Looking for lost treasure such as coins, rings and jewellery with a metal detector is a great way to spend a few hours on a weekend, or as a lucrative hobby that can yield monetary rewards. But mostly for me, coin shooting (searching for lost pocket change) and beach combing (general metal detector searching) is just a relaxing hobby and to paraphrase a favorite quote, is rather like fishing in that "it is the pursuit of that which is elusive but attainable. A perpetual series of occasions for hope."
Use of a metal detector in the search for iron meteorites is an absolute must, and these are a lucrative finds in themselves that one can sell to collectors.
The First Metal Detectors
A metal detector is for its seeming complexity is nothing more than an electronic device that produces an alternating electric field, typically directed at the ground through one of two concentric, parallel or adjacent rings (varies by model and intended use.) An oscillator produces and directs this signal into the ground where if it encounters a metallic object, causes said metallic object to respond with an alternating magnetic field of its own.
The second coil on the metal detector can read the change in the magnetic eddy currents and provide a visual and/or audio response, indicating the presence of a target.
Different metals respond to magnetic fields with a slightly different phase response. By adding a phase response discriminator, dissimilar metals could be excluded from the response frequency. This advance meant that undesirable metals could be 'tuned out.'
Sometimes this meant slight loss in detection depth, signal acquisition and acuity. However, the ability to 'tune out' undesired 'trash' metals such as bottle caps and pull tabs was a positive advance when searching for specific metallics, even though this can also mean inadvertently tuning-out the signal of a desired metal present in smaller quantities. -Tuning out aluminum foil for instance, can also cause the metal detector to inadvertently miss smaller items with similar responce signals such as small gold rings, gold chains or other diminutive gold jewellery.
'Ground balancing' as the next hurtle. The ability to tune-out natural mineral presence in soils and marine surf to prevent false-positive readings was a major step in accurately detecting metals in difficult terrain conditions. Salt water plays havoc with metal detectors not specifically intended for use in salt water, where a special degree of mineralization must be by default, tuned-out. This also applies to metal detectors intended specifically to search for gold nuggets, which tend to be found in soils with high degrees of mineralization (e.g., such as the soils in black sands and mountainous regions.)
Modern metal detector brands can now check and balance typical ground and fresh water mineralization 'on the fly' and as such, do not require manual 'discrimination tuning.' Ease of use made the popularity of personal metal detectors soar and for beach combers and treasure hunters, it has become a popular hobby the world over.
Legality of Metal Detector Use
There are legal issues with metal detector use in various countries, states and even down to township levels, having to do with cultural and historical preservation. It is up to the individual to find out about these laws and abide by them. But for our general purpose here, this article deals with general coin shooting and beach combing; finding the lost pocket change and personal effects of modern day life. A hobby for fun and profit.
I live in Toronto, Canada, where we are blessed with numerous sandy beaches frequented by bathers, boater and swimmers. The potential for finding lost treasure is never-ending, for a 'swept' beach, wading or swimming area can be re-seeded with new acquisitions daily during the height of the summer. Many of Toronto's beaches are modern man-made beaches so there is almost no possibility of trespassing upon a 'historical site.' -You get to keep whatever you find.
A Photo Primer of My Beach Combing & Coin Shooting Finds
(#1, above) My first outing., Having installed new rechargeable batteries directly from the retail package, I quickly learned that these come with only a partial charge intended for bench-testing the charge. Rechargeable batteries require a full-charging before first use. As a result, I only got several minutes of useful beach combing in this first day but as you can see, I found some lost booty on the beach and in the wading area of the north shores of Lake Ontario.
(#2, above) My second outing. Here I have found a number of various coins, a sterling silver necklace chain and earring, some sort of copper cable hasp and a small number of other objects inadvertently omitted from this image.
(#3, above) My third outing again yielded many coins, copper plumbing fittings, a rusted lock & key set, lost dog ID-tag and other objects difficult to describe other than 'trash.' Items such as bits of wire from fireworks props, pop cans, pull-tabs & bottle caps etc. are garbage and should be collected by the responsible metal detectorist and discarded properly.
(#4, above) Another Saturday, another (albeit, small) harvest of lost coins. I found several foreign coins this time, including a particular interesting coin from India. I enjoy finding foreign coins, -even though they are not deemed valuable they are intrinsic to me. I wonder how they ended up where I found them, where they have been and how long have they laid there, buried and lost.
(#5, above) More finds on another weekend sojourn. Mostly pennies and all quite corroded. Still, a bad day beach combing is a good day to be involved with your favorite pastime.
(#6, above) I think this particular day I got rained-off and had to leave early. The only notable find was this inexpensive 'junk' hoop-style earring. I included this in my photo for its oddity value. Otherwise, I would have dropped it off into the trash can as I exited the search area that day.
(#7, above) On my seventh and last day of beach combing/coin shooting of 2011 before the fall set in, I found just a few more coins, a key, a corroded 'magnetic' copper bracelet, a silt-covered Swiss Army Knife (not depicted here,) and a stainless steel ring.
A Lost Ring Found
The stainless steel ring really got me excited for I had at first thought it was sterling silver. It was dark with oxidation which easily wiped clean and bright, leading me to beleive that it might be silver or white gold.
I could see an stamped inscription on the inside surface of the ring, and could just barely detect that the outer periphery of the ring was laser-etched with very fine italicized text. It would later that evening take a magnifying glass to reveal that the inner text said "Stainless Steel" and that the laser-etched text was the complete Lord's Prayer, in Spanish.
A check check on Google revealed these rings (in various metals and styles) are commercially available and new, the stainless steel rings starting at around $20.00 approximately. My most 'valuable' single find to date, -except for that multi-bladed Swiss Army Knife that I found which when new probably retailed for around $30.00.
Metal Detector Price: Expensive is Not Necessarily Better for the Average User
Metal detector treasure hunting is an excellent hobby and sport. A good quality multi-function metal detector can cost a thousand dollars or more, but most people whom have used top-end and lower-end metal detectors will tell you that a $150.00-200.00 metal detector works just as well and the super expensive ones. My metal detector cost under $200.00 and I am 100% pleased with its function and features.
For the weekend treasure seeking hobbyist, this level of hobby investment is more than satisfactory and you could with just one major 'find' more than pay for your initial investment.
I'm still hopeful for that first solid gold ring, necklace or bracelet. With the price of gold these days, this could reward my investment quite well.
We can strive for another occasion for hope, another opportunity for that elusive 'next find.'
All images by author
(thumbnail image License by ingridtaylar c/o Flickr)