Everything you need to know to Start Detecting and Find Treasure!
- What Is Metal Detecting?
- How Do I Find a Detector That’s Right for Me?
- How Do I Get Started?
- What Can I Find While Detecting?
- Where To Go Metal Detecting?
- How to Dig a Great-Looking Plug
- Do your Research!
- Should I Join a Metal Detecting Club?
- Identifying Your Finds
- How to Clean Your Fines
- Other Accessories You May Want
- Before You Go, Know Metal Detecting Etiquette
- Welcome to the Hobby!
After two decades of being obsessed with any kind of treasure hunt, both in the movies and in real life, I had finally managed to save enough money to buy a low-end metal detector.
The second that detector was in my hands, I couldn’t bear to wait one more minute. Like a teenager fumbling around the first time he’s allowed to take his parents’ car out for a spin, I took my detector outside, turning knobs at random without having the faintest idea what I was doing.
To complicate things, it was winter, and not one of those picturesque, balmy winter days either. It was freezing and the wind chill was enough to take my breath away. But I had waited so long to become a detectorist, I couldn’t stand the thought of waiting one more minute.
So with gloves on and teeth chattering, I found my first signal. I took my little, inexpensive plastic hand trowel I had bought at a local store, and I tried to dig into the hard, frozen ground. It didn’t budge, but my hand trowel did. It snapped like a dry twig.
Undeterred, I grabbed a sturdy, full-size shovel out of my garage and got to work. It took a few minutes and I hadn’t heard that much heavy breathing since I last watched Darth Vader in the Star Wars movies, but I finally managed to pry my target from the cold, hard ground.
The first “treasure” I dug turned out to be a nail.
That might have been enough disappointment to make a sane person head indoors. But I was elated. There were targets all over my yard, and I had found something in just a few minutes as a detectorist.
With almost every step I took, I had a signal. Maybe most of those targets would end up being nails. But maybe, just maybe, one of those targets would be a valuable coin or a historical relic. My next target could literally be anything, and the only way to know for sure was to keep digging.
While my neighbors were probably on the phone to the local police department reporting my suspicious behavior in near-freezing temperatures, I kept digging. I was bitten by the metal-detecting bug hard that day.
It’s been years since then and metal detecting is still my favorite hobby. If I’m not doing it, I’m researching it or writing about it.
If you’re new to the hobby, you need a mentor. Don’t be like me and run outside turning knobs with wild abandon. Let me give you the help I didn’t have. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and frustration if you’re better informed than I was when I first started detecting.
In this essential metal detecting guide, I’ll cover all the basics and give you pointers that only a seasoned detectorist knows. So let’s get started.
What Is Metal Detecting?
Chances are, you have some sense of what metal detecting is. You’ve probably seen local detectorists out there, waving their machines around as they listen to chirps off their detectors. You’ve likely noticed us stooping and digging at the ground.
If you don’t know any more than that, here’s a quick rundown for you. A metal detector signals the person who is operating it through beeps and other information displayed on the screen whenever it determines that there is metal in the ground.
The detectors, unless they are a very basic cheap model, will let you know how many inches you’ll have to dig to find that metal. It will also give you information about what type of metal you have likely found – iron, silver or gold, for instance.
The information you hear and see will help you determine whether you should dig that signal or let it stay there because it’s probably something you don’t want anyway, like a nail or a bottle cap.
While everyone is familiar with the treasure hunting aspect of metal detecting, it offers more rewards than just the potential monetary ones.
Metal detecting is a great way to stay in shape. Although it might not seem like it, metal detecting can be very physically challenging, depending upon how much you do it. You have to carry equipment around for hours on end. Plus, there’s a lot of walking, bending, stooping and digging involved.
When you metal detect daily or even a few times a week, you’ll notice that your body is getting in better shape than it used to be. You may even feel a bit sore when you first start detecting, but that should pass in the first week or so.
But if you’re worried metal detecting will be too physical for you, you can rest easy. You only have to do as much digging as you want. I’ve found plenty of great coins and jewelry that were four inches or less under the surface. If you aren’t a fan of digging, you can just walk right past the deeper signals and focus on the shallow ones.
But don’t be surprised if you decide to make the extra effort to dig those deeper signals once in a while. Curiosity is a powerful motivator. And the idea that you may be walking right past the find of your life may inspire you to go for those deeper targets.
How Do I Find a Detector That’s Right for Me?
This isn’t like the Harry Potter books where the wand chooses the wizard. You need to put a lot of thought into what kind of detector you’re going to get – that’s the only way you’ll be certain you’re getting one that is right for you.
You may know other detectorists who swear up and down that the type of detector they’re using is the one you should get. But that isn’t always true. They could be using a great machine, but it might not be right for you.
By asking yourself a few simple questions, you’ll be able to determine what kind of detector you want to buy. Here is what you should look at:
- What is your budget: Setting a budget is crucial when shopping for a metal detector. I’d recommend setting a budget before you even begin seriously looking at machines. To give you an idea of what kind of money you’ll be looking at, a good entry-level machine will run you a couple of hundred dollars, while the more advanced professional treasure hunting units will run thousands of dollars. Don’t feel pressured to spend more than you can afford – those entry-level machines will be more than capable of finding great targets.
- What are you looking for: If you want to find a wide range of items, like historical relics, coins, and jewelry, you’ll be fine with an all-purpose detector. But if you’re interested in one particular type of metal, you need to find a detector that will give you your best chance of finding it. If you want to spend most of your time gold prospecting, for instance, you’ll want to find a machine that’s geared toward finding tiny gold flakes and nuggets – one with a higher operating frequency than an all-purpose detector.
- Where do you plan to search: If you’re going to look in parks or people’s yards, you’ll be fine with a general metal detector. But if you plan to hunt on saltwater beaches or in the ocean, you’ll need a metal detector that you can submerge in water. You’ll also want it to have fantastic ground balancing capabilities because that will allow you to get rid of any false positive signals your detector will give off from the higher mineralization content of the salt water and the sand. That might sound pretty technical, but before long you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about!
- How tech-friendly are you: Anyone can figure out how to use an entry-level detector. They aren’t complicated and you don’t even have to understand how they work to make them work. You just turn them on, crank up the basic dials and go. But more advanced detectors require a bit of a learning curve. They can be intimidating for people who don’t like a lot of buttons, dials and an operating manual that makes Moby Dick look like a light, easy read. If that scares you, you should start with an entry-level detector and work up to bigger and better machines as you grow more comfortable in the hobby. Or you can buy a user-friendly advanced detector that only has a couple of adjustable knobs and no complicated screens, like Tesoro metal detectors.
- How much do you plan to use your detector: If you’re just looking for a bit of fun on the weekends, you may only want an entry-level detector that will let you pursue your hobby without a lot of thought. But if you plan to dig more holes than a gopher, you’ll want a better machine that will have features that will make your hunts easier and more productive, like ground balancing, great discrimination, numeric target identification and more.
- How strong are you: When you spend more than an hour or two at a time on your metal detecting hobby, you can start to feel it. If you don’t have much upper body strength or if you have a bad back, you’ll want to find the lightest detector you can. Some of them can be challenging to carry around with you for any length of time. If you’re in constant pain because of your hobby, you won’t want to do it. That’s why your strength and endurance should factor into which detector you choose – some are much heavier than others.
How Do I Get Started?
It’s easy to become a detectorist – all you need is your detector, along with some other basic tools. Here is some of the equipment you’ll need for metal detecting:
- Hand trowel
- Treasure pouch
If you notice, both a hand trowel and shovel are on the list. They perform the same function, but ideally, you’ll get both, and here’s why. Hand trowels look less intimidating to people, which is nice if you’re asking someone for permission to metal detect on their property.
If you walk onto their property with a full-size shovel, they’ll envision their manicured yard being completely destroyed and you’ll probably see your dream of hunting that yard goes up in flames. Big shovels can make people nervous, while little hand trowels are less intrusive to them.
When shopping for a hand trowel, think about my initial metal detecting experience. Remember how I talked about my first-day failure with a little plastic hand trowel? Thanks to my rookie mistake, you’ll know better when shopping for yours.
You should invest in a sturdy, quality hand trowel, and luckily, they are inexpensive and they’ll last you for years. It’s much more economical to buy one good hand trowel than to keep replacing plastic units that snap on you.
As for shovels, they’ll come in handy on almost every dig you do. They can save your back and your knees from a lot of agonies during your hunts. It’s a lot easier to dig with a shovel than with a hand trowel in tough soil.
When it comes to shovels, you don’t want to use the old-time, heavy type of shovel that might already be in your shed. You don’t want to carry that along with you on a remote hunt – you’ll be tired before you even start digging!
They make lightweight shovels with serrated edges that will slice through soil and roots like they’re butter. They’re a snap to carry around and they work like a dream.
You’ll also want a treasure pouch to store all your valuable coins and other finds in. Basically, a treasure pouch is like a glorified fanny pack, but treasure pouch sounds way cooler than a fanny pack, doesn’t it?
Besides, a treasure pouch is bigger than your typical fanny pack. Most detectorists wear it so the pouch is on their side when they’re detecting. That way it won’t get in the way when they bend over to grab a target out of their freshly-dug hole.
Your treasure pouch will be invaluable to you as a detectorist – you’ll be able to stuff all your finds in it without fear of losing them. Ideally, you want your treasure pouch to have more than one zippered compartment.
You’ll want to your junk finds separated from the finds you intend to keep or sell. It helps to keep them in two different compartments so you don’t get confused and accidentally throw away a good item.
You may even want a third compartment on your pouch so you can keep any items made of metals that may scratch easily if they are rubbed against other metals in your pouch. If you can’t find a pouch you like that has three compartments, you can also keep a small container within your pouch that you’ll use only for special, fragile finds.
What Can I Find While Detecting?
You’ll be amazed at what you find while metal detecting. You can find priceless jewelry and coins that were dropped hundreds of years ago. The last hands that touched that item before you unearthed it are long gone, but that piece of metal – a testament to that time period and way of life – remains.
If it weren’t for you, that item may have stayed hidden and that piece of history would have been lost forever.
In addition to jewelry and coins, you can find great historical relics like military buttons, pocketknives, bullets, and weapons. You can find gold, even tiny flakes of it if you have a sensitive enough detector.
Although it sounds strange, you’ll also likely stumble across some cool old bottles that are still fully intact. Occasionally, when you’re metal detecting, you’ll find old dump sites that contain bottles and other items that were discarded decades ago. Those old bottles today can be worth a lot of money.
Perhaps most important of all though, what you’ll find when metal detecting is a sense of adventure. That feeling that you had when you were a kid and you believed anything was possible. Every time you walk out there with your detector, you have the chance to find something great.
Where Can I Go Metal Detecting?
The most difficult part of beginning to metal detect for some people isn’t learning how to work their machine, but figuring out where they can detect, to begin with. Some places are off-limits, and there can be steep consequences like fines and even jail time for violating that policy.
But, fortunately, most detectorists won’t have any problem finding places to hunt. It’s not as hard as it looks once you get started.
To begin with, if you own any of your own property, you should start there. Check your own front and back yards with your detector. That will give you the chance to perfect your plug digging skills.
When you’re metal detecting, you need to learn how to dig a neat plug out of the ground. With a little practice, you’ll be able to dig such a nice plug that once you replace it after you’ve taken your treasure out of the hole, no one will be able to tell where you’ve dug.
Once you learn how to correctly dig a plug, you’ll be ready to go anywhere to detect. And when people see that you won’t tear up their yard because you have a great digging technique, you’ll be invited to dig at many more places.
After you’ve mastered your technique and you have found all the good signals your property has to offer, you need to find new stomping grounds. Here are some suggestions.
If you have a park nearby, you should contact the group or government agency that owns that land. Ask if metal detecting is allowed. Some parks allow it and some don’t. Parks are a great place to find valuable items, plus you might also attract interest from someone who wants you to dig their property. One dig can often lead to another.
You should ask any friends you have if you can hunt their properties. Some will say yes and some will say no. Try not to be upset with your friends who decline. Metal detecting isn’t for everybody. Plus, they may change their minds once they start seeing your success at the houses of your mutual friends.
Check with groups that own or manage wooded property near you. Even though you might not find as many signals in a wooded area, you can sometimes stumble upon old encampments or places where old houses used to sit. If you can find those locations, the sky is the limit as to what you may find.
Strangers: This one can be intimidating for some detectorists – asking strangers if you can search their land. But if you’ve found a place where you think there will be great detecting, it’s worth a try. Some people will shoot you down as soon as you ask the question. But even if you only get permission for one out of every 10 spots you ask about, you’ll still have a lot of ground to search. If you ask and the answer is no, be respectful and thank them anyway. There’s always a chance they’ll change their minds later.
Beaches: Beaches are one of my favorite spots to hunt. The weather is usually nice and the views are gorgeous. You can find some great coins, shipwrecked items that have washed in and jewelry that people have lost. Most beaches allowed metal detecting, but you should always double-check to make sure. I haven’t been turned away yet while detecting on the coasts though.
It might sound gross, but outhouse digs are a gift that keeps giving. If you’re hunting at a former outhouse location, all the excrement will be long gone, but you’ll be pulling item after item out of the ground.
Sometimes people lost items of real value when they were trotting into their outhouses. And other times, long before people had garbage pick-up services, people used their outhouses as a garbage pit for undesirable items.
Yesterday’s trash can be today’s treasures. Some of those outhouse finds are of great interest to today’s detectorists. And they can even be quite valuable if they are still in good condition.
You can find intact bottles, pocket watches, coins, knives and all kinds of other items in old outhouse locations.
If you get permission to hunt the grounds of an old house, ask the owners if they know where the outhouse was located. You should start there with your hunt.
You should be prepared to dig through and make sure the property owner understands that – you’ll have to go several feet down to find everything that could have been dropped in an outhouse.
For more information on where to go Metal Detecting, check out these great books!
- Finding Treasure: A Field Guide by W.C. Jameson
- Metal Detecting Previously Hunted Sites Book by Vincent C. Pascucci
- In Search of Treasure Book by Dick Stout
- Researching Ghost Towns Book by Daryl Townley
- Finding Civil War Campsites in Rural Areas by David Poche
How to Dig a Great-Looking Plug
After your detector has beeped and alerted you to a target, keep running your detector over it so you pinpoint exactly where the signal is. You don’t want to dig directly on top of where the find is because you risk scratching it or damaging it with your shovel.
Instead, you’ll want to cut carefully into the ground a few inches away from where you suspect the target is. You’ll use methodical, controlled motions when cutting – this isn’t like a slasher film!
Cut a shape into the ground that looks like a horseshoe – you don’t have to cut a full circle because you’ll use your digging trowel to pry up the plug out of the ground. The bottom of the plug will be facing up as it rests on the ground right next to your hole.
If you don’t see your find right away, you may have to take more dirt out of the hole. You can put all the extra dirt onto a towel or Frisbee you bring with you. After you remove your find, you’ll just put any extra dirt you had to dig right back in the hole. Since you’ve contained it all on the towel or the Frisbee, the ground shouldn’t sink in much when you fill it, unless the object you removed was big.
After you’ve placed the grass plug back in the hole, make sure you step on it several times.
When you’re digging, you should cut at least 3 or 4 inches into the ground, even if the target appears to be shallower than that. This will stop you from simply ripping out the grassroots to reach your target. You don’t want to leave the yard with a bunch of bald spots where grass used to be.
But if the item appears to be small and it’s just below the surface, it’s okay to nudge the tip of your hand trowel into the ground and try to avoid digging a full-fledged hole if you are certain you’ve zeroed in on the location.
Do Your Research!
After you’ve explored some of the sites you have easy access to, it’s time to start getting a bit more methodical about your hunting sites.
Many successful detectorists don’t make their best finds by accident – although there are plenty that still do stumble upon a treasure with no research at all. But, overall, many detectorists prefer to stack the deck in their favor by doing research.
A little bit of research can really pay off in the long run. You’ll be able to narrow down the sites of old schoolhouses, outhouses, parks, settlements and more. These are all desirable sites to detect.
Here are the primary sources you should turn to while doing research to find the best places to search in your city or village.
- Senior citizens: They give you access to living history. They’ll be able to tell you where old fairs or carnivals used to gather, or where the one-roomed school houses were located before they closed down. If you’re searching on the grounds of an older house, they may be able to tell you where the outhouse used to be located. Senior citizens are a great resource, and if they lead you in the right direction, you should take your finds back to them. They’d love to see them and they may be able to help you identify them as well.
- Libraries: Libraries generally contain old books and newspapers on local history and out-of-print maps that show where gathering places used to be located in your town. Using these resources can help you find those spots that have fallen out of use but may contain valuable old coins and trinkets.
- Historical societies: They make it their business to know everything about the town or county you live in. They’ll be able to steer you in the right direction and they may have maps or documents that your local library won’t.
- Church records: You can talk to your local parish to see where some of the earliest churches in town were located. That will help you narrow down your search when looking for a great spot to look for treasure.
Should I Join a Metal Detecting Club?
If your only knowledge of metal detecting clubs comes from the offbeat characters you’ve seen on the television show The Detectorists, I’ve got news for you – real metal detecting clubs can be just as weird as that. You’ll find an odd assortment of people at club meetings and hunts. Metal detecting, like any other hobby, can attract some real characters.
But you’re also likely to find some of the best friends you’ll ever make. And one thing is for certain, you’ll never be bored or regret joining a club.
For a small annual fee, you’ll get to hang out with a group of people who share your love of metal detecting. And that’s invaluable because many of your friends are not going to understand why you want to be a detectorist. They just won’t get it, in the same way, you don’t understand why they love the hobbies they have. Everybody is different. We all have different dreams, goals, and interests.
But in a metal detecting club, everybody who is there totally understands your love of the hobby. They might even be more into it than you are.
In addition to friends, you’re going to be aligning yourself with another powerful resource – access to better equipment than you currently have.
In metal detecting clubs, there are always those few members who seem to have deeper pockets than you can ever dream of having. And they aren’t shy about spending their money on top-of-the-line equipment that they love to show off.
Most detectorists will gladly take a newbie under their wing to teach them all they have learned in their years as a detectorist. That often involves showing off how well their high-end equipment works or even allowing you to tag along on a hunt at their favorite place.
Many clubs also host monthly or annual hunts, which is another reason to join. If you’re struggling to find enough places to hunt, joining a club can open up a whole new world to you. Your club will also be able to let you know what local public spots allow metal detecting and which ones don’t.
Identifying Your Finds
Let’s say your excitement is off the charts because you’ve just dug up a really cool artifact. But, even though it’s an awesome find, you aren’t quite sure what it is. How will you be able to figure out what it is?
This can be one of the trickiest parts of metal detecting. Once you get your treasures home, the real work begins — you have to attempt to play armchair detective just to figure out what your finds are.
When you’re trying to figure out what your item is and how old it might be, start with the obvious identifiers.
Some of the items, like coins, will have a date to help you figure out what era they’re from, but sometimes the date is so worn you can’t even tell what year the coin was minted.
Other items, like jewelry, buttons, bullets, pocket watches, and bottles, are even trickier to date without taking them to an expert who may charge you a fee for their assessment.
But there are some resources you can use to help figure out a little more about your finds. Here are some of the places you’ll want to start.
- The internet: The internet has made things much easier when it comes to identifying finds. You can type a basic description of the item into Google and many times that will lead you to figure out what you have. If that doesn’t work, you can consult an expert online or post a picture of your find on Twitter or on metal detecting forums.
- Your club: If you’ve joined that metal detecting club, bring your find to your next meeting. The members, especially the ones who have been metal detecting for decades, will likely have seen items similar to the one you’ve discovered. I’ve found during my years as a detectorist that it’s pretty hard to stump a metal detecting club when it comes to identifying finds.
- A specialty shop or museum: If you’ve found a coin, take it to a person who sells coins. If you’ve found what you believe is a war relic, take it to a museum that specializes in that type of artifact. Resources are all around us – we just need to keep asking until we find the right person to help us.
How to Clean Your Finds
Sometimes when you pull something out of the ground that has been there for decades or centuries, the item is so filthy you can’t even see if it has any identifying marks on it.
Depending upon what type of metal it is and how long it has been in the ground, you might have to give the object a gentle cleaning.
Gentle is the keyword because if you clean your find too aggressively, you risk damaging it. You can use some water and rub your fingers over your item to see if that helps dislodge some of the dirt.
But resist the urge to use any cleansers or scrub brushes on it. You should never clean your item too much because you might scratch it and seriously hurt its value.
Coins, particularly ones that might be valuable or rare, shouldn’t be cleaned by amateur detectorists. If you plan on selling your coins, you might want to take them to a professional for a cleaning that won’t devalue them.
You’ll have to pay for the service, but if you’ve found a truly valuable coin, you could be saving yourself thousands of dollars by having it professionally cleaned instead of trying it yourself.
If you can’t see any identifying marks on it, I wouldn’t do more than clean it with my fingers, water, a Q-tip or an extremely soft toothbrush before consulting a professional.
Even certain years of common coins can be rare, making them valuable. So if you dig a fairly common older coin up, you should still look it up to see if it could be potentially valuable before deciding what to do with it.
Silver coins, in particular, need a professional’s touch because they scratch so easily. If you find a silver coin, don’t try to be a hero and clean it at home. It really needs to be handled by someone who knows what he’s doing.
If you find a gold item, you’re in luck – not just because it will be potentially valuable, but also because gold items won’t need much cleaning. You’ll notice when you find your first gold object that they leave the ground looking just as shiny as when they were dropped.
If any dirt is sticking to your gold find, you can rinse it with water and that should be enough to make it look brand new.
Other Accessories You May Want
While all you truly need to for detecting are the hand trowel, shovel, metal detector and treasure pouch I discussed earlier, there are a few items that you may want to consider purchasing at some point to enhance your metal detecting experience.
These aren’t necessities, but they’ll make the hunt easier or more enjoyable.
- Pinpointer: A pinpointer is a hand-held metal detector that you use to hone in on your target once you’ve dug your primary hole. I’ve even managed to find items on the surface using just my pinpointer, which saves me from having to dig a hole at all – I just nudge the item out of the earth with my hand trowel. A pinpointer will beep faster as you get closer to an item so it really helps when you can’t spot the metal you’ve unearthed.
- Kneepads: Kneepads are a nice luxury item to have on a hunt, and they may even save you money in the long run. I’ve ruined many pairs of jeans with stains and tears while metal detecting. And the knee area is always the worst. Kneepads will protect your pants while they also keep your knees safe from broken glass and sharp rocks while you’re detecting.
- Sand scoop: Metal detectorists who love to hunt at the beach should have a sand scoop instead of trying to fight the losing battle of digging sand with a hand trowel or full-size shovel. Sand scoops are ingenious – they’re lightweight and they allow you to grab your targets much easier out of the sand. The sand will filter right out of the holes of the scoop, leaving you with your treasure in the scoop.
- Gloves: You’ll run into all kinds of dangers for your hands while metal detecting. You can get calluses and blisters from your shovel. You can get bug bites or allergic reactions from the plants you touch as you dig. Plus, you can cut your hands on broken glass or sharp metal. If you want to avoid the possibility of getting tetanus, you should buy a thin, sturdy pair of gloves as soon as possible.
- Bug spray: If you’re going to be hunting in the woods or in the evening, you’ll want to have a bottle of bug spray handy. It can protect you against the diseases certain bugs carry, as well as painful, but overall harmless, bites. I once left a promising dig site early because the mosquitoes were too thick and I didn’t have bug spray on me.
- Headphones: I’m not the biggest fan of using headphones when I metal detect, but I still have them in my bag of tricks. There are times where they come in really handy. If you’re on the beach, you’ll want headphones with you because if you don’t use them you might not hear the signals at all over the sound of crashing waves. When you’re at parks, you should also have them because people go to parks to relax, not hear the constant chirping of your detector. Plus, they’ll help you hear the faint signals you might otherwise miss.
- Water: When you find a great hunt site, you hate to leave it for any reason. If you make sure you have water with you, you’ll be able to hunt for hours at a time without having to take a break for hydration.
- Sunscreen: You’re out there looking for treasure – not for skin cancer. To avoid future problems caused by constant sun exposure and short-term problems like sunburn, make sure you carry some sunblock with you on your hunts. Even if the day starts out cloudy, the sun can make an unwelcome appearance at any point.
- Carrying bag: To keep all your metal detecting stuff together, you’ll want a nice carrying bag that you can toss in your trunk. That way, if you’re on a remote hunt, you can carry your bag and keep it with you instead of hiking back to your car every time you need something.
- Different coils: When you go golfing, you wouldn’t use the same club for every shot. Likewise, you shouldn’t use the same coil for every detecting situation. Many detectors allow you to change coils for different conditions you’ll come across. For instance, if you’re hunting a trashy site, like a park, you’ll want a smaller coil, maybe one as small as 5 inches. If you only have a short time to search a large property and you need to cover ground quickly and find deeper targets, you’ll want to switch to a bigger coil, maybe one as large as 14 inches.
Before You Go, Know Metal Detecting Etiquette
Metal detecting is full of thrills – even on the rare days where you don’t find anything of interest. Sometimes the anticipation of what you might find is one of the most exciting aspects of detecting.
But while we’re out there, there are some rules we should follow. Fortunately, there aren’t too many rules to remember when detecting. It’s a pretty laid-back hobby for the most part.
The few basic rules you should follow are there for three reasons – for your protection, for the protection of other people and to preserve our rights as detectorists.
Even though we think metal detecting is the coolest thing we can do with our time, not everybody shares our enthusiasm.
Some people think detectorists are nuisances who are only out there to dig up a profit. They think we don’t care about the historical significance of items and that we don’t respect the people who will be using the land after we leave it.
But they only have that impression because there are a few bad detectorists out there. They’re the ones who go night hawking on private property when they don’t have permission to be there. Or they dig holes in parks but don’t bother to fill them in. And when people step in those holes and fall down or twist an ankle, suddenly all detectorists are seen as bad.
If detectorists want to keep the digging privileges we still have, we need to be mindful to do our best to be responsible with our hunts. We need to figure out what people don’t like about the bad detectorists and make sure we do the opposite.
If you aren’t sure what proper metal detecting etiquette is, here are the basic points you’ll want to keep in mind when you’re out there representing the hobby.
- Fill Those Holes: As detectorists, we should leave the land in the same condition we found it. When you dig holes, make sure you have perfected digging a perfect plug so you don’t tear up the ground. Once you’ve removed your target, you’ll put any loose dirt you’ve uncovered back into the hole as we discussed earlier. Then you’ll put the grass plug back in and stomp on it, to make sure it’s firmly back in the ground.
- Don’t Trespass: Through research, you might end up finding the greatest potential treasure site the world has ever known. The only problem is that it’s on land that you don’t have permission to dig. Whatever you do, resist the urge to sneak onto the land and search for the biggest find of your life. It’s unethical to dig where you don’t have permission. Trespassing is a serious problem and you should never do it as a detectorist. You could end up in jail or having to pay a big fine.
- Educate yourself: It’s your responsibility to know where you can dig and where you can’t. If you unknowingly dig on land that you don’t have access to or land that is protected by law, you’ll still be punished and you’ll be giving all detectorists a black eye. Ignorance isn’t a defense for violating the law. So always ask before you dig, even if it’s public property you believe is open to everyone.
- Don’t leave your junk finds on the ground: If you uncover bottle caps, nails or broken glass when you’re detecting, throw them away instead of reburying them or leaving them on the ground. You want to leave the land a better place if you can, and you don’t want anyone to get hurt because you uncovered a bunch of broken glass.
- If you find something sentimental, try to reunite it with its owner: Despite our treasure-seeking reputations, most detectorists are generous people. We love to help others and take any opportunities we have to show people the great side of our hobby. One way we do this is by getting items back to their rightful owners whenever we can. Thanks to detectorists, so many people have been reunited with class rings and wedding rings they’ve lost. If you get a chance to help someone find their belongings, take it. You’ll feel great about yourself and spread a bit of goodwill in a world that desperately needs it.
- Help whenever you can: If you hear someone needs help looking for their property stakes or something else on their land, lend a helping hand. It will only take you a few minutes, but you might be able to change the opinion some people have about detectorists. If we’re seen as a force for good, we’ll be able to keep our detecting rights.
Welcome to the Hobby!
You’re about to embark on a hobby that may ignite into a full-fledged passion as it has for so many detectorists before you. I’m excited for you because of all the joy and thrills I’ve experienced throughout the years while detecting.
Whether you find riches, or just odds and ends that you have to identify, you’ll be getting great exercise, a sense of comradery with other detectorists and you’ll always be learning. Almost every hunt, especially in the early years, will lead you to items you’ve never seen before.
Your adventure awaits you. All you have to do is get your detector, go out there and dig it up. Good luck!