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Metal detectors - from dreams to practice

Treasure hunting - the dream of many some small children, that was turned into a hobby or even a means of income for some people. We have all seen stories. We have all seen stories on the news and in journals. That one person in Florida that found a chest of Spanish doubloons, dating back to the Conquistadors. That other person in Stafford shire that managed to dig out the, what's now known as the Stafford shire Hoard, containing some 3,500 pieces of gold, silver, and garnet. And while most people have a silly image of people with wooden forks and spades, going around beaches and playing scavenger hunt, these stories almost come as a dish of sweet revenge, best served cold.

But what makes this dream of treasure hunting a reality?

Or more precisely, how do you get started up? It might seem fairly obvious, but first and foremost, you will need a metal detector. Yes, you read this correctly: the long mentally thing, which you 'scan' the ground with. Then when you stumble upon something, it starts beeping in your headphones. You might be dubious about these, or you might think that forked sticks do a better job. But there is nothing easier, nor better than a good metal detector.

If you are just picking up on metal detecting, you might want to start off by searching for coins. This means it is a good idea to go for the beginner models initially. Even the most basic beginner metal detectors today come equipped with the ability to locate any metallic object. This includes everything from iron, nickel, tin, lead, all the way to the more previous materials like bronze, silver, gold, and aluminum. This, in turn, allows you find things like jewelry, watches, relics and even hidden caches of coins or jewelry. Sure, there are more advanced and certainly more expensive models, going for up to a few grand. However, you do not really need those to get started.

Next up you will want to get some practice on your new gadget. Sure, it will detect the metal for you, but in the end, it's just a tool. In order to really get the most of it, you will need to get into the mindset of treasure hunting, develop patterns and train your senses and intuition. The best place to do this is in your own backyard (or local park for that matter). Put some change or jewelry in the ground and run over it with your detector. Listen closely to the sound they make. Then you might want to mix it up a bit with some cutlery or cans. Develop a hearing for all the different sounds each material makes. In the field, you will stumble on a lot of junk, so it is useful to be able to filter through at least some of it on the move. Finally, find a friend and ask them to hide a few things - both valuables and junk, for you. See if you can find and distinguish those.

Now that you have your shiny, new metal detector and have built up confidence with it, there is only one step between you and going out on the field. That is: doing research and getting permission. Look for heavily wooded or abandoned areas. Asking relatives or elderly locals is a great place to start. Once you have a location pinned, you need to go and ask the owners for permission. Remember that trespassing is a serious offense and can get you in a lot of trouble. But even if no one reports you, you still give other hobbyist and metal-detecting enthusiasts a bad name. A useful thing to keep in mind is to get a written copy if the owner does agree to let you scan through his property.

Also, out of common courtesy, both to the owner and to any other future fellow treasure hunters, do fill out your holes after you are done.

Finally, some useful tips on how to make your metal detecting a bit easier and productive:

When hunting in a maintained land, always bring a piece of cloth with you. If you find something and decide to start digging, carefully peel of the grassed area and put the soil onto the cloth. That way, after you are done, you can fill up the hole with the soil nicely, press on the grass and make it seem as if no one has disturbed the ground.

Another pointer for beginners is not to get too excited when your metal detector beeps and rush into digging too fast. A lot of the more valuable objects can be quite old and fragile. Therefore, they can be damaged very easily.

If you find yourself in a forest or a heavily-wooded area, bring a shovel with you. Going through hard roots is no simple task with only a small hand tool, and a spade can certainly make your life a lot easier.

Recording all your routes, finds and dig spots, while not mandatory, can help you from going around in circles or just keeping records for future endeavors.

Before I leave you off with your (hopefully) newfound hobby, I am going to offer you the biggest piece of advice for metal detecting and treasure hunting in general. Have fun with it. If you feel you are not making progress or you are in any way discouraged.

Take a break. As the saying goes, tomorrow is another day. If you have a friend, who is interested, bring them along. If you have children, you can bring them along as well. 

Treasure hunting can be a quite fun family experience. There are even child-size, toy metal detectors. And remember: you might find yourself going through the same area a bunch of times before you find something. Or you might bump into it straight away.


  1. What an excellent website Thomas! I came across it while browsing for advice as I am on the market for a good one to start with. I have no experience in metal detecting. Your website is describing with great details a number of excellent looking machines which get me very much interested now.

    Thanks for taking the time to research and review all these, so I will take my time to go through all of them to make my choice.

    I will call on you if I have any questions.

    John ツ


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