Metal Detecting – The Complete Guide

Metal Detecting

Metal detecting is more than just a pastime. For many, it’s an exciting hobby; it’s exciting to think about what you’ll find in a day! For some, it’s the fulfillment of finding buried treasure, precious items, and prized relics. Many have indeed found fortunes with just very basic, cheap metal detectors. And if simple metal detectors can lead you to awesome finds, think of what a powerful, sensitive, and high-quality metal detector device can lead you to!

Why a Metal Detecting Hobby?

Different metal detection hobbyists have different reasons why they decided to start this activity. Some say they enjoy the experience, the thrill of finding objects related to history. Others say that metal detecting led them to coin collecting especially old silver coins and historic gold coins.

Almost all people who engage in metal detecting enjoy the financial gain of selling their finds. A lot of folks were able to find gold nuggets, gold coins, and jewelry and sell them for millions of dollars. Still, some people consider metal detecting as a fun and leisure activity that they can do outdoors.

How to Start a Metal Detecting Hobby?

Metal detecting is not for everyone.  This is why we recommend an entry-level metal detector rather than an expensive model just for you to test the waters. Once you have learned the ropes of metal detecting and you’re confident in your skills, this is the time to use a more sophisticated model. Consider the following things you need to start with metal detecting.

An entry-level metal detector

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We recommend a good quality, affordable entry-level metal detector if you’re just starting. These devices cost around $160 to $450. Some professional prospectors and treasure hunters use highly-specialized gold prospecting equipment that cost around $10,000. But if you’re looking for multi-purpose machines with advanced features, these metal detectors can cost around $2,500.

A few brands of metal detectors are more trusted than others. The most popular are Garrett and Fisher, which are highly recommended for beginners and Minelab, known for having the most advanced technologies.

Usually, it’s a hit or miss when buying metal detectors. If you purchased a metal detector and after a while, you think you’re better off with another brand, then you can always sell your slightly-used metal detector at eBay or Amazon.

Check our guides below:

A pinpointer

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A pinpointer is a metal detector itself, but most hobbyists use a metal detector first and then a pinpointer next to easily narrow down on their target objects. An electronic pinpointer will speed up your search, especially if your targeted object is underneath a pile of trash. And because you’re zeroing in on the target, you risk damaging your finds. Pinpointers are not as heavy and clunky as metal detectors; these are no bigger than a traditional battery-powered flashlight.

And just like metal detectors, there are several brands of electronic pinpointers you should check out like Vibra, Garrett, and Whites.

Carrying bag

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A metal detector and all its accessories are sensitive, and quality pieces of equipment, and you should take good care of these. Some metal detectors come with a padded carrying kit or bag, which also doubles as a storage space. But if yours did not come with a bag, make use of a padded backpack or luggage to keep your device.


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Headphones allow you to listen to your target because the best way to confirm your target is to check your metal detector’s display and to listen to audio signals that the target is giving off. And even if your detector has a loudspeaker, it’s best to use headphones to listen in, especially when you’re working in a noisy environment like the beach or the park. Most good quality metal detectors come with headphones while some don’t.

Diggers or small digging tools

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Hand tools like a small spade are needed so you can gently remove dirt or soil on top of your find. Hand tools are perfect as you can carry these easily inside your metal detector bag.

Coil covers

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The search coil is a very sensitive part of a metal detector and should be protected with coil covers. Take note that any scratch or wear on the coil can greatly affect its performance. In some brands, an extra coil is included in the package, while some have coil covers.

Extra coils

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We recommend having two or more extra coils, especially if you want results. Almost all metal detectors come with only one search coil while accessory or extra coils may come in different sizes and shapes to maximize your metal detector.

You may need to change coil depending on where you’re working on. In wide-open areas like beaches and farms, a larger coil can help you cover more ground and depth. In tight spaces like parks and playgrounds with a lot of rocks, a smaller search coil is better. This will allow you to move through different obstacles.

If you’re searching in public parks and urbanized areas where a lot of trash is found, a double D coil can help you distinguish between targets. And when you’re in a country or area where there’s mineralized soil, a smaller coil can help you easily distinguish your target object from natural minerals found in soil.

Hats, towels, and sunscreen

You’ll be working under the sun most of the time when you’re hunting for precious treasures, so don’t forget the essentials. Also, stay hydrated and wear light clothing as much as possible. We also recommend bug spray or mosquito repellant as you’re likely to be working in areas where there are mosquitoes and other pests that can make you sick.

What metal detector is the best for beginners?

Now that you have a clear idea as to the basic stuff you need to get started, including level-entry metal detectors, let’s get to know what the best metal detector in the market.

There is no “best metal detector” as the ideal device will depend on your needs. To rephrase the question, it should be, “which is the best metal detector for me?”

Consider the following questions:

  • What part of the world are you located in?
  • What kind of metal detecting activity do you want to engage in? Are you into relic hunting, coin hunting, beach hunting, or gold prospecting?
  • Do you have a specific budget in mind?
  •  Is this your first time using a metal detector, or are you a pro?

Take note that all metal detectors can detect metal, but more sophisticated devices can detect metal more efficiently. Some updated models can even discriminate from the metal you’re looking for from others.

Where is the best place to start?

Ask an expert about the best place to start metal detecting, and they’ll tell you that you can go anywhere as long as you ask permission. You can’t just go to any property and start using your metal detector! Also, different cities and countries have different laws regarding treasure or relic hunting.

In some places, you must report all finds (big or small) to a local office. Others require that you divide the value of the treasure that you found with the landowner.

It’s important to consider looking for treasure in a place or area that was previously occupied by people.  A site where a historic village would be a good place to start. You are likely to find gold or silver coins, jewelry, metal tableware, and precious relics.

Beaches are also great places to start looking for treasure. It’s estimated that trillions of dollars’ worth of gold are found in the deep oceans and the hopes that some of these treasures washing out to shore are high. Some people who are lucky enough to have sensitive underwater metal detectors can scour deep parts of the sea to look for buried treasure.

On a small scale, you can start looking for buried treasure in your neighborhood. If there are public parks, public schools, woodland areas, or a historic private property, then you can go right ahead. As long as you ask for permission, you can start using your metal detector right away.

When hunting on public school grounds, get permission from the school district superintendent or administration. For local parks and beaches, ask permission from a local district office. When using your detector in wooded areas or on public land, check if there are signs that prohibit metal detecting.

Of the different areas to start hunting for metals, coins, treasures, and relics, we recommend hunting in a private property. You can guarantee that no one has checked the place out with a detector compared to a public area like a beach, park, or a public school. Also, the landowner can give information about the history of the area to help you find the best area to start.

And once you have secured permission to hunt for treasure on private or public land, take this letter or email printout with you at all times. This will show proof that you can use your metal detector in the area in case someone approaches you.

The important thing to consider before starting a metal detecting hobby

How you behave or act as you conduct your metal detecting hobby can make or break future metal detecting and treasure hunting activities in any area. This is why every metal detector enthusiast should follow a list of do’s and don’ts known as the “metal detecting code of conduct.” Here are some pointers to remember

A metal detecting or treasure hunting enthusiasts should:

  • Respect all private and public property and all archaeological and historical sites. He must not perform any metal detecting or treasure hunting on these lands without any permission.
  • Obey all local or national legislation about the discovery and the reporting of all discovered treasures, relics, and gold.
  • Help all law enforcement authorities as much as possible.
  • Cause no damage to property, including damage to signs, buildings, and fences. He should fill any holes that he has dug.
  • Cause no destruction to property, structures, buildings, and any deserted structures.
  • Leave no litter or any discarded items around the area. He must carry all the trash and any dug targets when he leaves the hunting site.
  • Always consider the Golden Rule, which is about having good manners at all times. He should represent the field of treasure hunting and metal detection in a manner that will bring honor to the hobby or sport.

Always remember, when you’re searching for treasure, leave the area exactly like what it was before or even looking better than before!

Research and other learning material

If you want to strike it big in metal detecting or treasure hunting, it’s a must that you do extensive research. When you have reliable information about the location of relics and treasure, you can get more out of your finds. Most metal detecting enthusiasts can walk away with millions of dollars’ worth of coins while using only basic equipment because of their keen research about the area.

One of the most reliable ways to find out where to start looking is an old map of the area. Old maps can reveal areas where there are old towns, churches, trading posts, etc. You may also look for old newspapers that are available in digital form to look for historical information.

Historical societies can also help you get information about the area. Also, a local library may have historical material hidden away in storage.

Other good sources when looking for buried treasure are good history books, old newspapers, treasure, and historical guides and landowners. 

How to start digging your find?

So let’s say your metal detector tells you there’s a possible gold coin under   10 inches of soil, how do you start digging for it? Experts say that a hand digger or a hand tool is best for an area that’s less than an acre. A larger area may require a mid-sized hand tool to make digging faster and more efficiently.

We also recommend a handy digger with a serrated side to help you cut through roots. There are digging tools for right-handed and left-handed users, so be sure to pick the best for you.     

Digging your find steps

  1. After your metal detector has pinpointed a target, use your hand digging tool to dig it out. From the spot that the target is in, maintain a distance of 3 to 5 inches from all sides. Stick the digger on the ground.
  2. Move-in a counter-clockwise motion and cut any grass or roots until you have a semi-circle shape surrounding the target object.
  3. Allow a minimum of 3 inches when cutting grass to prevent killing grassroots.
  4. Use the digger to open and take the plug from the head. As you only removed a semi-circle shape, the area that you didn’t cut will become a hinge to open the plug. The plug will now be upside down from the top of the grass.
  5. Place a towel or a sack near the hole to hold the dirt that you will dig away. If you can’t find the target, use the pinpointer to check the plug and afterward, the hole.
  6. After the target has been recovered, slide all removed dirt from the hole. Press on the hole firmly; you may also step on the area with your foot.

How do you carry and clean your find?

We recommend carrying at least two bags or pouches: one for your treasured find and the other one for the trash you removed from the area. You must also be ready for any precious finds like gold rings, diamond rings, ruby or emerald rings, etc. Use a small plastic case with cotton to hold the treasured item well.

Most experts say that thorough cleaning of your finds can ruin their value. But if this is what you want to do with your finds. If you want to collect or display your finds, you can start with a soft-bristled brush for light cleaning while still in the field.

When you’re home, use another soft brush to clean your finds with dish soap and warm water. Do not use harsh chemicals like bleach or detergent.

Remember, clean your finds only when you want to keep them. But if you wish to profit from them, it’s better to keep them in the condition when you found them to preserve their value.

Subscribing to expert sites and magazines

Metal detecting is a hobby that grows and evolves. Newer and better technologies are constantly being discovered, and by enriching your knowledge about metal detecting and treasure hunting, you are likely to be successful in all your projects.

Just a few impressive magazines about metal detecting are Western & Eastern Treasures, American Digger, and Lost Treasures. You may also find great books and guides from successful treasure hunters where you can also pick up good and updated information

Indeed, metal detecting is a worthwhile hobby if you take the time to improve your skills and your knowledge. Also, don’t forget that it’s also a fun activity, meant to be enjoyed by families, friends, parents, and kids. Have fun in your next treasure hunting activity!