Wow! The thrill of finding silver – there’s nothing like it! It’s not just the monetary value, but silver in the ground often does not tarnish, so it pops out of the dirt in brilliant glory! Here’s how you can fine-tune your detecting skills to collect more silver for yourself.
The Sweet Sounds of Silver (Metal Detecting)
a) Detector Sounds – An Important Skill
Using your own ears to distinguish between detector sounds is a basic skill, but it deserves a second look when your goal is digging up silver.
- Remember the classic “blub-uh-dub” sound you get from a soda can pull tab.
- Compare that to the clear, steady “twang, twang, twang” you get from a copper penny.
- The difference between the pull tab and the coin is about the same as the difference between a copper penny and silver.
- Silver produces a louder, consistent signal, a rock-solid “zing, zing, zing!” (I know, my description of detector tones is not Pulitzer Prize winning material, but you get the idea.)
I suspect you already have these sound differences stored in your memory banks, but it’s valuable to focus your attention on their qualities as you set out to find silver.
b) Detector Settings – Getting it Right!
Just as your ears can learn to distinguish detector sounds and what they mean, your detector does exactly the same thing. Modern detectors accurately measure phase shift caused by the target, which helps determine the conductivity of the coin or jewelry.
Learn years worth of tips and techniques in my book – The Art and Science of Metal Detecting (Link to Amazon)
Silver is a pure element and an excellent conductor of electricity. It’s a better conductor than copper. This is what enables the robust sounds in your headphones described above. Figure 1 shows how electricity flows more easily through silver.
Learn more about setting the sensitivity and and discrimination in these articles: How to Set the Sensitivity on Your Metal Detector and What is Discrimination on a Metal Detector and How to Set it.
You can adjust the settings on your detector to alert you when you have a rich signal that indicates silver. More specifically, you can turn off the beeps that represent less precious metals. The relatively inexpensive ACE series of Garrett metal detector features notch filtering, where you can select to hear only the most promising targets.
Figure 1 Silver has one “loose” electron in its outermost ring. This makes electron flow easier. Impure metals impede the flow of electricity, so the detector signal is not as clear.
Figure 2 shows detector displays which enable you to select only the high-end phase-shift coins. The ACE 300 uses notch filters. The more expensive detectors use reference code numbers, or Target Identification (TID) numbers to indicate the coin. Fore example TID number of 18 is almost always a nickel, and a quarter registers at 79. You can see in Figure 2 the area of high value on the face-plate next to the word “silver”
In practice, I find it best to combine the above two methods. I usually set the detector to find the more valuable coins, eliminating nickels and zinc pennies. I then keep my ears open for the tell-tale zipping sound of the silver targets. This method is best because you will sometimes find a silver ring, which registers lower on the discrimination scale but still gives you that distinctive zipping sound of silver.
Figure 2. Face-plate images for the Garrett ACE 300 and White’s MX Sport showing settings for silver.
Metal Detector Quality
There’s no diplomatic way to say this: The expensive detectors are much better at finding silver coins and jewelry than the cheaper models. Sure, you can often find the valuable targets with a $100 detector, but for the dedicated dirt-fisher, the advanced engineering of the high-end machines are your best bet.
a) Discrimination Ability
The more advanced detector models have more robust signal processing features and better discrimination, which allows you to separate treasure from trash. The technology for this sport has advanced markedly in recent years, to where you can now measure not only phase-shift, but target conductivity, target identity, and depth of the coin.
I was on a 3-hour club sponsored hunt in a park using a relatively decent $500 detector. My buddy following behind me covered the same ground as I did and he came up with a silver quarter at 9 inches deep. This happened three times in the same day. He got two silver quarters and a silver dime in locations I had covered just minutes ahead of him. His machine was $1,200 model.
b) Signal Processing
The latest technology in detectors means that the newer, more powerful detectors add a host of features that help you find coins and jewelry in a more productive manner.
- Precise notch filtering.
- Coil frequency selection.
- Run multiple frequencies at the same time.
- Specific conductivity settings.
Lower frequency settings lets you find objects that are deeper in the soil, and the higher frequencies help find smaller objects.
c) Battery Voltage – More is Better
Likewise, be sure you buy batteries that are listed at 1.5 volts each. Some manufacturers have switched to selling batteries listed at 1.2 volts each, instead of the standard 1.5 volts.
TIP: Change your batteries frequently. This applies to all detecting modes, but it helps substantially in silver hunting. A detector that takes four AAA batteries at 1.5 volts each should register near the upper limit of 6.0 volts DC. If each battery drops to 1.1 volts, that is a loss of 27% in power output.
Metal Detector Coil Type for Silver
a) Metal Detector Coil Diameter
In general, the larger the coil the deeper you will be able to detect coins. Very large coils, however can be heavy and difficult to handle for long periods of time. The standard round coil will produce a magnetic field that is essentially bowl shaped. An elongated coil will produce a field that is shaped like an oval bowl.
b) DD Coil – Best for Silver Detecting?
Your best bet for silver fishing is the double-D (DD) coil. This arrangement is actually two coils whose fields interact in such a way as to produce flattened spade-like magnetic field. Figure 3 shows the shape of the coil field for a round coil versus a double-D.
The flatter, fan-shaped scan area of the double-D coil makes it easier to pinpoint the coin, and the field penetrates deeper into the soil. Conclusion: The DD coil works much better.
Figure 3. (Left) Field shape of a round coil, or a DD-coil seen from the side. (Right) Field shape of a DD-coil seen from the end. The flatter scan area goes deeper and makes it easier to pin-point the coin in the ground.
Best Locations for Finding Silver with a Metal Detector
Your hunting location is just as important as your detecting gear. Here are some tips for finding silver.
a) Old Maps – Great for Metal Detecting
Silver currency started disappearing from circulation in 1964, when the mint switched to silver plated coins. Knowing where people lived before that date will be a big help in scanning the most productive areas.
- Get an old map of your town, one that was published say in 1950.
- Compare that to a modern map. Do you see where the old parks were located? Where the fairgrounds once stood?
- Choose the 1950 locations instead of the new housing development that went in just 10 years ago.
- Focus on the main roads into and out of your town.
- Choose locations in open areas in and near the older sections of the city.
You will have a much better chance of finding silver in the areas that were populated long ago.
b) People and Places – More Dropped Coins
Use your brain in selecting a place to hunt. Here’s an (oversimplified) example. I live in a town at the base of the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The old covered wagon trails snake through a narrow pass that ends in a wide valley. Guess where the wagon train, and later millions of motorists, will take a break, stretch their legs and lean back against an old oak tree.
A few miles to the west of that pass is a small town which happens to be in gold country. The early Wells Fargo Bank had an assay office in town where they would exchange gold for hard cash. The town town council recently decided the old main street was too narrow for modern traffic. They pulled up the sidewalks for repaving the streets and walkways. Guess who was there with a metal detector for the two weeks between the sidewalk removal and the pouring of the new walkways?
Well, you might not have such ideal locations or opportunities where you live, but the mental process will be similar. Search in old areas where people often congregated.
Important Tips for Finding Silver While Metal Detecting
Silver coins are often worth more as collector items than simply the value of the silver. You can destroy much of that value by gouging a deep scratch on the surface when you retrieve it.
a) Hand-Held Probe – Pinpointer
Do yourself a favor and buy a hand-held probe. They make pinpointing and coin retrieval about twice as fast.
A complete guide to selecting a Pinpointer for Metal Detecting is HERE – What is a Pinpointer for Metal Detecting and Do I Need One?
b) Handle any Silver Finds with Care
When you find a potential silver target:
- Scan the target from one direction, say facing north.
- Scan again at 90 degrees, say facing west.
- You should now be able to pinpoint the exact coin location.
- If you have one on your detector, check the depth reading.
- If you have a hand-held probe, try to fine-tune the target area.
- Place your digging tool about 2 inches to the side of the target.
- Press the digger at least one inch deeper than the depth reading.
- Crank out the dirt slug and scan with your hand-held probe.
- Grab the coin from the edges without rubbing dirt across the surface.
- Let your face break out in a gleeful smile.
Most soil contains sand, or silica (silicon dioxide), often in the form of quartz, which is extremely hard and will easily scratch the softer silver. Even rubbing the dirt off with your fingers is enough to cause a scar. Best bet is to carry a small medicine container filled with soapy water. Drop the coin in there and wash it carefully when you get home.
c) Avoid Over-Fished Metal Detecting Sites
Many clubs have weekly events where dozens of detectorists descend on an urban park. These sites may be over-fished. They have been scoured many times for coins. Instead, focus on smaller parks, grassy areas near major travel routes, and open fields near the center of town.
Finding Silver with your Metal Detector
There’s an old saying: Treasure is where you find it. You can, however, increase your odds of success by applying some of the ideas discussed here. Good luck!
- Forum discussion: https://metaldetectingforum.com/showthread.php?t=177389
- Finding natural silver: https://www.minelab.com/community/treasure-talk/detecting-for-natural-metallic-silver
- Detector frequency and depth: https://metaldetectorsa.co.za/frequently-asked-questions/frequency-and-your-metal-detector/
Vince Migliore is a writer and researcher. He has written numerous magazine articles on metal detecting and three books. His latest book is “The Art and Science of Metal Detecting,” available in paperback at Amazon.