Metal detecting for coins, or coin shooting, is a favorite for detectorists. Finding coins is a rewarding hobby and some of them can be quite old! Here are 50 tips for coin hunting to get you started!
1) Always Plan Your Trip
Planning your trip will save you frustration, time, and gas. If you are well prepared before you leave, you decrease your risk of forgetting something. You will also want to choose your location before heading out and do the proper research.
Part of proper planning involves making sure you have the right detector by your side. Below, please use the interactive guide to view five of the more popular metal detectors available on Amazon:
|XP Deus Wireless||$$$||11” DD Coil|
|Garrett AT Max||$$$||Waterproof to 10 feet|
|Bounty Hunter TK4 Tracker IV||$||8” Waterproof Coil|
Always research your chosen metal detecting area to find out what sorts of human activities have taken place. If you are looking for newer coins, you will find them all over the place.
Older coins may be in more specific areas. Research these by checking with your local library, old news articles, and maps. Some of these may have areas that are no longer occupied, but once were.
3) Choose the Right Metal Detector
All professional metal detectors will find coins, whether they are entry level or high end. Some models are specifically designed for coin hunting. Very low frequency (VLF) metal detectors are the most common types. Most major manufacturers produce VLF machines.
They are versatile machines, which is one reason they are so popular. Pulse induction (PI) metal detectors are less affected by ground minerals but can be more expensive and heavier than VLF machines. Be sure you buy a good quality metal detector.
4) VLF Detectors
VLF metal detectors are typically light weight, easy to use, and have good features. Some models have difficulty in highly mineralized soils and saltwater beach areas due to the high conductivity of salt. Some models have a manual ground balancing that can help in these areas, while others have an automatic ground balancing.
VLF detectors only work if the coil is in motion. VLF detectors are good for beginning detectorists, as most are easy to use out of the box.
Consider getting something like the Bounty Hunter VLF Metal Detector to help you on your next treasure hunt.
5) PI Detectors
PI detectors are more complex than VLF detectors. These detectors work better in highly mineralized soils and saltwater beach areas. Pulse induction technology does not require movement to work. They can be much more expensive and heavier than a VLF machine.
If you’re seeking a PI detecting, consider the Tesoro Sand Shark or White’s TDI SL.
6) Choose the Right Search Coil
Some metal detectors have options for search coils, while others come with the search coil permanently attached to the unit. There are 2 basic types of search coils: concentric and wide scan. Concentric search coils search deeper but have less discrimination.
A larger coil will search deeper than a smaller coil but cannot get into small spaces as easily. Research the type of coil that will work best for your chosen search area.
7) Best Metal Detector Brands
There are many good brands of metal detectors out there. My recommended best metal detecting brands are:
- Fisher Labs
- Bounty Hunter
Each of these companies make very good VLF machines, and some make PI machines as well. There are inexpensive metal detectors and very high-end detectors.
8) Handheld Metal Detectors
Handheld metal detectors, or pinpointers, make finding coins much easier. With a pinpointing metal detector, you can dig a smaller hole. Although most metal detectors have pinpoint mode on them, the handheld pointer is easier to use in most instances.
If the coin is deeper, the hole can remain smaller because pinpointers are so small. The above brands make very good pinpointers.
As with any metal detecting hunt, accessories are very important. Be sure to take a finds pouch so you have somewhere to keep your coins. You will want a very good quality hand trowel, or perhaps a garden knife for harder soils. If you are digging in a grassy area (like someone’s yard) you may want to bring a frisbee along to set the plug and dirt on.
This allows you to fill the hole back in properly. You may want a good set of headphones to help you hear faint targets and block outside noise. I also like to pack a compass and map if I am detecting in the woods or other remote areas, as well as my cell phone.
- You might also want to read: 10 Metal Detecting Accessories Needed for Treasure Hunting
10) Read Your Manuals
Reading the manual for your metal detector and pinpointer might sound boring. But it is important to familiarize yourself with the detector and the features it has. My manual has a chart detailing what specific tones and target IDs mean.
This makes it very easy to speculate as to what the target is before I dig. The manual will also have information on how to ground balance and discriminate on your machine.
11) Test Your Detector at Home
I always recommend testing your metal detector at home before you take it out in the field. Take items such as a penny, dime, nickel, quarter, gold ring (any gold jewelry), and iron. Wave each item across the detector or place them in your yard somewhere and run the detector over them.
Take not of the tone the detector emits with each item, and the target ID readout (if your model has an LCD screen). If your detector is new, this will help you familiarize yourself with the machine and how it responds to different coins/metals.
12) Older Coins Can Contain Different Metals
When testing your detector at home, see if you can find some older coins to test with. Roosevelt and Mercury dimes (minted 1946 – 1964 and 1916 – 1945, respectively), Washington quarters (minted 1932 – 1964), Walking Liberty Franklin half-dollars (minted 1948 – 1963) and Kennedy half-dollars (minted 1964) minted pre-1964 are 90% silver.
Coins minted from the 1920s through 1964 have a higher silver content than newer coins.
13) Bring Extra Batteries
I always recommend bringing extra batteries on every metal detecting trip. Some models have a rechargeable battery pack, but some have AA or 9-volt battery backup. Other models run only on AA or 9-volt batteries. There is nothing worse than getting onto a good patch of land only to have your metal detector run out of juice!
14) Consider Detecting Headphones
I typically take a good pair of metal detecting headphones with me every time I detect. These can help you block out some outside noise and focus on faint targets.
If you will be detecting in remote areas or in the woods, I don’t recommend headphones. You need to remain more aware in these environments than you do in someone’s yard.
- You also might like: What are the best headphones for metal detectors?
15) Bring Some Gloves
Gloves can feel bulky sometimes but bringing a pair along will help keep your hands from getting cut up. Some areas are quite rocky, some areas have very hard compacted soil. When you are digging, especially with a hand trowel, your hand can slip and hit the earth or rocks.
When using a full-sized metal detecting shovel, you can easily get blisters. Gloves will help not get so many or so quickly.
16) Bring a Backpack
I like to take along a backpack to hold my gear and supplies. I typically take a water bottle or 2, especially when hunting in more remote areas.
Keeping things in a backpack makes them easier to carry around and will keep your hands and arms free to detect.
17) Know the Laws
All states in the U.S. have their own laws regarding metal detecting. Metal detecting laws also come in the form of federal, city, county, town, school district, and park laws. Finding coins can be done in all types of locations, so you need to make sure the area you are searching allows metal detecting.
You can always research this on your local government’s website, the federal government websites, or by calling your city offices or park rangers. Always do your research on laws before detecting any site. It will save you a fine!
- You also might like: Metal detecting laws: Where can I detect treasure?
18) Get Permission or Permits, if Necessary
Some areas require permission or permits to metal detect. Any area that is private property requires permission of the owner to metal detect. Other areas require a permit to hunt. This ties back to the metal detecting laws discussed above. Do your research on the area you will be hunting to determine property lines and whether you need permits.
19) Metal Detecting Code of Ethics
When metal detecting for coins, or any other type of metal, it is important to follow the metal detecting code of ethics.
That code is as follows:
- Follow all laws
- Respect private property
- Pack out what you pack in and properly dispose of trash
- Leave all personal property, structures, and gates as you found them
- Fill every hole you dig
- Do not harm vegetation, wildlife, or change natural features
- Report significant historical artifacts to the proper authorities
- Be an ambassador for detectorists by being courteous and respectful
Remember, people are curious about detectorists, and may ask questions. Always be respectful to the curious and remember you represent all metal detectorists!
20) Always Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Whether you are in a public park, campground, or beach, remain aware of your surroundings. It can be annoying to others trying to enjoy public areas if detectorists are buzzing all around. When in populated areas, I try to wear headphones or keep my volume lower.
If you are in a remote area or campground, keep an eye out for wildlife. In these areas, I don’t recommend headphones so you can be aware of your surroundings.
21) Choosing Your Location
After you have researched your area, you will have a decent idea of where you want to hunt. The best areas to look for coins are parks, fairgrounds, swimming areas, picnic areas, grassy or gravel areas, schools, churches, campgrounds, abandoned homesites, ghost towns, and yards.
Parks are great places to find coins. Before metal detecting at a park, make sure you have the proper permission to do so. Some cities allow metal detecting in parks while others don’t. Check areas like playgrounds, volleyball courts, and bleachers.
Check along walkways and near parking areas, too. Search around sidewalks and in fields. Open fields and under trees are typically productive areas for coins.
Fairgrounds and carnival grounds are great places to find coins. Any areas where games or food booths are/were set up are the best places to look. Coins are easily dropped while patrons are digging through their pockets or passing money to the attendants.
24) Swimming Areas
Swimming areas, like beaches, lakes, creeks, and rivers, are great places to find coins. Find areas where people typically sunbathe or sit in the shade, or areas where they set their belongings while they play in the water.
If you are detecting in a saltwater beach area, be aware that some VLF detectors will act erratically in saltwater areas. It is advisable to use a model with good ground balancing or a PI detector in these areas.
25) Picnic Areas
Many picnic areas have a lot of traffic through them. They also have a lot of trees where people like to sit and rest in the shade. Coins fall out of pockets very easily, so check these areas where people sit frequently to find coins.
26) Gravel Parking Areas
Gravel parking lots are great places to search for coins. Pulling keys out of pockets or purses is a very easy way for coins to become lost. Coins do not typically sink too far in gravely areas, so they shouldn’t be difficult to find.
Schools have a lot of foot traffic through and around them. Checking these areas is sure to net you some lost coins. Be sure you have permission from the school district to be on the property.
Churches are another place where people gather frequently. Many activities occur in and around churches, and on church grounds. As with schools, make sure you have permission to be on the property and to metal detect.
Camping sites are one of my favorite places to metal detect. These are often overlooked areas. The older the campground, the higher the likelihood of finding older coins. I have found many coins around old fire pits.
Also check areas where the landscape is flattened from people parking trailers, vehicles, and tents. Follow all laws for metal detecting in the woods and make sure you are not in an area where metal detecting is forbidden.
30) Abandoned Homesites
Many abandoned homesites will have old coins around. Look for evidence of chimneys, wells, foundations, and trails. It was not uncommon for people to bury valuables in their yards, so make sure you do a thorough scan of the area. Be cautious when metal detecting abandoned areas.
There can be many hazards like open wells, bricks or rocks hidden by foliage, and unsafe structures. Remain aware of your surroundings. Be sure you are not on private property or federal/state lands when detecting old homesites.
31) Ghost Towns
Ghost towns are another of my favorite places to metal detect. Many of the abandoned towns here in the western U.S. were active during gold or silver rushes. People were constantly shuffling money around, so there can be many coins buried in these areas. As with abandoned homesites, be very cautious around any buildings and look for open wells. Always check to see if you need permission to detect in ghost towns.
Private yards are some of the best places to find coins. Don’t be afraid to ask property owners if you can metal detect on their land. Often, they will say yes. Even if they say no, it is worth asking. It is a good idea to start with your own yard and become familiar with digging good plugs and replacing them, so you aren’t leaving someone else’s property a mess.
Check areas where human traffic is or was high like around foundations, any trails or paths, driveways and walkways, and large trees. After you have checked these areas, you can focus on the rest of the yard.
33) Be Prepared to Find Trash
While we would all like to dig only valuable targets, the reality is you will likely dig more trash than treasure. While this can get frustrating, I look at it as leaving the area better than I found it. Areas where human traffic is or was high will almost always be filled with trash targets.
Despite the frustration, and the need to bring a bag specifically for trash, you will be more familiar with the sounds your detector makes for each target and become better at identifying good signals from trashy signals.
34) Smaller Coils Work Best in Trashy Areas
Just because an area has a lot of trash targets doesn’t mean it doesn’t have any good targets. A smaller search coil will help you pinpoint coins in high trash sites. However, deep coins will be found easier with larger search coils.
As mentioned previously, research your area and determine which coil is best. Some detectorists will keep a couple of coils handy for these situations. A good pinpointer will also help in trashy areas.
35) Keep a Logbook
It is a good idea to keep a log of where, when, and what you found. This can not only keep you and your finds organized, but it can help you decipher patterns and figure out the best places to search. For example, if you’ve searched a specific campsite and found coins dating earlier than the 1960s, you can determine this is a site that was used some time ago.
You will then know where your best chances to find old coins versus your best places to find new coins are. I like to use a pen and paper while out hunting, then transfer that information into either Microsoft Word or Excel to keep a good record.
36) Grid Your Search Sites
Large areas can be overwhelming when metal detecting. It is easy to miss an area or double back and search a previously searched area. For this reason, I like to grid my search sites.
Start in an area where you have reference points (a house, trees, sidewalk, water, etc.) and remain parallel to the reference point. Once you have scanned this line, move a couple of feet away from it, slightly overlapping your previously searched line. This will help you cover the most area and not miss any potential targets.
37) Sweep Properly
Sweeping with your metal detector properly will ensure you pick up as many targets as possible. Keep your search coil close to the ground and swing the detector smoothly back and forth. Remember not to tilt the coil away from the ground at the end of a sweep. Swinging your detector too quickly or too high off the ground can increase ground noise and cause you to miss a lot of targets.
38) Take a Compass and Map
If the area you are metal detecting is very remote, it is a good idea to keep a map and compass with you. It is possible your cell phone won’t work in these areas (like in some forests) so you can’t rely on that to help you as much as a good old-fashioned compass and map. I still take my cell phone with me, too, just in case it works!
39) If You Find One Coin…
Don’t fill a hole back in immediately after finding a coin. Run your detector over the area a couple more times. Coin spills are not uncommon and would leave several targets right together. Search the hole you’ve dug and the area surrounding it.
40) Use Discrimination
If you are digging nothing but nail after nail in a site, turn up the discrimination mode on your detector. This will help weed out the iron signals you don’t want when looking for coins. Bottle caps may still ring through in a trashy area, but higher discrimination you will find more coin targets.
41) Use Multiple Tone ID (If Available)
If your metal detector doesn’t have advanced discrimination settings, you can use multiple tone ID. This requires familiarity with your machine as you must be able to determine a coin signal from other signals. Some detectors only have 3 tones: high, low, and mid. This is still helpful in sorting out what type of signal you are receiving.
42) All Metal Mode
In areas where trash is minimal, all metal mode can help you recover deeper coins. When a site is not trashy, high discrimination is not necessary.
43) Use Coin Mode (If Available)
Many metal detectors have a specific mode for coins. My Fisher F11 has pre-programmed settings for coins, jewelry, relics, and all metal.
Using the coin setting on a metal detector will discriminate out targets that are not likely to be coins. Again, you may receive a positive ID on a bottle cap occasionally.
44) Don’t Skip Pennies!
While newer pennies are worth, well, a penny, those minted before 1984 are solid copper and worth 3 or 4 cents each!
45) Always Check Coin Dates
As I mentioned earlier, keep track of the dates of your finds. I like to check the date as soon as I dig the target. Checking dates can be telling of an area. Dates will help you piece together when the site was used most and give you a better idea of what you can find.
Parks or other areas where you are finding only coins minted after the 1990s, for example, will be less likely to produce silver coins dated pre-1964.
46) Don’t Scratch or Overclean Coins
You can easily destroy the value of a coin by scratching or overcleaning. It is recommended that you clean coins with nothing but clean water and possibly a little mild soap.
If you are having trouble seeing the date in the field, use a little water and carefully wipe away the dirt. Don’t rub too hard or use anything harsh. When digging targets, try not to hit them with your digging tools if possible.
47) Check Coin Values
After you have hauled home and carefully cleaned up your coins, I recommend finding their values. There are many websites where you can estimate the value of the coins you’ve found, or you can take them to a local coin dealer.
48) Join a Metal Detecting Club
Metal detecting clubs are all over the world. It can be incredibly helpful to join one of these clubs. There are experienced detectorists who can give you valuable advice. You may also find new places to detect and even meet a new friend!
49) Manage Your Expectations
If you go metal detecting with the mindset that you are only going to find valuables, you will likely be disappointed. It is important to keep yourself grounded and remember that you will typically find more trash than treasure, but you shouldn’t give up! There are innumerable coin targets out there, so you just have to keep searching!
50) Have Fun!
One of the most important tips is to have fun! Don’t take it so seriously that you are constantly annoyed by junk targets. You may be pulling out junk, but you are cleaning up the area. So, stay positive, keep searching, find your targets, and have fun!
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