The Ultimate Guide to Metal Detecting For Beginners

How to Get Started with Metal Detecting – Everything You Need to Know (And Some Stuff You Really Don’t?

You’ve seen that seemingly crazy old guy skimming the sandy beaches in your area, with his metal detector beeping at a steady pace. 

Then suddenly it sets off on a particular spot as if in a eureka moment, prompting the man to dig with his fingers and picking up what looks like a coin or some random metal.

Metal detecting has been an entertaining hobby for a lot of people. And it is easy to see why. 

There have been astonishing finds over the years, ranging from the Anglo-Saxon gold haul found in 2009 to a 500-million dollar worth of gold and silver coins referred to as the Black Swan Project. 

While the latter took a large scale business organization which is Odyssey Marine Exploration for its discovery,  many reports of unearthing precious gold coins and artifacts by ordinary hobbyists have surfaced (pun intended) over the years.

When you find something of historical value, you become appreciative of their corresponding events from the very distant past.  You are eager to know what they were used for back then, who created those items, and why they were buried in that particular location where they were discovered.

You’ll be fascinated to know that most metal detecting purists are not in it for the prospective monetary windfall (although that happening won’t be so bad after all).

Instead of cashing in, they often turn their finds into precious keepsakes.

One example was the thirty 24-carat gold bars that were intentionally hidden by a German artist in Folkestone beach in UK as part of the town’s art festival in 2014. 

Like a modern-day gold rush, metal detectorists and even regular folks consequently flocked to the said beach hoping to find at least one gold bar. While several bars have been retrieved, a few more are still waiting to be resurfaced to this day.

And of course, there are unexpected finds that are the sweetest of them all.  But remember that metal detecting is not only about treasure hunting.

Not everyone will be lucky enough to come across a ginormous gold nugget.  Just like winning the lottery, you may not win the jackpot and walk away with a minor prize instead, or maybe nothing.

Aside from learning history, metal detecting is also a good physical activity – your arms can burn after hours of swinging a 3-pounder metal detector and walking at the same time.

Another bonus is making friends along the way, doing what you do can be a conversation starter for the curious cat.

If you are serious about learning more about this hobby, there are a number of things you need to know before considering it.

If you’re the naturally curious, inquisitive kind who likes to do something fun in his/ her spare time, then that could be a good starting point. 

Instead of hunting Pokemons or other virtual treasures using your mobile app, why not take your chance at serendipity with invaluable metal coins and other interesting finds. 

Getting Started With Metal Detecting

Doing Your Research

Should you be out there just to pass time or simply have fun, you can skip this part if you wish. Finding recent coins or buttons could be enough to make your trip worth it. 

However, research prior to actual fieldwork will surely help you a lot when you want to go full-on with metal detecting.  This way, your chances of finding a nice haul will be pretty high.

Most people would prefer a 100-year old relic to a pocket full of quarters.

Libraries and Historical Societies

Mysterious old library with dusty books

Go to your city’s public library or historical societies to read on old maps, old newspapers, and local history books

I’m sure your librarian will be more than happy to lend you these old materials which may be in microfilm format especially with niche localities.  Such are usually kept under lock and key. 

For a small fee, you can even borrow these microfilm materials from out of state library sources if you really want to dig at it (and you already have prior research as to the specific dates and newspapers you are after).  Local historical societies are great sources of information as well. 

You can even ask for any treasure guide a particular state might have.  If it is not available, you will most probably be able to get it from metal detecting equipment suppliers. You can browse through metal detecting magazines, too.

There you can find historical sites, battlegrounds, marching routes, local folklore, among many others.  You will be amused by all the data they have yet you will be bummed to discover that most of them would require special permits if not restricted to metal detecting enthusiasts like you.

Online Resources

Check online resources as an accessible alternative

Thankfully, the internet is also a treasure trove of historical information just as long as you know which sites are trustworthy sources. 

One would be www.historicaerials.com which enables you to overlay an old map of a certain location on its new map version. This way you can identify which houses once stood on certain spots which no longer exist in the present day. 

Who knows, curios may have been buried there all along.

For old newspapers, you can check out the eponymous site www.newspapers.com which is a paid online tool. It is capable of providing results using narrower keyword searches like family name, place or particular event. 

Their archives however mostly contain newspapers from large publications. Meanwhile, you can get historical books such as “The Images of America” and treasure guides via www.amazon.com.

Elder Folk

Who better to talk about history than those who have lived through it all. Especially when you are after Civil War relics, the oldest members of the community may give you valuable and useful info.

You wonder though if you could trust their stories which could contain distorted memories. 

Don’t discount the fact that the elderly can retain vivid recollection from their childhood, knowing which houses stood once in which locations and other brief yet important histories in the town they came from.

Finding The Right Metal Detector

It’s pretty obvious what a metal detector is for.  The question is, which is the right one for you.  All metal detectors will detect metal below the surface.

But what makes a $120 dollar device different from the one that costs over $2,000 dollars? 

Offhand, there are more bells and whistles to the more expensive one for sure.  Let’s say there’s one gold coin and 2 rusty screw nails buried deep in the ground. 

Both $120 and $2000 detectors will tell you that there is metal underneath but the more expensive metal detector will be able to indicate that there is a gold coin and 2 worthless nails while the cheaper detector will not be able to distinguish the coin from the rest.

There are also detectors built for special purposes, like working underwater, on beaches or specifically designed to find gold.

Since we are discussing this topic under the assumption that you are not yet into metal detecting, I will provide below the best brands according to the enumerated categories and their corresponding features.

Best Metal Detectors for Beginners

Garrett Ace 300

Garrett Ace 300 Metal Detector

At about 250 dollars online, it is user-friendly with a 5-item search indicator such as jewelry, relics, coins, custom, and no discrimination.  It also has a depth indicator and an adjustable frequency which comes useful when picking up gold items.

Fisher F22

This device is waterproof so you can use it any time.  The re-tune speed is faster which allows the user to move on to the next item after dismissing a previous signal.  The discriminatory audio tones are advantageous so that you know right away the type of find you have which lets you focus more on digging the spot. It is priced very affordably on Amazon.

Bounty Hunter TK4 Tracker

It has switchable modes if you prefer focusing on valuable finds instead so the alert does not go off on every metal including soil minerals, which can be quite annoying . The ground balance is automatically set which cancels signals from mineralized soil.  At around $100, it is budget-friendly and a good way to start with metal detecting.

Teknetics EuroTek PRO

According to hobbyists, this detector is underrated for a number of reasons.  For under $200, it is lightweight and allows a steady hold which makes for easy pinpointing.  It has a good iron discrimination which lights up the LED with its presence.  The large screen and waterproof coil are added benefits to the machine.

Tesoro Compadre

This one is a good choice even for children with its analog tuning. At less than $170, it has excellent discrimination.  You can easily move to the next target by turning the dial. It is very lightweight, weighing a little more than 2 pounds.

Coin Finding Metal Detectors

White’s Spectra V3i HP

Whites spectra v3i hp metal detector

If you want to go extra, this is a top of the line, coin-seeking machine loaded with features.  It could be too rich for your blood at around $1500 dollars but with that, there’s not much bad thing to say other than the price.

Garrett AT Pro

At under $700, this is an all-weather machine with its fully waterproofed coil. It gets a lot of positive reviews from those who have bought it for their metal detecting hobby.

Fisher Labs F75

You can get this lightweight yet formidable choice at about $500.  Not only does it do an outstanding job at detecting coins, but it also picks up small amounts of gold.

Garrett ACE 300

The Garrett ACE 300 makes yet another appearance on our top 5 list.  It’s not only user-friendly for beginners, but it’s also pretty good with different coin metals as well.

Teknetics Delta 400

This is your cheapest bet at around $200, with accuracy and depth indicators that are on point.  You can adjust search modes if you want to add other metals as your targets.

There are online reviews for the above machines which you can refer to anytime.  Please note that you don’t have to buy a brand-spanking-new detector.  Mind you, there are resellers of used but high-quality metal detectors online. You might want to consider this depending on your budget.

Accessories and Other Helpful Tools

Metal detector accessories

Alongside your metal detector, you will need other items that will facilitate your metal detecting trips. 

These include:

Pinpointer

it aids your metal detector by being more specific to the location after you dig your hole or plug.  It will beep once it has targeted your object within several inches.  This way, your digging will be more efficient and as a result, you will have better yield at the end of the day. 

Best recommendation: Garrett Pro Pointer AT

Digger

you will need this to create your plugs which will create holes on the ground where you normally stick in your pinpointer.  It’s basically one big knife with a serrated blade that enables you to dig neatly on the ground and cut roots along the way.

Best recommendation: Lesche Digging tool

Carry Bag

This is better than a backpack as it conforms to the shape of your metal detector.  Those ugly fanny packs will also be great with your other stuff as they can be accessed easily in front of you. You can also put in there your emergency kit and other items such as sunscreen, gloves, whistle, spare batteries, Swiss army knife, etc.

Headphones

Most entry-level detectors don’t come with this accessory.  You can just use the one you already have so you can isolate outside noises and hear the beeps clearly which you heavily rely on more than the provided info on the digital screen of your metal detector. 

Additional Coils

Your metal detecting game is strong when you start bringing these.  To achieve optimal results, you may need different coils for different types of locations. 

For open fields or large spaces, you will need a bigger coil which is heavier than usual.  In urban locations where trash is present, a double D-configured coil is preferred.

CoilCover

This is an optional accessory to protect your coil from dings and scratches and prolong its effectiveness. You can get it cheap for about 10 dollars.

Metal Detecting Rules and Regulations

Man using metal detector on the beach

Your metal detecting hobby may seem innocuous to you however, as they say, ignorance of the law will excuse no one.  Violations can have irreversible consequences such as confiscating your paraphernalia, paying of fines, and worse, going to jail for it.  So breaking the law is never an option

As a rule of thumb, always check with corresponding authorities in your state when you want to do metal detecting in a land that you don’t personally own.  Private property or land, city parks, beaches, and public schools are good spots provided you have permission to do so.

For private property, simply get approval from the registered owner. It is often you will find owners that are iffy about metal detecting especially if they don’t know much about it. This is where the power of your charm will come handy. 

Explain your digging process and assure them that you will only do so if anything of interest to you is detected by your machine. 

Of course, you will also leave the dug spot as if it was never touched on in the first place. 

Not only are you being a good human being, but this will also facilitate your reentry to the same property if in case you wanted to go back.

Contact the local government if you plan to hunt at a local or city park. Best to explain your metal detecting procedures and assure the person of authority that you will not do anything to damage the land.

For state property such as archaeological sites and state forests, you will need to secure a state permit.  A federal permit will then apply to national parks, military bases, wildlife conservation areas, etc.

Realistically, getting permits on this level may be difficult given the restrictions as set by the Antiquities Act, ARPA (Archeological Resources Preservation Act) law, among others that are applicable in several states. 

One of these is that any artifact that is 100 years or older cannot be dug up on such public lands.  In case it turns up, you need to inform authorities accordingly.

There has been an ongoing debate on how stifling and outdated these nuances on the laws are and how archaeologists are manipulating access to themselves. 

But, until a new law has been passed, needless to say, we are bound by the current rules.

Observing Protocols

Here is a look at the current code of ethics by metal detectorists:

  1. Always get a verbal or better yet, written consent from the owner or administrator of the location you will be hunting on
  2. Respect other people’s property, do not trespass
  3. Get to know state and federal laws when hunting on public sites
  4. Do not break archaeological artifacts
  5. Fix the holes and plugs you’ve made during your metal detecting activity
  6. Do not leave trash on the site you’ve worked on
  7. Be courteous to people you meet along the way
  8. Your footprints should be the only thing you will leave behind
  9. Avoid digging dry soil grounds
  10. Cover holes entirely when relic hunting
  11. Inform local historian for any item that has historical significance
  12. Advise police for any deadly weapon find
  13. Make sure to keep gates in the state you found them (open or closed)
  14. Use the right digging tool to minimize intrusion on the property
  15. Leave cemeteries alone
  16. Do not disturb animals in the area
  17. Never tamper signs or contaminate water areas
  18. Pick up trash you may see as you go along

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