Matt is a professional painter who enjoys fishing and metal detecting for old coins and relics.
Metal Detecting for Coins and Maximizing Your Finds
Metal detecting coins, or coin shooting, is one of the most common ways to use a detector outside of ring and relic hunting. Modern coins are easy to find. You can visit a neighborhood park with a good detector and dig them out of the ground all day long, but what I look for are old coins for my growing collection.
I've found dozens of old coins with my metal detector, mostly treasure hunting private property and public places of historical significance. Finding older coins is more of a challenge, but I've learned a few things over the years that have helped me maximize my finds.
1. Dig Every Deep Signal
Although I have found old coins a couple of inches deep, most of the oldies are deeper in the ground, typically a depth of six to ten inches. For deeper signals, you can increase your coin finds by relying less on the target ID of the object and more on the sound it's producing with your detector. Swing the coil over the object at a slower speed and listen for mixed tones.
Even with iron discrimination engaged, nails and garbage in the ground can easily throw off a target ID and prevent you from digging up the object because you think it's trash, but you could be walking away from the find of the year. I've found silver coins by digging unstable signals I normally wouldn't dig. Dig it all.
2. Revisit Old Metal Detecting Sites
Returning to places you've already metal detected can produce surprising finds, even old parks you believe are hunted out. I'll usually metal detect a site at least a few times, typically for a few hours, before writing it off my list. There have been several times I've returned to places I've already detected and found old coins in places I walked over multiple times with my detector.
Swing your detector underneath bushes and areas that you didn't focus on during previous visits. Metal detect at a slower speed too to pick up signals that could have been missed before. I've learned that it's better to hunt the ground section by section, focusing on one small area at a time, instead of trying to cover one large area.
3. Maximize Your Search Depth
Maximizing search coil depth is important for successfully treasure hunting old coins. Sometimes you will find older coins at shallow depths, but that usually isn't the case. Most of the old coins I find are no less than six inches deep. Always make sure your metal detector is properly ground balanced before you begin.
Crank up the search coil sensitivity to the highest setting your detector can handle without electromagnetic interference. Another way to maximize depth is to turn off iron discrimination and hunt in all metal mode. There is no reason to use this feature for non-trashy ground, which reduces search coil depth. Another way to find deeper coins is to go out after a rain storm when the ground's wet. Moisture enhances conductivity of buried metal objects.
4. Double Check the Hole and Dirt Plug
Coin spills are exciting to dig up, but they're also easy to pass up in trashy soil. Carefully double check your holes with a pin-pointer and your detector before walking away. I've found many surprise coin spills where, initially, only one coin came out of the hole. Coins, especially dimes, are small and easy to miss in a large hole or dirt pile with metal trash mixed in.
I really like the Garrett pin-pointer and use it a lot for detecting land and water. It's completely water-proof. I've used my pin-pointer now for over three years without any issues. The batteries usually last for several hunts.
5. Use a Good Metal Detector for Coins
You don't have to spend a couple thousand dollars on a fancy metal detector for coin shooting, but it's important to choose one with reasonable search depth and features that will help you find more coins.
Important Metal Detector Features for Finding Coins
- Manual ground balancing, not factory preset
- Iron discrimination and notching
- Maximum search depth of at least 6-inches
You can pick up a non-waterproof metal detector a few hundred dollars. If you never plan to do any water hunting, an inexpensive land detector is all you need. For coin hunting, Garrett metal detectors work great. I use the Garrett AT Pro, an all-terrain detector, for all of my metal detecting. I've found a lot of deeper old coins with this machine. It has all of the necessary features needed for coin hunting.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Matt G.