Frequently Asked Questions

This page is made available to provide answers to the many questions that arise about metal detecting. A list of the most frequently asked questions has been developed and answers are provided here. Beginners to the hobby of metal detecting should find this page of great value as it is a good place to start the search for answers to the many questions they might have when first entering into this hobby. Visit this page often as new questions are developed and answers to those questions are posted on this page.

What is Metal Detecting?

What is metal detecting? Most everyone has seen those crazy people on the beaches, in the parks, and in schoolyards wearing the headphones (that every once in a while make a funny beeping sound) and waving a funny looking device back and forth just above the surface of the ground. Yes, that is metal detecting. You probably wondered if they ever find anything of value, or do they mostly find junk, such as rusty nails and those infamous soda can pull tabs. If you ever try the hobby of metal detecting you will find out that, in fact, these treasure hunters, of sorts, do find items of value.

Metal detecting is a very rewarding hobby. It is a good form of exercise, the “finds” can be both valuable and exciting, and some people even make a living at it. Equipment costs to enter into the hobby can be kept to a minimal amount, or a person can go “off the deep end” and spend several hundred dollars if they want to purchase a top-of-the-line detector. There are many types of detectors available from many manufacturers throughout the United States and other countries. Take a look at some of the manufacturer’s websites by going to the Related Websites Page link provided below. Selecting the right detector to start with can be rather difficult for newcomers to the hobby. It is recommended that someone just starting in the hobby should contact a club or organization such as our Club, The Midwest Coinshooters and Historical Club, to help them get started. This gives a person the chance to meet with others who have experience using a metal detector and are very willing to help them learn about this exciting and rewarding hobby. Many Club members have an extra detector available, to lend to someone just starting, so that they can get a feel for whether they indeed will enjoy the hobby or not.

Anyway, back to what is metal detecting? In general, it is the use of an electronic machine consisting of a coilhead (the part near the ground that is moved back and forth)that is connected to a type of indication device (located farther up on the handle) that detects variations in the ground that the detector is passed over. The coilhead senses variations caused by changes in mineralization of the soil and differences due to metallic objects imbedded in the ground. It is, of course, the metal items, which could be old coins, metal relics, jewelry, and the proverbial pull tab or rusty nail, that the person at the other end of the detector is seeking. When the coil is passed over a metallic object in the ground, the electronic balance within the coil head is disturbed and a signal is sent to the indication device. This device, called the control box, varies in complexity from one detector to the next. It may have a meter or LCD display which gives an indication of what the detector can best determine that it just passed over. It may also include a speaker which gives out various tones or beeps that the operator learns to recognize as different types of target readings. Headphones are often used in place of the speaker to eliminate outside noises and allow the user to better hear the signals eminating from the control box. The control box typically has several controls-knobs, buttons, and switches that the operator must learn about so that the detector is “tuned properly” for the location that is being searched. It is this “learning how to adjust the detector to achieve it’s maximum capabilities”, that separates a metal detectorist who finds all the good stuff from those that don’t ever find anything good. As in any hobby or sport that involves using a piece of equipment, the success comes when the individual excells in the knowledge of the use of the equipment.

The hobby of metal detecting does have a set of guidelines that must be followed. These guidelines, known as the “Detectorist’s Code of Ethics” is strictly followed and demonstrated by our Club members. Newcomers to the hobby should learn about these ethics and follow them from the very beginning. The code of ethics is very straight forward and will keep you from potentially getting into any trouble while out metal detecting. Take a couple of minutes and read through the code of ethics provided at the end of this article.

So you have finally purchased a detector for yourself and now you can’t wait to use it. Where do you go to hunt and what can you expect to find? One of the keys to being a successful and happy detectorist is learning how to find a hunt site that will produce the type of items you are interested in finding. It is very important to do some research to find these sites. Information can be found at your local library, from an historical society in your area, from old photos, old maps, newspaper clippings, talking with old people, and many other sources. Of course, you must determine if the area you plan to hunt has some historical background that would indicate that the type of item you are looking for may ever have been lost there. Old coins and jewelry can be found almost anywhere people have congregated in the large numbers in the past-such as fairs, picnics, swimming holes, and sporting events. Artifacts such as old keys, Civil War collectibles, and other personal type items are more likely to be found around old homesites or known battle fields. It is strongly noted here that: YOU MUST HAVE PROPER PERMISSION TO HUNT PRIVATE PROPERTY AND ALL HISTORICAL SITES ARE OFF-LIMITS TO METAL DETECTING. SERIOUS FINES AND PENALTIES MAY BE INCURRED IF YOU ARE CAUGHT DETECTING FOR ARTIFACTS AT AN HISTORICAL SITE. DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT DOING IT!!
If you are not sure whether it is legal to detect a certain location, do not even attempt to do it until you have made sure it is legal and have received proper permission(written permission is best)to do so.

There are many more details that could be provided here, but perhaps the best way to find out what metal detecting is all about is to actually try it. Get involved with a metal detecting club or at least someone you know that has done some metal detecting, and the treasure hunting bug is likely to bite you. Perhaps it is the feeling that maybe the next target I dig will be a gold coin lost more than a hundred years ago or maybe it will be that wedding ring that a friend of yours lost and asked you to help find, or it may be just another pull tab, but most of all it is just the satisfaction of knowing that it is me that found it. Good luck if you try METAL DETECTING-IT IS CERTAIN THAT YOU WILL ENJOY IT!

How Deep will a Detector Find Targets?

All beginners ask this question. The answer is not an easy, straight forward one. The quality of the detector being used, coil size, target size, soil conditions, ground moisture. detectorist’s ability, and the time the target has been in the ground are all variables that come into play when trying to answer this question. In general, coins and relatively small targets can be found by most detectors up to six inches deep under most conditions. Others may even be found up to ten inches deep under the best of conditions. Lesser quality detectors may only find coins to a maximum of four inches. Since the skill of the person using the detector comes into play for finding deeper targets, it is imperative that the detectoist understand the operation and appropriate control settings for his machine and that the upmost of patience be used when metal detecting. Listening for the very faint signal, moving slowly and methodically, and digging most every signal will result in more finds and thus improve the chance of producing more finds that are of more value.

What Detector Should I Buy?

To determine which detector to buy when first getting into this hobby, one must establish a baseline and do some research up front. Are you serious about getting into the hobby? If so, you may want to start out with a more expensive machine. Of course, you must determine what can you afford to pay for a machine. If you start out with an inexpensive machine and have poor results with it, you will get discouraged and probably not stay with the hobby-thus you have wasted some money on a machine that ends up stored in a closet. Determine what sort of targets you want to find and do some research on the many detectors available that will typically find those targets. Don’t buy a machine designed to find coins and artifacts if you plan to look mostly for gold nuggets. Set a price in your mind that you can afford, and are willing to pay, and research detectors in that price range that have the features you desire. While there are many detectors on the market that will probably fall into both your price range and have the features you want, you should be able to narrow down your choices to just a couple of machines. Contact the various detector distributors and do some shopping around to find the best deal. These can be found on the internet and in advertisements in the treasure magazines. Place your order, and before you know it, your new machine will be in your hands and you will be studying the operation manual with building anticipation of making your first good find.

Where Can I Metal Detect?

There are probably more areas to metal detect than you can imagine. The most important thing to remember about metal detecting any location is to be sure that you have appropriate permission, preferably in writing, before you even start. Never, ever, metal detect on any historic, private, archaeological significant,or any site that you do not know the specifics about such as ownership or historical significance, even if you enter such a site by accidently crossing an unmarked border. You must make yourself familar with the area you intend to hunt BEFORE you enter an area. If unsure whether a site can be metal detected, do your absolute best to contact the appropriate individuals or authorities to determine if permission to hunt is required and will be granted. Most parks, school yards, and other non-private property can be hunted, sometimes without permission, though it is best to check with park or school authorities if you have any question at all as to whether it is allowed. Private property can be hunted only if the property owners permission is obtained, preferably in writing. Sometimes making a deal in advance about sharing finds with the property owner will help to get you the chance to hunt their property. National and state parks are typically off-limits to detecting, though some state parks that have swimming beaches may allow detecting at certain times if a request is made ahead of time by writing to park officials. All National Historic sites are off-limits and should never be considered for detecting. Known archaeological sites (and those that may not even be acknowledged as official sites) are off-limits and fines, equipment confiscation, and other penalties may be imposed if you are caught metal detecting at such a site-never do it! Do research before you go out to detect and you will certainly find numerous places to detect that will produce good finds.