel XP, un nouvelle aventure!

Have you signed up for the GMP Newsletter yet? You can do so by clicking and subscribing HERE. Their latest story is on the discovery of the Zutphen Quadrant that appeared in the March 2014 Searcher, and you can read it by clicking HERE.

Navigation Device

Sicco Siegers with the quadrant and XP detector

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Royal Christmas Box

13 July 2014 — 15 Comments
Christmas bolx closed

Princess Mary’s Christmas Box – © Dave Clarke

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This blog attracted a lot of interest when it was originally posted. Alas, it is now lost and what you see is only a partial resurrection based on what I remember and what I’ve gleaned from an earlier piece of writing. The comments generated and the pictures I received from subscribers at the time are now gone. Sorry.


I’m sure that the womenfolk in my life wouldn’t go so far as to refer to me as ‘romantic’, but I do have my moments – thanks to William III – but more about that later. Like many of you, I have learned more about history since starting the hobby than I ever managed to do at school.

Before that, I had never linked the rhyme, there was a crooked man and he walked 
a crooked mile. He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile, with detecting. What a revelation to realise that there were such things as crooked sixpences.

In times gone by, it was common practice to give a coin to your sweetheart as a token of love. The coins were usually smoothed
 down almost obliterating the monarch’s head and then bowed. Sometimes they would be engraved with initials or love signs such as hearts or knots. If she kept the token it meant that his affection was reciprocated, but if she had no feelings for him, it was thrown away. And that’s perhaps why detectorists find so many – especially at the site of old fairs.

Mrs. John vehemently disagrees with this theory and likes to think they were lost whilst climbing over a stile. She insists that the lady wouldn’t be silly enough to throw a silver coin away!


The Crooked Sixpence Love Token – © JW

The custom was at its height during the reign of William III and it was one of his sixpences that I found in the early days of detecting. At first I thought it was just a buckled blank disc and didn’t give it too much notice … until Mrs. John realised the significance.

As it was the day before our one of our wedding anniversaries, I presented it to her as a token of my love. My friends called me a ‘cheapskate’ but she was ecstatic and has coveted it ever since … in fact, I have had to have an escort and sign a pre-nuptial agreement before I could prise it from her for the purposes of scanning for this article.
 Maybe after reading this, you will go out and find one for yourselves. In the meantime, I’m shining up a silver threepence found in the Christmas pudding in preparation for our big celebration in a few year’s time! As you were … just been informed it should be at least a gold noble!

A subscriber – whose name I forget, but seem remember that he was a Scottish detectorist – sent me a number of tokens that he had found over the years. An impressive collection and I remember asking him what the vast number said about the tradition north of the border. If he contacts me I shall credit his picture.


Courtesy of xxxx

Truth or Conjecture?

I have already said that the custom of making love tokens was at its height during the reign of William III and the coin was always rubbed smooth (some say) and then bent. Indeed, It is said that a young man would prove his love to his young lady by physically bending a coin in front on her. With a thin hammered coin this wouldn’t be too difficult.

Other commentators say that that a number of bent coins were not love tokens at all. The reason for them being that way relates to conditions prevailing a the time, when counterfeiting was rife. Copper fakes were often dipped in silver and passed off as a higher denomination coin.  To check whether they were fakes they were bent to check if they were genuine. Counterfeit coins would be revealed as the worn thinner edges of silver would split as the copper pushed through. Fascinating this hobby … innit!


© Jerry Morris – Charles I Twopence

Thanks for sharing. My venerable friend, celebrated detectorist and all-round Good Guy Jerry Morris, has found a few love tokens in his time and tells me that the one above is his favourite.


John Mills – aka John gm – writes …

Thanks for the reprise John … another very interesting piece. Like you, I found my first love token the day before our wedding anniversary – back in 2004 – and gave it to my wife Stephanie as a ‘special’ gift.

Like your good lady wife, Stephanie was over the moon with the gesture and covets it to this day. What made it even more special is the fact it is a gold coin. Not only that, but although I have seen a fair number of George III gold coins converted to love tokens, the one I found is a half guinea of James II, dated 1686.

Although I’ve been fortunate enough to have since found a number of silver love tokens – including several hammered examples (all of my hammered examples have come from searching the foreshore of the river Thames), from Elizabeth I through to Charles II, it is the earliest gold love token I’ve seen or heard of.

For reasons John – and some other subscribers to his blog – might understand, I have very recently had this token of love sympathetically and discreetly personalised to which end I hope will add to it’s historical value and which – together with paperwork explaining a bit about the history of love tokens, plus details of when and where I found it, how I presented it to Stephanie on our wedding anniversary, and details of when and why I commisioned the personalisation – I hope my find will become a precious family heirloom. I’d be very interested to hear if any of your readers have seen or heard of any earlier gold coin that has been converted to a love token. Here is the said love token ‘As found’, and as seen on the UKDFD


James II half guinea dated 1686. Coin made into a ’love token’ by forming it into a shallow ’S’ shape – Courtesy of John Mills and the UKDFD

*** I’m waiting for John to send me a picture of the ‘personalised’ love token ***