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Finding an exciting hobby is complicated for some people, because they want a bunch of things combined within one hobby – the ability to spend time outdoors, the ability to socialize, the ability to stay alone if they want, the ability to learn new things and open new horizons, the ability to find value in what they do. Not many average hobbies can meet such a complicated set of demands, but luckily, there is one hobby that definitely can, and this is metal detecting! Not the type of metal detecting they use in airports, of course, but hobby metal detecting for coins, relics, and other treasures in the ground.
Metal detecting is actually a very popular hobby with thousands of passionate and devoted fans all over the world. If you haven’t heard of it by now, well… now you know. Hobby metal detecting has been around for decades, along with the industrial metal detecting of all kinds, it is just today, more technologies and devices are available to the treasure hunters than, say, 50 years ago. This is one of the reasons why metal detecting becomes more and more popular literally every year.
This is how it works – a treasure hunter chooses locations where they believe they can find something interesting, like ancient coins, relics, ancient or modern jewelry, artifacts of all kinds, etc. The treasure hunter goes and searches around the location with a metal detector – a device developed specifically for this hobby. There are many various types of these devices, for various locations, targets, and for different levels of expertise, from beginner to professional. If the treasure hunter is lucky, and everything goes as expected, some really valuable things can be spotted. The success of the metal detecting session depends on many things – location and soil, sometimes even weather, the expertise of the detectorist, the way they operate with their machine, whether the machine fits the location and target, and so on. More on these details below in the post!
If you’d like to learn more about metal detecting in all details, you can take advantage of our metal detecting book for beginners.
If you are located in the UK, Canada, Australia, or other country, and you want info on your particular jurisdiction, please check out the links below to read more about local legislation guidelines and local metal detecting nuances.
Check out what are the metal detecting laws in the US, with each state described separately in terms of local laws, allowed locations, and basic restrictions.
Metal Detecting Laws in US
Check out the biggest metal detecting and treasure hunting clubs in the US. Find like-minded people in your state and detect together!
Metal Detecting Clubs in US
Find out what are the basic laws on metal detecting in different countries around the world. This list will give you a basic understanding of the situation in your area.
Worldwide Metal Detecting Laws
Find out what local laws are applied to metal detecting in the UK, what authorities are responsible for treasure hunting regulations and how to collab with them.
Metal Detecting in United Kingdom
Learn more about metal detecting in Canada, including laws in every particular province. Find out which places are allowed and which ones are prohibited.
Metal Detecting in Canada
Learn the basic metal detecting laws and trends in Australia, find out more about local gold prospecting, and make sure you know what rules are applied to this hobby.
Metal Detecting in Australia
Metal detecting as a hobby has a list of amazing benefits, and the best thing about metal detecting is that it combines sets of advantages that are simply impossible with other hobbies; for example, you can treasure hunt alone of you want, or you can do that in a company of friends as part of your BBQ hangout. Check out the full list of advantages given by metal detecting hobby:
Treasure hunting mostly takes place outdoors, and this is a valuable chance of breathing fresh air and see something else than your office or apartment walls.
Metal detecting suggests moderate and controlled physical exercise that lasts at least two-three hours. Such “slow” outdoors exercising is advantageous for the body.
Interest in metal detecting is shared by many people around the globe; newbie detectorist can enter local clubs and also become part of a huge global community.
Metal detecting always suggests some travelling, even if that happens around the neighborhood. Exploring new locations is always exciting and saves from boredom.
Many treasure hunters are interested in history, and searching for treasures often means knowing local history well, finding out unknown facts, or sites.
Metal detecting can be meaningful – the detectorist can help people find their belongings, locate ancient relics, or find valuable items they can eventually sell.
Detectorists often start their own collections of coins, relics, war items, or other items they are interested in. Some collections become really valuable with time.
Treasure hunting always leaves a chance to find a culturally or historically significant item or hoard, become worldwide famous, and also rich.
Metal detecting can instantly make you the most interesting person in the room who can tell awesome stories about history, hoards, lost treasures, and unusual search sessions.
Metal detecting can be extremely rewarding even if you don’t find many super valuable items, because the process of search is rewarding on its own. Share this hobby with your friends or family, and you will enjoy lots of good time together.
In fact, metal detecting is not a limited type of fun solely for men, or solely for young people. Anyone can hunt for treasures – men, women, and even children of any age (but children, of course, must do that under the supervision of the adults). Most likely, this activity will be enjoyed by those who like spending time outside, having some physical exercise which is not gym, and by those who like learning new things and spotting new things. The only two requirements are being able to use metal detector physically, and being able to learn to use the software correctly.
Take Adventage of Our Ultimate Metal Detecting Guide for Beginners
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Depending on the location, and on the type of metal detector, and also on the experience of the treasure hunter, different people can find different stuff in the same place. However, the general list of all possible potential finds is quite impressive: coins, old jewelry, modern jewelry, relics, antique items, war items, even mobile phones and electronics, silver ore, gold dust and gold nuggets, even ancient treasure troves.
Obviously, you can’t find all types of these in one location. Different locations have different potential; some of them can only contain trash like bottle caps, which you don’t want. For example, fields, field and forest roads, along with old village squares, can bring lots of old coins, relics, and even jewelry. Forests and fields can contact war relics. Beaches and water bodies can contain anything, from old relics to modern jewelry and electronics, to gold dust. All these things can be found if you know how!
The main rule of thumb is that you can never metal detect on private property. If you want to, you must obtain the owner’s permission, plus discuss what will be the fate of valuable objects discovered, if any.
Generally, public lands like fields, forests, parks, beaches and water bodies (for shallow water search), town and village squares, etc., are allowed for metal detecting. You may ask permission from the local authorities, in order to be on the safe side, of course, but in most cases, you won’t have problems with that, especially if you don’t run around the crowded local park, making people uncomfortable.
The main general prohibition is private property, including not only property of individuals, but property of companies who own the land, etc. For example, in some places, a hotel can prohibit metal detecting on their part of the beach.
If you want to know the exact rules of what is allowed and what is prohibited, check out our list of laws by country. This list will give you a general idea of the legal situation with metal detecting in your jurisdiction, and you will be aware what to expect.
There are also other rules that apply to metal detecting hobby, including the Code of Ethics of a Treasure Hunter.
Funny but getting started with metal detecting does not begin with buying the best and the most expensive metal detector you can find. The very first thing to do is to check your country’s laws on metal detecting, explore the situation, and even double-check with the local authorities, because in theory, the country may apply one set of rules, while in practice, local authorities may follow a different set of rules. You can also find other metal detectorists in your area and ask about practical legal situation.
If hobby metal detecting is allowed in your country, and you know exactly where you need permits and where you don’t need permits, and what is practically allowed, your next step is… not choosing a metal detector! Not yet! The next step is to explore the locations where you will potentially metal detect. Think of forests, fields, parks, streets, beaches, river banks, etc., which are the most probable places for your first tries. Obviously, you are unlikely to travel to a distant location to dig out the Mayan civilization after taking a metal detector for the first time. If you have more fields and forests around, or if you have more water bodies and beaches around, you will be able to analyze the market, and choose a metal detector that will be optimal for your locations. If you live nearby a desert, maybe an underwater machine is not a good choice.
The next step is to evaluate what targets you are likely to spot, or what targets are the most desired for you. For example, modern jewelry is perhaps one of the most probable finds almost in any crowded place, and you can sell it, but if you are interested in history, perhaps coins and relics will be your most desired targets.
Now, knowing your locations and your targets, you can start choosing a metal detector. Good if you have a developed metal detecting community nearby. You can try borrowing this or that machine from other treasure hunters, try it around, ask for practical advice from more experienced people, etc. If not – check out below how to choose a metal detector.
Metal detectors have search coils on the end you swipe with above the ground. Depending on the inbuilt frequency and search mode, the search coil transmits electromagnetic field of a certain type into the ground. As the electromagnetic field travels through the ground, it hits objects on its way, and depending on the device’s settings, sends signals back to the coil.The metal objects hit by electric field get magnetized, and the coil gets a signal that a potential target is located underground. Depending on the discrimination settings, the coil then does or does not send the signal further to the control box about an object located. The control box interprets the signal and shows the data about the object on the display (if any), plus a sound signal is provided.
Frequency is the number of electromagnetic waves per unit of time, measured in kHz. Operating frequency in a metal detector can be VLF technology, Pulse Induction, Multifrequency, or Single Frequency. Generally speaking, there is no universal operating frequency, because different frequencies – high, medium, and low – are optimal for different types of objects. The way the frequency is used by the device – be it Single Frequency or simultaneous Multifrequency – also impacts the search process.
The frequency, features, and some tech specs of a metal detector depend heavily on its software. For example, one of the most important features is Discrimination. Discrimination means ignoring signals from certain types of metal objects in the ground – for example, iron, tinfoil, nails, bottle caps, etc. High quality Discrimination with many segments means that the detectorist can choose what metals they want to ignore. Most basic Discrimination ignors iron, but more advanced types allow more flexible settings. Discrimination is not a perfect tool of course, and its efficiency also depends on many factors, especially on complicated locations. However, Discrimination allows to save time and efforts, and not to dig out numerous bottle caps.
Some of the best metal detectors have updatable software feature. You can connect the metal detector to PC, and download updated software from the manufacturer’s website. Updatable software usually offers bug fixes, improved performance, and sometimes even some new features.
Search modes are preset tuning with specific combinations of settings already combined by the manufacturer. Search modes are usually added to most metal detectors, and they include settings needed for specific locations and /or targets. For example, most common search modes can be Park/Field/Beach, or Coins/Relics/Jewelry. Search modes are handy, especially for beginners, because they give exact efficient settings, and save the detectorist’s time.
Search coils are very important components of metal detector devices. There are different types of search coils, some of them considered universal, while some are more suitable for specific locations or tasks. The coils can be round or elliptical; the second ones are considered more efficient for the majority of tasks. The configuration can be monoloop, meaning that both transmitting and receiving wire loops are placed in one loop. Another configuration is concentric, with a transmitting wire on the outer loop, and the receiving wire on the inner loop of the coil. Eventually, the configuration considered more or less universal is DD coil, which consists of two overlapping wires of D shape.
Coil sizes vary a lot, depending on the manufacturer, and the purpose of the coil. The rule of thumb is the bigger the coil, the more ground it covers and the deeper it goes, showing large deep targets. However, big coils are not sensitive to small targets, and are not suitable for trashy areas. Smaller coils have smaller depth and limited scope of reach, but they are good for little shallow targets, especially on trashy locations.
Find Out More About Metal Detector Search Coils With Our Infographic
The majority of hobby metal detectors go as deep as 4-8 inches underground. If the location, the weather conditions, and other aspects allow, an average metal detector can go as deep as 12-18 inches. Of course, specialized professional machines can reach as far as 60 inches, but these are not for hobby, obviously.
The depth of reach is not a stable indication, it depends on many aspects, the majority of which cannot be influenced or changed by the detectorist.
Practically, the depth of reach depends on the following aspects: frequency, search coil size, shape, and search coil configuration, the quality of metal detecting device, and level of soil mineralization. The last aspect is usually the most frequent prevention from reaching really deep underground. Also, the way the detectorist swipes and holds the metal detector can also impact the depth. Sloppy swiping never allows the maximum potential of the device, even on clean locations.
Moreover, deep reach of the electromagnetic field is not enough. Whether you find the potential target or not, depends also on the target size, shape, orientation, and composition.
The general rule is that larger targets are easier to detect than smaller ones, because larger items give a more clear response to the electromagnetic field sent by the search coil. However, deep targets, even if they are big, may not be seen by a small coil.
Round or rectangular shapes – like coins or boxes – are easier to spot, because they have a bigger area that gives response to the electromagnetic field. Narrow and thin objects, like necklaces, chains, etc., are harder to spot. However, even items of a proper shape can be hard to notice if their orientation is unfavourable.
A horizontally located target is easier to spot than a vertically located target; in other words, when the biggest surface of the target is facing the electromagnetic waves, it gives a clear signal, but when it faces the waves by its narrow side, the response is faint.
Some metals are easier to spot than others. Highly conductive metals are easier to spot even on considerable depth, while less conductive metals may be a hard task even on shallow depth.
Ground mineralization is the term that means the level of additional metals and minerals in the soil. Soils are not homogeneous – they contain plant and animal matter, fertilizers, metals, minerals, trash, small and big rocks, etc. Some contain magnetic minerals and rocks called “hot rocks”. Highly mineralized soils often give false signals, because the search coils react to accumulations of minerals in the ground as if these are metal objects. Also, the higher the mineralization, the smaller the depth of reach. Mineralization is an issue in underwater detecting, too, even in shallow waters, because salt waters contain lots of minerals.
To manage ground mineralization, the feature of ground balance is necessary. Ground balance can be automated or manual. This feature allows the metal detector to evaluate the level of mineralization, and to tune itself to ignore the basic level of minerals. In other words, ground mineralization allows to tune the metal detector so it perceives mineralized soil as normal, and would not give signals over every pile of rocks. High quality ground balance is a valuable feature.
You already know that your choice of a metal detector depends mostly on your most probable treasure hunting locations, your targets, and your level of expertise. If you are a beginner, you can check out the guide on the best metal detectors for beginners; this guide will make your life easier, and will help you choose your first machine really fast. If you want to get a metal detector for your kid or teenager, check out the best metal detectors for kids guide. If you live near water bodies, and you believe shallow water search or underwater search is what you want, look for your next best favourite machine in the best underwater metal detectors guide. Those detectorists who would love to hunt for gold will benefit from the guide on the best metal detectors for gold prospecting.
For efficient and successful treasure hunting sessions, a metal detector only is possible, but not enough. The most basic accessories are also necessary, and those include: pinpointers, headphones, backpacks, find bags, and digging tools.
Pinpointers allow to locate the target really accurately when you start digging, to prevent damaging the item as you dig it out. Headphones can be really helpful in crowded places where lots of noise interferes, or where you don’t want to attract attention due to loud signals given by the device. Backpacks and find bags are not a necessity, but you will find them handy. And eventually, the digging tools include diggers, metal detecting shovels, and sand scoops; choose what you need most, depending on locations and targets.
Beginner detectorists may become really excited and passionate about the hobby, and put lots of time, effort, and money into it from the very beginning, but be disappointed by their first results. Unfortunately, some knowledge and skills come only with practical experience. However, the most widespread mistakes can still be avoided, just follow those useful tips for beginners:
Hopefully, these tips will help you spot some valuable items already on your first sessions! If you would like to get more tips and recommendations from experienced metal detectorist, check out the book by Detect History.
Now you know all the most basic things about metal detecting, and this knowledge is enough to start this hobby! Good luck, and happy hunting!
Consider your level of skills, locations available, targets you would like to spot, and your budget. Cost and brand are not the most crucial elements when you choose a machine for yourself. First of all, you have to understand what exactly you need, and what you will expect from the device. After that, you look what those brands have to offer, and then opt for the most budget-friendly option. Making it the other way round is not the best idea, because you can purchase something that does not really fit you.
Generally, newer equipments propose better accuracy and identification of the targets. They have deeper reach and filter the noises better. However, today the market is full of various machines that will suit any need.
Of course, modern metal detecting equipment with a lot of additional customizable settings is more costly than a simpler equipment. However, if you are a newbie and will search for treasures only several days a year, buying an expensive toy makes no sense. It is not only the price that matters; more expensive items have tons of additional settings, so, instead of enjoying your hunt, you will be busy making head or tail out of the settings.
One of the principal criteria people look at is depth of reach, and in this term, tolls that cost alike show similar characteristics. However, depth of reach is not the only criterion, and in terms of other features, the equipments can differ greatly.
High quality and expensive metal detecting equipment is only 50% of success, because the success also depends on skills of the detectorist and particular situations of the search. Also, some places simply have less targets to propose.
The best metal detector is the one which enables you to get the most finds. The choice depends on your own skills, the locations you are more likely to search on, and the targets you are more likely expected to find. If you manage to combine those three criteria when choosing a machine, you will buy the best one specifically for yourself.
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