To many people, people walking around scanning the ground with metal detectors look pretty silly, but you shouldn’t knock it before you try it.It’s actually a really exciting and downright addictive way to pass the time.
Not only can you find some really interesting historically significant items, but you may even score some pretty valuable treasures. In fact, for some people, metal detecting is quite a lucrative hobby.
If metal detecting intrigues you and you’re thinking about joining in on the fun and adventure, it’s important to prepare yourself before you head out. Sure, you could just grab any old metal detector and start scanning the ground to see what you can score, but if you want your newfound hobby to be as enjoyable – and successful – as possible, being prepared is an absolute must.
In this guide, you’ll learn all the basics of metal detecting for beginners. We cover:
- The history of metal detecting
- Why metal detecting is a popular pastime
- Equipment you’ll need
- How to choose the best metal detector for your needs
- Where to metal detect
- Metal detecting decorum
- How to get permission to scan
- Tips for responsible digging
- Cleaning your treasures
- Helpful tools and accessories
So, sit back, relax, and get ready for your introduction to the exciting world of metal detecting
The History of Metal Detecting
- 1 The History of Metal Detecting
- 2 Why Metal Detecting is a Popular Pastime
- 3 Equipment You’ll Need
- 4 How to Choose the Best Metal Detector for Your Needs
- 5 Where to Metal Detect
- 6 Metal Detecting Decorum
- 7 How to Get Permission to Metal Detect
- 8 Tips for Responsible Digging
- 9 Cleaning Your Treasures
- 10 Helpful Tools and Accessories
- 11 Summing It Up
Metal detecting can be traced all the way back to 1881, when Alexander Graham Bell (yes, that Alexander Graham Bell, created the world’s first metal detector.
The famous inventor made the device to search for the bullet that an assassin shot into President James Garfield. Bell called his crude metal detector the “induction balance”. Unfortunately, the device was unable to locate the bullet in Garfield.
Fast forward to 1925 and the first portable metal detector was developed by Dr. Gerhard Fischer, a research engineer. Dr. Fischer’s work with aircraft radio detection inspired his idea for a portable metal detector.
He shared his vision with another famous inventor and scientist, Albert Einstein, who encouraged Fischer to proceed with his idea. In 1931, Gerhard Fischer patented his idea and founded Fisher Research Laboratory to mass produce and market hand held metal detectors for use by the general public.
While Dr. Fischer did obtain the first patent for his handheld metal detector technology and design, there were several other inventors who worked on refining and perfecting the technologies that are still being used in today’s modern metal detectors. Charles Garrett was one of those people.
Professionally, Garrett was an electrical engineer, but in the early part of the 1960s, he took up metal detecting as a hobby. Despite trying several different devices that were on the market at the time, he couldn’t find a metal detector that could do everything that he wanted it to; hence, he started working on his own design.
After conducting extensive research, he developed a highly advanced machine and founded Garrett Metal Detectors.
Thanks to the ideas and contributions of several professional and amateur enthusiast and ever-evolving technologies, the modern hand held metal detector was eventually created. Today, the technologies continue to change and new, highly advanced models are constantly introduced into the market.
The future of metal detectors is anyone’s guess, but one thing’s for sure: metal detecting is here to stay.
Why Metal Detecting is a Popular Pastime
There’s no doubt you’ve see people metal detecting before. You can see enthusiasts scanning their devices over the grounds of beaches, parks, and historical grounds across the world. But why is it that so many people seem to love metal detecting? Why is it such a popular pastime?
Those are difficult questions to answer, as each person’s purpose for metal detecting is different. However, with that said, some of the most common reasons that most people enjoy this pastime include:
- To uncover history. Countless historically significant items have been found buried underneath the ground with simple hand held metal detectors. There’s something so exciting and rewarding about finding a piece of history that you can actually hold in your hand!
- To locate treasures. Antique and modern coins, precious metals; so many valuable treasures have unearthed thanks to the help of metal detectors. Those monetary value of those treasures vary from mere pennies to thousands of dollars (if not more), but regardless of the value, a metal detector can lead you to real treasure!
- To be physically active and enjoy the outdoors. It’s no secret that physical fitness is important, but for many people, going to the gym and other forms of exercise are boring or just too taxing. Metal detecting is the perfect way to stay in shape. It not only gives you the chance to get outside and enjoy nature, but it’s also a great way to stay in shape. Walking is an excellent aerobic activity that provides numerous health benefits, and when you’re metal detecting, you can walk miles without even realizing it!
While many people assume that financial gain is the main reason why people enjoy metal detecting, in reality, for most enthusiasts, the thrill of finding hidden treasures from the past and exercise are the main attractions.
There’s nothing quite as exciting as hearing that blipping sound and digging up your first find! Even if it’s a small coin or a trinket from yesteryear, most people find that once they unearth that first item, they’re hooked and can’t wait to see what else they can find!
Equipment You’ll Need
If the idea of finding buried treasure, participating in an enjoyable and exciting form of exercise, and potentially finding something really valuable has you intrigued, before you start scanning the ground, it’s important to discuss how you get started with this exciting (and even addictive) hobby.
It goes without saying that you’re going to need to invest in a hand held metal detector. There are literally endless options to choose from that offer varying degrees of technologies and are sold at several different price points.
While you might be tempted to buy a high-end model, for beginners, we suggest starting with an entry level device. Those detectors that offer the latest technologies are great, but besides costing a pretty penny, using them can also be a bit difficult to figure out.
When you’re just getting started, an entry level, basic model is really all you need. If you discover that you really do like metal detecting and you want to upgrade, you can buy a more advanced model later on.
Some great brands to consider include:
There’s a lot of other metal detecting gear. Diggers, scoops, pouches, gloves, probes (the list goes on and on), and while those items may be useful for more advanced metal detectors, when you’re just getting started out, a basic metal detector is really all you need.
How to Choose the Best Metal Detector for Your Needs
With so many different types of metal detectors, shopping for your first one can seem a little overwhelming. So, how can you be sure that you’re choosing the right device for your needs?
Here are a few factors that you should take into consideration to help you determine which metal detector will work best for you:
- Where are you planning on hunting? While it’s true that entry level metal detectors can be used to detect treasure on most types of land, some work better for certain environments than others. For example, if you mostly plan on beach hunting, you might want to consider investing in a metal detector that is specifically designed for use over the sand. (More on popular metal detecting locations below).
- What type of items are you aiming to find? Coins, artifacts, precious metals, such as gold or silver? (More on this topic below).
- How familiar and comfortable are you with technology?
- What type of experience do you have with metal detecting? Have you been out before with friends, perhaps, or will you be hunting for the first time ever?
- How much are you looking to spend?
While taking these factors into consideration can definitely help guide your selection, the reality is this: all metal detectors – no matter how rudimentary or advanced – are designed to do the same thing: locate metal objects.
So, what’s with the different price tags and what makes some models more advanced than others? It’s the different types of technologies and extra features.
To further clarify, let’s say there’s a gold nugget buried under the ground. You’re using a machine that costs $100 and someone else is using a machine that costs $1,000.
Both metal detectors are going to be able to locate the gold nugget. Here’s why the two devices differ: While the $100 metal detector will be able to locate the piece of gold, if there’s a metal bottle cap near the nugget, the $100 detector won’t be able to determine what you’re aiming to find.
In this case, the $1,000 metal detector would likely be able to indicate that there are two different targets; one being treasure and the other being junk.
This is just one way in which less expensive entry level metal detectors are different from higher-end, more expensive devices.
Good Entry Level Metal Detectors
So, with all of that said, which metal detector should you pick when you’re just getting started out? Here’s our picks for some great entry level devices:
- The F22 by Fisher
- The ACE 300 by Garrett
- The X-Terra 305 by Minelab
- The Eurotek Pro by Teknetics
Where to Metal Detect
Once you have your first metal detector in hand, you’re probably wondering where you should go to search for your first piece of treasure. The truth is, you can search anywhere; even your own backyard (in fact, you might be surprised at what type of treasures you’ll find right on your own property).
Besides your own yard, where else should you consider scanning the ground with your metal detector? Some of the most popular places that people search include:
- Public parks
- Public school grounds
- The beach
- The woods
- Private property
It’s important to note, however, that before you start scanning, you need to be 100 percent certain that you are allowed to metal detect in the area that you’ve selected.
If you are metal detecting in a location where you aren’t allowed to and you don’t get the proper permission, you could end up facing some pretty serious consequences. Don’t risk it; check in with your government offices to ensure that you are allowed to metal detect before you just start scanning the ground. Just because a place is “public”, that doesn’t mean that you’re automatically allowed to metal detect, as a lot of public spaces prohibit this type of activity.
This is particularly true of federal, state, and county public locations. The same thing is true for public schools; always make sure you ask.
As for beaches, they’re pretty much open to metal detecting; however, privately owned beaches or beaches that are owned and operated by state and federal governments may prohibit this activity.
If you’re thinking about metal detecting on private property, again, the first thing you want to do is ask permission. Imagine a land owner’s horror and dismay if they found someone unexpectedly scanning their grounds? You could end up getting in pretty big trouble.
To summarize, there are a lot of places that you can metal detect, but as a general rule of thumb, always make sure you get proper permission before you get started.
Metal Detecting Decorum
It’s important that you are mindful of the land where you plan on hunting and the people who surround you. If you aren’t, in the best case scenario, you’ll end up getting some pretty nasty looks; in the worst case, you could be hit with serious fines and possibly even jail time.
How can you be sure that you are being a mindful, respectful metal detector? Here are some general decorum tips that will guide you on your hunting prospects:
- Be respectful of all property, including public, private, and historical sites.
- Never, ever hunt on any property – other than properties that you rightfully own – without first getting permission.
- Do not, under any circumstances, inflict any type of destruction on any property you are hunting on. This includes buildings, signs, fences, lamp posts, and any other structures.
- Always fill any holes that you may dig.
- Follow all legislation – both on a local and a national level – that are related to the finding and reporting of any and all treasures that you find.
- Any trash or debris that you create should be completely removed from the area when you are finished with your hunts.
- Lastly, you should always adhere to the Golden Rule; that is, you should always practice proper manners and conduct yourself in a proper manner that will respectfully portray all other individuals who engage in the act of metal detecting.
As a general rule of thumb, make sure that you always leave the locations where you are hunting like they were when you approached them; if not in even better condition.
How to Get Permission to Metal Detect
As we’ve mentioned multiple times, you need to make sure that you get the proper permission before you start metal detecting on any property, other than property that you legally own.
Getting permission might sound simple, but for a lot of people, it’s awkward, and that’s understandable. Walking up to someone’s door and asking if you can walk around their property with a metal detector does seem a little weird.
Furthermore, some property owners might hesitate to allow you to hunt on their land because they might fear that you’ll damage their property, and that’s understandable, too.
So, how do you go about asking for permission? They key is to make sure you are confident, kind, and knowledgeable in your approach. You want to convey that you’re a “professional”, even if you’re only an amateur.
To that end, you might want to make up some business cards or a flyer that highlights your name, contact information, what you intend on doing, and your purpose for metal detecting. You could then knock on a property owner’s door and present the card or flyer; or, if you feel really weird doing that, you might want to consider sending it via the mail. If you opt for the latter approach, make sure that you ask the property owner to reach out to you with their response.
Tips for Responsible Digging
Now let’s discuss digging responsibly. On properties that are two acres or less, you should only use a hand digger (sometimes called a digging knife).
We like the digging tool made by Lesche. It features a serrated edge on one side, which makes digging through all types of roots a breeze.
When you’re digging for a target that you find, it’s referred to as a “plug”. This is the method that you should use on well-maintained lawns; school grounds and public parks, for example. Here are some tips to help you dig a plug with ease:
- Once you locate a target, place your digger about 3 to 5 inches from the location.
- Working in a counter-clockwise fashion, cut away at the ground. You don’t want to cut out a full circle, but rather a horseshoe. To avoid killing the roots of the grass, dig at least 3 inches into the ground.
- Once you’ve made a horseshoe-like shape, pry up the ground with your digger.
- Flip the plug so that it’s grass-down, using the part of the plug that you didn’t cut as a hinge of sorts.
- Place a towel next to the ground right in front of the hole you’ve dug.
- If you can’t locate the target, use your digger to remove more soil, placing that soil on the towel.
- Remove your target from the ground.
- Place any dirt on the towel back into the hole.
- Flip the plug back over the hole.
- Tamp down on the top of the plug, applying firm, yet gentle pressure with your foot.
Cleaning Your Treasures
Once you’ve recovered your targets from the ground, the next thing you’re going to want to do is clean them. They’ve been under the ground, so they’re going to be covered in soil.
To properly clean your, use the following tips:
- Bring a soft-bristled toothbrush with you on your metal detecting excursions. Use this to brush off any loose dirt on the surface of your finds.
- Once you take your treasures home, use dish soap mixed with warm water and a soft-bristled toothbrush to clean them off. We strongly recommend that you avoid using strong chemicals or abrasive cleaners, as doing so could damage the items you’ve found.
- Alternatively, you could use a rock tumbler. It’s important to note, however, that this method of cleaning should only be used for items that are of lesser value.
It’s important to note that if you aren’t sure of the value of the objects you find, especially if you plan on selling them, you should avoid cleaning them. This is particularly true of rare coins and precious metals, as improper cleaning could significantly reduce the value of the item. For these items, wrap them in a towel and bring them to a professional to have them appraised.
Helpful Tools and Accessories
Now, let’s take a look at some helpful tools and accessories that you may want to invest:
- A pinpointer, which is used to pinpoint your target, telling you the exact location of the item in your plug.
- Diggers, which we’ve already covered above.
- You won’t need them if you’re only planning on hunting for fun, but if you want to get serious about metal detecting, headphones can come in really useful, as they will help you locate your target with better accuracy.
- Coil covers, also known as scuffs. They come standard with some brands of metal detectors, but not others. If yours doesn’t come with this accessory, you should consider buying them, as they protect the search coil of your metal detector from scratches and scuffs.
- Pouches and bags are helpful, too, as they can be used to carry your tools and your finds.
Summing It Up
In this guide, we’ve covered the basics of metal detecting for beginners. Now that you have this information, go ahead and suit yourself up with a metal detector and the appropriate tools, then head out and have some fun!