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How to Make Money Metal Detecting Coins in Public Places

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Matt is a painter and part-time writer who loves fishing and metal detecting. Matt writes about various topics.


Can You Make Money Metal Detecting?

I've never looked at the metal detecting hobby as a way to make money. For me, it is more about exploring the outdoors and finding and collecting things of historical interest. Most of the old coins and relics I find I keep for my collection, but not everyone wants to research historical places to metal detect or spend time searching for older artifacts deeper in the ground.

If you want to simply make money with your metal detector without doing any research, the fastest way to do that is by detecting modern coins in public places with heavy recreational activity. Modern coins are easier to find and dig up because they're usually buried at a shallow depth of 2–4 inches. Sometimes you'll even find coins on the surface.

So How Much Money Can You Make by Metal Detecting Coins?

You won't be quitting your day job, but you will find plenty of modern coins in a short amount of time if you visit the right location. While we're talking about spare change here, those coins add up over time. I accumulate mine in jars and take them to my bank.

The amount of money you can make depends a lot on the location, the capabilities of your metal detector, the types of coins you're targeting, and how much time you're willing to invest into this hobby. Don't forget about valuable rings. You can find those along the way, too.

The Four Best Places to Search for Coins

Below are some of the best places to metal detect for money, including tips on how to increase your earnings.

  1. Sled Hills
  2. Wood Chip Playgrounds
  3. Sidewalk Grass Strips
  4. Beaches and Lakes

1. Sled Hills

Metal detecting sled hills is one of the best ways to find coins in a short amount of time. People fall off their sleds and spill loose change from their pockets all over the place. You can find coins on the hill itself, but most of the coins are concentrated at the top and at the bottom where people get on and off of their sled.

In my area, I metal detected two high-traffic sled hills one time, and both of them were loaded with so many coins that I could have easily spent the entire day digging them up. One of the hills was loaded with quarters. I was able to pocket a little over $20 in change simply by cherry-picking quarters exclusively with my detector.

The easiest way to metal detect a sled hill and find more coins is during the summer when the ground is thawed, but even in the winter when the ground is frozen, you can find tons of dropped coins right on the surface if you visit the hill after a weekend of heavy sledding activity before it snows again.

2. Wood Chip Playgrounds

Wood chip playgrounds (tot lots) are great places to metal detect because they're usually full of shallow coins and sometimes a valuable ring or two. If you want to collect as many coins as possible with less effort, recovering coins from wood chips is a lot easier than recovering coins from dirt. Digging in wood chips doesn't cause any damage like digging in grass, as long as you fill your holes.

The best time to metal detect a high-traffic playground is early in the morning or during the week when kids are in school; otherwise, it will be difficult. Don't metal detect a school playground unless the school is closed. Always confirm in advance that the playground doesn't have any rules against the hobby. Park rules are usually posted at the park itself or on the park district website.

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I've found coins all over playgrounds, both buried and on the surface, but the hot spots are usually beneath monkey bars and slides. The area around playground benches are great, too.

3. Sidewalk Grass Strips

One of the best places to make money metal detecting coins and jewelry is the area between street curbs and sidewalks, which is usually, but not always, public property. This could be the grass near a bus stop, in front of an apartment building, in front of a house, or in front of a business. The grass between the street and sidewalk in a busy area is walked over year-round and usually loaded with coins and other goodies.

If you metal detect sidewalk grass where it's legal to do so, you'll usually find lots of coins, and if the building on the other side of the sidewalk is old enough, you have a good chance of finding silver coins, too. I've found modern coins, silver coins, valuable jewelry, tokens, and old skeleton keys, along with a lot of trash.

Check your local laws before you start digging holes in sidewalk grass. A quick phone call to your police department can prevent a lot of problems. Out of all the different places I've treasure hunted, this is one that can cause conflicts if you go about it wrong, or if it's not allowed in your city. My article Tips for Metal Detecting Sidewalks and Curb Strips covers this topic in depth.

4. Beaches and Lakes

Like wood chip playgrounds, dry beach sand is easy to dig in and usually holds a lot of coins and other things. Public beaches are also awesome places to find valuable jewelry on the shore and in the water with a sand scoop. The biggest problem with beaches is that they get metal detected a lot and they also get really crowded in the summer, but I always find something, whether it's coins, a ring, or both.

Treasure hunting in the water is a little more challenging and requires a good sand scoop with a wide basket to make it easier to retrieve your finds. The best time to go is in the morning when no one's there or at the end of the summer before it closes for the season.

My Garrett AT Pro metal detector.

My Garrett AT Pro metal detector.

How to Find More Coins and Make Money Faster

If you want to make money faster metal detecting coins, you need to use a decent detector with settings for iron discrimination and notching out unwanted target IDs so you can find what you're looking for easier. Super-cheap metal detectors usually lack these important settings and have low-quality search coils.

Use a Reliable Detector for Coin Hunting

If you're totally new to this hobby, you don't have to spend a lot of money if what you're looking to do is mostly coin hunting. You can find good beginner models at a fair price from well-known brands like Fisher and Garrett. I use the Garrett AT Pro for all of my treasure hunting on land and in freshwater. I plan to buy another detector to experiment with, but after four years of regular use, my AT Pro still works as good as the day I unboxed it.

Location Is Key

To find more coins, go treasure hunting at one of the public places I recommend in this article, or find another public place in your town where a lot of people congregate. Fairgrounds and sports fields are two more places I didn't mention earlier, but I've had success detecting those, too. Location is critical if your goal is to collect as many coins as possible in one day. You won't find anything searching some random field nobody's gone to.

Cherry-Pick Quarters

The fastest way to make money digging up coins is to notch out pennies and dimes and dig the quarter signals only. If your detector's capable of notching out target IDs, notch out everything except your detector's target ID for quarters.

On my AT Pro, I do this by notching out all IDs under 85. This turns the detector into a vacuum cleaner for quarters. In a busy park, beach, or at the bottom of a sled hill, I can find quarters all day long using this strategy. Don't waste time digging up pennies.

© 2022 Matt G.

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