By Brad Jones
Gold and treasure hunter Nugget Noggin, a.k.a. Michael Bennett, will head to Concord, N.C. in late October to speak at the GPAA Gold & Treasure Show.
Since posting his first video online in January 2009, Bennett has become a YouTube sensation, boasting more than 500 videos with more than 32 million total views. The shows range from gold prospecting to coin, relic and treasure hunting. Many of his videos have gone viral with more than two million views per video. His channel, www.YouTube.Com/user/NuggetNoggin, has grown to more than 203,000 subscribers.
“I just did it for fun. I never thought I would do this for a living,” said Bennett, whose first video was a single, unedited clip. “Back then, I didn’t even know how to make a video, so I would just post clips of all my finds.”
The 22-year-old metal detecting enthusiast from Charlotte, N.C. is now sponsored by Garrett Metal Detectors. He began metal detecting and gold prospecting when he was 14 and has been hooked ever since.
“Me and grandpa would watch Gold Fever on Outdoor Channel. We’d watch Tom Massie out finding gold,” Bennett said.
Eventually, the gold fever had risen so high that Bennett convinced his grandfather, Jerry Cox, to take him out prospecting—first for gems and then for gold.
“Grandpa would take me out to Hiddenite, North Carolina, which is basically a gem place. They have a mine and you can did for emeralds in the creek ... but I told him, ‘I want to find GOLD!’ ”
Then, Bennett’s mom, Angie, bought her dad a metal detector for his seventieth birthday.
“Grandpa took me out gold prospecting one evening, and he was searching the creek with the detector, while I panned for small specks of gold,” Bennett said. “I asked him if I could use the metal detector, and try my luck. I walked a few feet away and got a really strong signal on the bank of the creek. I dug down about a foot and found part of an old 12-gauge shot gun from the early 1900s. Ever since that day, I’ve had the fever to go find old coins and relics.”
That’s when Angie bought her son his own detector. With either his dad (Michael Bennett Sr.) or Grandpa Jerry driving, young Michael would head out on metal detecting adventures across the countryside, usually not too far from Charlotte. When he was old enough to get his driver’s license, Bennett ventured out by himself and has since traveled to many different states. More recently, he has traveled overseas on his metal detecting hunts.
“My grandfather gave me the nickname Nugget Noggin,” Bennett said. “He called me that because I always had gold on my brain, and I still do sometimes. I would talk about gold prospecting, and wanting to find that big gold nugget!”
But, Bennett said his fever really began much earlier.
“My whole life I’ve been into rocks — collecting rocks,” he said. “When I was just a toddler, I would pick up rocks in the driveway and bring them back in the house. And, my grandma would throw ’em back in the driveway when I wasn’t lookin’.”
Though she passed away two years ago at the age of 72, his grandmother, Nancy, encouraged her grandson’s spirit and imagination, which later amounted to metal detecting and a lot of digging.
“She was a big influence in my career,” Bennett said. “She helped buy my detectors and lots of gear over the years”
Nugget Noggin’s prospecting know-how is impressive. And, his secret to success is something he found at a very young age—a true passion for a lifestyle he loves. His unrelenting gold fever and enthusiasm for metal detecting keep his videos exciting and entertaining to watch.
“My videos are family friendly and people have told me that I have lots of enthusiasm, and excitement,” Bennett said. “I have influenced many young kids, especially girls, to get into the hobby of metal detecting over the last few years.”
Bennett also dredges for gold, and spends plenty of time researching places to hunt for coins, relics and gold.
“You never know what you’re going to find,” he said.
Bennett, who recently joined the Gold Prospectors Association of America will speak at GPAA Gold & Treasure Show in Concord, N.C., Oct. 29-30 at Cabarrus Arena, 4751 Hwy. 49 S. For more information, go to www.GoldProspectors.org/GoldShows.
“My topic for the seminar is Metal Detecting: How to Research sites and Secure Permission. I will be doing a PowerPoint presentation about how I got started, how to research old places to dig, and how to go about getting permission,” Bennett said. “Plus, I’ll also answer questions anyone may have about metal detecting in general.”
In the meantime, Bennett has big plans for the future.
“I’m getting into scuba diving now ... I’m getting my diver’s certification so I can go look for shipwrecks off the North Carolina coast and gold coins,” he said.
Nugget Noggin is nowhere near done when it comes to exploring—and neither is Grandpa, now 78.
“He still does have gold fever,” Bennett said. “The other day he was talking about a creek where I should go detecting. He hasn’t been with me in awhile, but we plan on getting him out this fall when everything cools down. He really enjoys metal detecting.”
Brad Jones is the Managing Editor/Communications Director for the Gold Prospectors Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.