Your great-grandfather was courting your great-grandmother. Her diary tells you that they frequently sat down under the old oak tree just behind the house. You take your new metal detector and anxiously scan the ground beneath the tree. Your heart is pounding as it suddenly rings in your headphones. What treasure have you discovered? Did it actually belong to the young lovers…dropped years ago when their love still new?
There are four basic types of metal detectors.
There are small metal detectors designed to be used to scan people or things. They are hand-held and usually used for security purposes.
Other metal detectors are used to find large buried metal objects. They consist of a sending loop and a receiving loop joined by a bar that is held horizontal to the ground as you walk along at a fairly rapid pace. You might use it to find cars and trucks buried in a mudslide, or a steel plate buried in a construction site, or steel culvert pipes, or a chest of gold. Big metal things.
However, the two types of metal detectors that this article refers to are the type that you will see people using in parks for land ‘hunting’, and the type that you will see folks using in the water or on the sand at the beach.
The land detectors are used to find smaller objects like old coins, rings, lockets, small metal toys etc. You would have been using a land detector while looking under the oak tree in the back yard for coins or jewellery that your great-grandparents may have lost. Or around that old log cabin that used to be a trading post in days gone by.
My favorite sites are old schools, old churches, old cemeteries, parks, old racetracks, old dance halls, ghost towns or anywhere else people used to gather in those great days before television. A visit to the museum will dig up (pun intended) some great, forgotten locations. The library often contains books about the roots of the town, and surrounding area. Or visit the local nursing home or seniors’ complex and chat with some of the residents there. They are a magnificent source of information.
One such old-timer told me about a site that, when I went there, just looked like a small field. It was in a small town nestled between a new arena and the new high school’s ball field. He told me that the field used to be the entrance to the racetrack that was the local attraction from the mid-1850s until it was shut down in 1923. He said there were lots of booths and a small carnival as well as the pay-booth to get into the racetrack. Well…let me tell you…I started to retrieve coins and didn’t quit for 4 hours. I came back again and again and STILL the coins kept coming. I retrieved well over 500 coins from that empty field, most of them silver. When I went back to the nursing home to thank the old gentleman, I was told that he had passed away.
Modern metal detectors are able to discriminate against ferrous metal, so you won’t waste time retrieving bottle caps, tinfoil, rusty nails etc. It rings out on copper, silver and gold. Isn’t it a great co-incidence that most coins are made from those metals. Modern detectors will, after you find the loudest part of the signal, which, of course, is under the center of the coil that you skim the ground with, give you a readout of what the object is likely to be, and how deep it is.
To retrieve an object that you have located, use a heavy-duty knife and a narrow trowel. Put your finger on the spot under which the object lies, and cut a horseshoe in the turf around it. Fold back the sod, and use the trowel to loosen the dirt until the object is retrieved, being careful not to nick or scrape it with the tools.
Using a waterproof metal detector at the beach or swimming hole is a lot of fun
Besides the metal detector, you will need some other tools. As you will be wading up to your neck, it’s going to be pretty tough to retrieve items on the bottom unless you have a scoop. You can buy one made for this purpose from a metal detector supplier (Google it), or, if you’re handy, make one with a 5 foot handle. Make sure the drain holes are small, as you don’t want small coins going through them. Make it heavy-duty, as you will have to scoop through heavy sand, even clay at some swimming holes.
Your target retrieval will be faster if you use a floating sieve. You will dump the sand from the scoop into the sieve, then go ahead and get another scoopful. The sand will fall through the sieve, and the target will be left in the sieve. There isn’t any thrill to match being on the water on a hot summer’s day, scooping up some sand and finding a gold diamond ring glinting in your sieve box.
Making a sieve is easy. You lash a motorcycle inner tube around a box that you made out of 3/4 X 3″ pine, with holes drilled big enough to pass the 3/8″ rope through. Paint or otherwise seal the wood to make it last. I use polyester rope so I can melt the ends instead of tying a knot. Staple a sheet of 1/2″ rabbit screening to the bottom to sieve the sand through.
There is less junk in the water than on the beach, and you will be amazed at the quantity of coins, jewelry, watches, etc., you will find. Especially gold and silver rings.
Now that gold has increased in price, they are worth retrieving, and the inset valuable stones could be rubies, diamonds, emeralds etc. You will find plenty of these.
You will want to wade out to at least knee-depth before you start sweeping with your metal detector and zigzag your way out to neck-deep. Don’t avoid underwater weeds, as they will trap coins and rings to prevent them working their way deeper into the sand. Dig ALL signals, even the faint ones, because rings, because they don’t have a flat surface like coins, will work their way deeper into the sand with the wave action. I attached a small plastic can to the inside corner of the sieve, that I can put the trash that I retrieved so I wouldn’t have to retrieve it over and over again.
I found that the small, old, inland swimming holes, like the conservation areas on small lakes, produced best. Little or no wave action.
Good luck and have fun treasure hunting!