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Helpful Tips for Treasure Hunting With Metal Detectors

by Daniel Chiapperino

Whether you are a novice or experienced treasure hunter nothing is more important than that one great find of the day. But many treasure hunters miss that great find by not digging everything, or by being asked to leave a site right before digging that last ping because they didn't ask permission to hunt there. Here are some ideas and tips to help you get "your" great find.

Can I hunt here?

First and foremost, always get permission to hunt a site, even when it is a public place like a beach or park. One way I have gotten permission for these types of places is to offer a free service. For instance, ask the caretaker if they would like you to remove all the sharp metal objects buried in the sand, like flip tops, and crushed cans (provided you can keep or properly dispose of what is found). They are more likely to allow you access if they get something useful out of it, like having their beach cleaned and unsafe items removed. Feel free to show them what hazards you have removed from their patrons harm, so they will allow you to return often. Of course you don't show the coins, jewelry, or valuables you also sifted out of the sand!

Bad times = good times for you.

Although where to hunt is important, it's also "when" you hunt some places that makes the most difference. When hunting beaches almost anytime is OK but how much better would your hit rate be if you went after a very hot and busy beach day? Well you might think that improves your chances of finding some valuables, and it does, but what would be better is take the same scenario as before, and add the element of a mid-day, or late afternoon thunderstorm that came without warning. Now you are adding the fact that many beach goers, caught unaware of the impending storm until the first cloudburst, went racing around to collect their belongings and trying to get out of the deluge. In this instance many people will find they have lost something valuable. (Just a note on jewelry, anything found with engravings or inscriptions, you should always try to locate the original owner if possible, most times a reward will be offered, and you will make someone's day!) Another great time to go to beaches or around lakes is after a huge storm, where erosion has occurred. Inland lakes only require heavy downpours or snowmelt to expose items previously buried too deep to find, but on the shore hurricanes, and nor'easters are best for exposing much older, deeper items missed in the past, sometimes including gold coins from ancient shipwrecks. If you live near a northern shore where large amounts of snow accumulates over the winter, the first spring snowmelt is also likely to erode enough beach to expose older buried treasures previously missed by other hunters.

History lessons.

Research your area's history. In my town we have a building that is host to a middle aged couple who also have the small luncheonette on the ground floor. Engraved in the wooden columns is a date: built 1786, so while waiting for my sandwich I asked what this place was originally, and was told it was a stage-coach stop. I proceeded to ask if they also owned the dirt parking area across the street, and they told me no one knows if anyone owns it. I told her why I asked, and she offered to allow me to not only search the public area across the street, but if I let her know when I am there I can search all the property around the building their family has owned for generations. Many areas' local historical societies can provide guidance as to what areas were first developed and which roads or sites still exist today, and will offer locally written books about the settlement and development of the area, many of which will include a large old building which was a hostel/bordello in its day. Which means a lot of traffic in one place for many people to lose their belongings, even something as seemingly insignificant as a metal button can bring in a high cash value if it is old but identifiable. People have found very old coins and jewelry as well. When I picked out a silver medal of "Mary" I didn't think much of it. It was all black and crusty. But later when going through my findings I picked it out and carefully cleaned it to reveal the rock she is standing on has the date 1839, and was found on the grounds of a building that was built in 1886, along with a few coins from the early 1800's. By the way the building was also a bordello during the first world war, it is located near naval docks!

Tools of the trade.

Ok you found a good spot to hunt and got permission, you have a metal detector, what else do you need? Well for beach hunting as well as other types of hunting you will need to start with at least two zippered or Velcro pouches, like a belly bag, (or you can use a builder's pocketed apron) one will be used to hold your good or questionable findings, the other you will use for obvious trash dug up. When beach hunting you will need a sand scoop, preferably with a wire mesh basket, wire mesh scoops tend to be lighter than perforated stainless steel baskets. You want the holes small enough to prevent a half dime from slipping through, if they are bigger you might miss out on small rings as well. For other types of treasure hunting you will need a sharp serrated digging tool, many of which look like hunting knives, but if the blade is shaped like a trowel shovel it will be easier to dig through hard rocky, packed dirt, especially if there are dense tree or shrubbery roots to cut through to get down to your prize. In this case a long metal probe is useful for narrowing down where to dig. By inserting it around the area where you got your ping, you can tell whether it is buried deep or shallow, and with numerous probings you can determine the general shape of the object before digging it out of the dirt. Always wear leather gloves when digging to protect your hands from glass, sharp metal objects, or sharp stones.

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