Metal Detecting 101 – Your Ultimate Guide

metal-detecting-guide

The word metal detecting might make you think of the crazy old folk walking up and down the shoreline during summer trying to find some hidden treasures.

However, if you take a look at metal detecting closely, you will realize that it can actually turn out into a very addictive and rewarding hobby. There are a whole lot of other things that you can discover by metal detecting.

In this beginner’s guide, you will learn the things that you can expect about metal detecting as an outdoor hobby that will make you understand why this activity has become so popular these days.

You will also get a glimpse of some tips on how you can get on and start with this hobby, and several other vital pieces of information.

If you have been metal detecting for quite some time now, then you might still get some pieces of helpful information here.

Why choose Metal Detecting as a hobby?

metal-detector

At this point, you may be wondering: “why would people be interested in metal detecting?”

At first glance, it is like a hobby that is fit for those who have all the time and patience in the world.

There are different reasons that different individuals can provide as to why they choose metal detecting as their hobby. The following are among the most common reasons:

Some Reasons why people go Metal Detecting

  • Let’s consider the benefits first, financially. Metal detecting is a hobby that can pay for itself, it has been said. You can choose to sell your finds, with the money you get depending on their value and worth.
  • The love of historical items, combined with the thrill of finding something that has been hidden for several years, even hundreds of years, is just priceless.
  • You can experience the love of collecting coins. Whether you find modern coins or older and colonial coins made of silver, the entire experience will just be worth it.
  • You will be exposed to exciting, outdoor activities. For this very reason, a lot of people consider metal detecting as a very good form of exercise.

Generally speaking, most active detectors enjoy the hobby, not just for the financial gain, but for the other three reasons mentioned above.

Ask a hobbyist and he or she will tell you that the finds are valuable to them, not for their monetary worth, but for the experience and the feeling on finding them.

In fact, these people are mostly those who love things from the past. They are collectors and history buffs who do not really go to pawnshops after finding rare items.

At this point, it is very important to understand that metal detecting can become really addicting, particularly when you start discovering relics which have been buried several hundreds of years ago.

More than the financial gains, there is more satisfaction in feeling that amazing rush of adrenaline after finding things. Of course, the monetary part is also a good addition.

After all, while there are others who are into this hobby purely for their passion, there are also some who sell their collection to other collectors, and thus getting paid a good amount of money.

Getting on with Metal Detecting

where-to-metal-detect

If the above reasons triggered your interest in this hobby, the next thing that you would definitely want to know is how you can finally get on with metal detecting.

One of the most important things that you need to take into consideration is getting the right equipment that you will need for the activity. A metal detector is your best friend here.

Finding the best metal detector that will fit your level of experience and budget should be your very first move to do.

Afterwards, you can consider the places that you can possibly hunt, and do your research further. You will learn further about these things as you read on.

The thing is, there are a lot of equipment options that you can choose from, not to mention the accessories that go with them. However, if you are still starting out, and not even sure whether or not you will eventually find this hobby interesting, it is highly recommended to start with an entry level metal detector.

Basically, a good metal detector for beginners is what you need to start. If you ask other detectors, they may also tell you to get some accessories, which usually includes a pinpointer, diggers, extra coils, carry bags, pouches, covers, scoops, towels, gloves, probes and several others.

Needless to say, the number of equipment that you can use, with the basic detector, as well as the accessories, is just endless. Despite the fact that those things are highly useful for experts in this field, beginners like you should only focus first on a metal detector.

As a beginner, you would certainly not want to be bothered with spending a huge amount of money on something that may be useless, especially if you decide later on that this hobby is not for you. Later on, we can discuss the accessories and their uses, but for now, it is best to look into the benefits of entry level detectors.

A good quality entry level metal detector may cost you between $160 and $400. Detectors that are above this price range can already be considered as midlevel, as they are ones that usually comes with more feature and settings.

One of the common mistakes by beginners in metal detecting is purchasing equipment that is not fit for their level. Most of the time, they think too highly, and end up purchasing more expensive equipment, thinking that they are easier to use as they are usually more automated.

However, machines that are more expensive are usually designed for gold prospecting in locations where there is known presence of gold under the ground. On the other hand, if you are looking for an all-around equipment, the maximum price that you can expect is $2,500. This is even for the most advanced features, with all the automated settings.

There are several companies that make metal detectors these days. Garrett and Bounty Hunter are among the most popular among beginners. While Bounty Hunter offers the most affordable options, they may not par with the quality you expect, thus sacrificing the entire experience.

For a few bucks extra, you can get the metal detector that can fit right to your needs. If you change your mind about this hobby, you can always put your equipment for sale on eBay or other selling sites, and expect to get your money back.

Places to Do Metal Detecting

There are a lot of places where you can do metal detecting. Some of them are the following:

  • Woods
  • Beaches
  • Public parks
  • Public schools
  • Private property

Again, these are the ‘possible’ places where you can do metal detecting. However, before setting out on this activity, it is very important to be completely sure that you are allowed to hunt in the area where you want to do it.

It is very important to understand that hunting without getting permission should not be done for this hobby. Even though a place is considered as public property, it is still important to ensure that you are allowed to do metal detecting there.

For instance, some public parks do not allow metal detecting, particularly if they are run by the state and county. Also, federal parks are not allowed too. Therefore, it is highly recommended to check with your local government laws before bringing your metal detector in a public area.

If you are planning to do metal detecting on public school properties, the same thing applies. Make sure that you have permission to do so. Some hobbyists contact the school district superintendent in order to get permission to do metal detecting for every school located within the district.

When metal detecting on woods located within the premises of a public land, make sure that you watch out for signs and posts. When you are so into the activity, it is very easy to wander off into private lands while thinking that you are still in a public area.

Usually, the safest places to do metal detecting are beaches. Still, it is very important to watch out for signs. There are also some beaches that are either owned privately, or owned by the Federal/State governments. These places are usually off limits.

Private lands, however, are usually the best places for hunting. For one, there is a guarantee that no one else, or just a few of them, have detected in the place before. As such, there is a higher likelihood of finding things as compared to public lands.

Also, you can work together with the landowner, as he or she can provide you with clues where you can start with your hunt. Perhaps they have observed some broken pottery in a certain spot some years ago. That would be a good place to start the hunt.

Whether you are metal detecting on a public land or private property, getting permission should be given important consideration. Even though verbal permission may be enough for a private property, it is always best to get written permission for public, as well as government owned properties.

With this, you can bring with you the written permission, whether an actual letter or a print out of an email, all the times while out there metal detecting. In this way, if you are approached by anybody, you can show the proof that you have the permission to hunt there. After securing permission for the hunt, you can now proceed to the next phase.

Etiquette in Metal Detecting

Just like with any other activities, there are things that you have to take into consideration as etiquette in metal detecting. Here are some of them:

  • Observe the Golden Rule at all times. This means showing good manners at all times, as this will add to the public image and stature of all the people who are also engaged in this type of activity.
  • Clean up properly. Make sure that you carry all dug targets and rubbish with you as you leave every search area. Do not leave litter behind, including discarded junk items that are lying around.
  • Make sure that you do not destroy anything within the property. This applies particularly true if you are working on remains of structures that are deserted, as well as when dealing with signs, fences, as well as buildings.
  • Cooperate with the law enforcement officials when necessary
  • Keep yourself updated and obey all legislation relating to reporting and the discovery of discovered treasures.
  • Respect is very important. This applies to all public, private, historical, as well as archaeological areas. Make sure that you avoid metal detecting in these areas without getting permission first.
  • Fill the holes that you dig.

Now, why are these items very important to observe? For one, following legislation will allow you to enjoy the entire experience, without risking the possibility of metal detecting the next time.

After all, government officials and private landowners might no longer give you permission to do metal detecting if you leave holes unfilled, or treating the area in an irresponsible way.

Your being irresponsible might be the reason why other metal defectors might not be able to get permission because of your actions.

A good rule of thumb in detecting is leaving the place looking exactly the same before you started, or even better, if possible.

Getting Approval to Do Metal Detecting

Regardless of the reason why you are into metal detecting, one of the most common obstacles that you might encounter is getting access to good hunting spots. Some people feel silly or nervous as they start to knock on a landowner’s house just to get permission.

This reason is highly valid. After all, metal detecting is an activity that is not really common in some areas. In fact, there might even be people who do not have any idea at all what metal detecting is.

At the same time, if you decide to hunt in suburban areas, where the green lawns are well-kept, other people might simply tell you to keep off. These people might have spent money and time on maintaining their lawns, and would not want you to just dig up.

Let’s face it, digging on their property can turn out to be a deal breaker to most owners. However, if you take the time to explain the deal properly, that is, by showing them how you dig those small plugs to locate targets, and completely explain the process of digging only good signals, the landowner will understand the process.

However, if you do not feel comfortable in knocking to ask permission, there are certain alternative options that you can take into consideration. For instance, you can send a letter, drop a business card or flyer in their mailbox, or call them on the phone. After doing all of these things, it is still best to meet with them personally in order to ask permission.

The most important thing that you have to remember is to be straightforward and honest with them. The usual deal is that the detectorist can keep everything that they find unless the owner asks to keep something specifically. After all, it can be a family treasure that they need to keep for an heirloom.

As part of the etiquette in metal detecting, a detectorist has the obligation to return lost jewelry, items, and other items that belong to the property owner. Now that you finally have the permission to have access to a property, the next thing that you can focus on is how to metal detect in a responsible way.

Digging the Responsible Way

As a general rule, it is best to use a hand digger on properties less than two acres. Any size more than that should let you consider getting a mid-sized digger in order to be faster when it comes to digging.

A hand digger is serrated on a side, which makes it possible for digging easy, as well as in cutting through the roots. If you are right handed, choose a digger that is serrated on the right part. At the same time, lefties should choose a digger with serrations on the left edge.

Now that you have the right digger for your needs, let’s look into the steps on how to dig a plug:

  1. When you have already pinpointed on a target that you need to dig, get your hand digger, and mark the spot. From the target spot, back off around 3 to 5 inches, sticking your digger right into the ground.
  2. Using a counter clockwise move, you can cut away the grass sod until you form a horseshoe shape around the target. Keep in mind that you are not cutting a complete circle in this regard. As you cut the grass, make sure to go down at least 3 inches. This applies even though your target is only 1 inch. This can provide the assurance that you are not killing the roots of the grass.
  3. After cutting around the target, use your hand digger in order to pry open, and then flip the plug to the head. Keep in mind that you have cut your plug with a horseshoe shape. Therefore, the part that is not cut will not serve as a hinge that can be used in flipping open the plug. The grass should now be upside down completely above the grass that is just adjacent to the hole.
  4. Bring out your trowel, and put it down into the grass, just directly in front of the dug hole. If you cannot see your target, you can use a handheld pinpointer to check on the plug first, and then the hole. If you have to dig away more dirt from either the hole or the plug, put them on the towel.
  5. After recovering the target, you can start lifting up both of the ends of the towel, sliding back any dirt to the hole. Then, you can flip the plug back, pressing down completely. You can even step on the plug with your foot several times in order to ensure that it is there. In order to ensure that the grass is not matted, use your hand to properly brush the grass.

Carrying and Cleaning Your Finds

metal-detecting-finds

What should you do next after locating your finds? Obviously, it is important to keep them safe throughout the rest of the hunting activity. Of course, carrying your finds should go hand in hand with making sure that you dispose of your trash responsibly. Chances are, you are going to encounter a lot of them.

For this, you need some accessories for metal detecting. For example, you would need a belt pouch which has two or more pockets. In one pocket, you can place your finds, and on the other, the trash. By doing so, you will find that disposing of the trash after the hunt becomes a whole lot easier.

In case you find something that is really precious and valuable, you surely would not want to put it together with the rest of your other finds as it may be damaged. It is recommended by expert detectorists to bring with you a special plastic case that is filled with cotton balls. This case may not really be fancy. Basically, what you need is something that can transport those highly valuable finds without them getting damaged.

After carrying your finds successfully, the next thing that you might need to consider is how to clean them. This is the stage which will allow you to determine their worth. This primarily applies to coins and jewelry.

If you are planning to sell your finds, the value of the item may be ruined during cleaning. After all, serious collectors of coins consider cleaned coins as damaged. On the other hand, if you do not have plans on selling them, you can clean them thoroughly, yet carefully.

For this, you can use a soft bristled brush with you in your pouch so that you can clean them lightly. This applies when you are still there in the hunting area. However, once you get home, you can continue the cleaning process using dish soap and warm water. Make sure that you avoid using strong chemicals because the metal might be eaten away.

For iron relics that are heavily crusted, a lot of people go for electrolysis. This process, however, is not for beginners, but you can note that a procedure like this exists for future reference. Another way in which you can possibly clean your finds is by using a rock tumbler. Just remember, though, that this is applicable to low value items such as wheat pennies.

As a general rule of thumb in cleaning your finds, never clean them unless you are already sure of the value. If you are planning to sell it, cleaning may easily run the value, particularly if you find rare coins.

Do Your Research

While you can easily find information online, most of them are simply offering you a glimpse of the basics. However, if you want to become ultimately successful in this hobby, doing your own research will do you good.

Why is it very important to do so? While this hobby can allow you to have fun and just enjoy the experience, it will never hurt to be more productive, and find better hunts and finds by doing your research. How is proper metal detecting research done? Here are some ways to do so:

  • Local History Books

Most of the items that you are bound to find have something to do with history. Where else can you find information about them but from local history books? Whether they are published by a local historian, or by the society, you can have access to the best pieces of information, thus allowing you to be familiar with some finds.

Aside from actual printed books, you can also do searches in Google, especially about historical pieces in your locality. Why in a local setting? Obviously, you will be searching in your area. By knowing the events in the past, you can have some hints on where the best places are to do metal detecting, and know what to expect for your potential finds.

  • Old Maps

There is no question that old maps are the best resources for information while doing research. As you look at old maps of your area, you can have a lot of ideas on where you can possibly hunt. It can also serve as stimuli for granular research, leading you to browse for old newspapers.

Depending on your actual area of residence, you can also search for online tools that are available which are amazing in comparing some of the old maps with modern day maps. One helpful website is HistoricAerials.com.

All you have to do is type the address and quickly view the overlays of some old maps. For instance, you can view modern day map of your area, comparing it with an overlay of a 1930 map in the same area. It would be fun for you to see how the area has easily changed through time.

The next question is, where can you find these old maps? You can find them in your local library. They have everything, ranging from old maps, to microfilms, and old periodicals. You can personally talk with your librarian since most of the time, these old publications are hidden in a special storage.

  • Treasure Guides (State Specific)

The treasure guides mentioned here refer to state specific ones. Most of them can be purchased from a local metal detecting store, or online sources, such as Amazon. These guides include historical events and sites, old maps, local folklore, marching routes, campgrounds, military battle sites, and more.

Despite the fact that these books can provide you amazing information, most of them are not really practical because some sites will just be off limits, and may need special approval to get permission. However, these sources of information can still be very entertaining for you who loves history and finds.

  • Old Newspapers

Aside from the old newspapers that you will find in your local library, there are other options on repositories where you can find old newspapers. For example, you can visit www.newspapers.com, a paid tool owned by the very same company running www.ancestry.com.

These websites allow you to do keyword searches in order to narrow down your search. Whether you search for a certain event, place, family, most likely you will find the information there. The only limitation to this is that only bigger newspaper names have their own database.

  • Magazines for Metal Detecting

Among the very important sources of research that you should know include magazines for metal detecting. If you are really serious about improving your skills and learning better techniques on how to metal detect, investing on a magazine subscription is an option that you can consider.

These magazines may cover different things such as the latest news in treasure hunting, tips in metal detecting, tech talk, new models of metal detectors, manufacturer specials, as well as modern day stories of great adventures and finds.

Just Enjoy It!

enjoying-metal-detecting

There you go! You now have all the basics that you need to know in order to be guided in your adventure towards metal detecting. You now have knowledge as to the things that you need, how to begin, and other tips for success. However, keep in mind that having the right tools and equipment is not enough.

Metal detecting is a hobby, which means that passion should be there in order to enjoy the entire experience. Just enjoy hunting and you will discover that finding rare items and treasures is just an added bonus for you.

Still, if you want to be serious and more skilled in metal detecting, the above guide can surely help you out. Choosing the right metal detector, accessories, and of course, techniques, will help you achieve your goal of being successful in your next metal detecting trip. Just enjoy the experience, and you will find your time all worth it!