What is Phase Shift and Target Identification in Metal Detectors

What is Phase Shift and Target Identification in Metal Detectors

Phase Shift and Target Identification (TID) are terms you come across early in your exploration of metal detecting technology.

Here we explain what these terms mean and describe how phase shift is related to target identification.

The basics of electricity tell us that running a current through a wire creates an electromagnetic field around that wire. If you move another wire through that field it induces current into that second wire. That effect is called electromagnetic force, or “emf.” Now it doesn’t matter if the wire moves through a stationary field or an alternating field moves through a stationary wire. The generation of emf works the same in both cases.

A detector runs a radio frequency current, anywhere from about 5-khz to 20-khz through its coil. This creates a moving field that expands and collapses many times each second. This is a moving field. A coin in the ground is like a tiny 1/2-inch piece of wire. The moving field from the coil induces a very small emf in the coin, called an eddy current, Figure 1.

electromagnetic fields with metal detector

Figure 1. The radio-frequency electromagnetic field from the detector coil generates an eddy current in the coin in the ground.


I’m always getting asked what equipment I use. I’ve been recommending the same solid metal detecting equipment for years.

  • My first metal detector was the Garrett Ace 250 (link to Amazon for current prices and reviews). This machine is still working great after 6 years. I keep it around for “group” treasure hunts.
  • I’m currently sweeping with a Garrett AT Pro Metal Detector (Link to Amazon for Prices). Since I bought my AT PRO Garrett has come out with a package that includes wireless headphones. Getting tangled up in a wire when your on your knees digging is a pain. Check out the Garrett AT MAX package with Z-Lynk Headphones and Pin Pointer (Link for great prices over at Amazon)
  • When it comes to digging two tools are a must have. 1. A hand trowel -I recommend the Lesche Digging and Cutting Tool (link to check it out) and 2. A sand scoop – the one I’m using is the CKG Sand Scoop with Handle (Link to Amazon for current price and reviews) A good sand scoop is a game changer for beaches.
  • Finally get a good pinpointer. I have an older Garrett Pro, but the newer version – Garrett Pro-Pointer AT with Z-Lynk is completely waterproof to 20 feet and hooks up to your wireless headphones.

A Little Science for Metal Detecting – Target Identification

Now, here’s the trick. The physics of that current in the coin are such that it pushes back, in the opposite direction, against the current in the detector coil. This push-back, or echo, slows the current in the coil, but has no effect on the voltage. The result is that current in the detector coil becomes out of step with the voltage. This is called phase shift in electrical jargon. It means the current waveform lags behind the voltage waveform. See Figure 2.

phase shift metal detector

Figure 2. The eddy current in the coin pushes back on the field from the detector coil, causing a phase shift, where the current and voltage wave-forms become out of step.

What Causes Phase Shift on a Metal Detector

A highly conductive target, such as a silver dollar will create a large phase shift in the detector coil. A zinc penny will cause a smaller shift, and a rusty nail even less.

The push-back from the target also explains why you get mixed signals from asymmetrical targets. A long nail scanned in one direction will produce a different phase shift than if scanned at 90-degrees from the original coil swing.

These changes in the current/voltage phase shift are exceedingly small, so it takes a highly refined signal processing circuit to detect the differences.

For less expensive detectors, the phase shift scale is broken up into segments or categories, generally called notches. These notches can be turned on or off to either select or eliminate phase shift categories. If you want to look just for coins, you can turn off , or gray out, the notches for iron, foil, and pull-tabs.

The Fisher F22 has 10 such notches. The Garrett Ace 300 has 12 notches that span the entire phase shift scale. You can see the categories across the top in the first two face plates Figure 3. The more expensive Minelab Equinox has 50 notches and each one can be turned on or off. In Figure 3 you can see some of the notches are grayed out along the semi-circle of the phase shift scale. These are most likely programmed to eliminate junk iron, pull-tabs, and bottle caps.

Metal Detector Faceplate Fisher, Garrett and Minelab

Figure 3. Face plates for different detectors: the Fisher F22, the Garrett Ace 300, and the Minelab Equinox 600. Each shows the discrimination values that can be programmed on or off to eliminate unwanted targets.


Check Out These Spots for your Next Metal Detecting Trip


Does Phase Shift and TID Cost More on a Metal Detector?

In a more expensive detector, the phase shift scale is more exquisitely defined, into many more specific readings called Visual Identification (VID) numbers. The engineering for this finer performance is what makes the detector more costly. The payoff, however, is that you have much more specific target identification. This allows you to distinguish between a zinc penny and a copper penny, or between a silver dime and a clad dime.

The VID scale numbers from any one manufacturer are generally different from other machines. Whichever detector you use, you soon become familiar with the numbers corresponding to specific coins or common junk items, such as pull-tabs. This speeds up your choices on which targets to dig.

I hope this answers your questions about discrimination. Good luck and happy hunting.


Having the right tools to dig with makes a HUGE difference when Metal Detecting. Digging items quickly allows you to work more ground. I recommend three tools:

Lesche Digging Tools for Metal Detecting
Lesche Digging Tools for Metal Detecting


Find out more about Essential Metal Detector Gear with These Articles


Vince Migliore_Author Metal Detecting Book

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.

Metal Detecting Finds (Identify, Display or Sell)

Metal Detecting Finds (Identify, Display or Sell)

What to Do with Your Metal Detecting Finds?

OK! So, you’re back from your metal detecting adventure and you dump a few fist-fulls of coins on the table along with a bag of metallic junk. What are you going to do with all this stuff?


If you need step by step instructions to learn how to metal detect the right way read my article – How To Metal Detect for Beginners Guide


It’s easy to decide what to do with the coins, but it’s the other discoveries that take some thought. Here we examine the many ways to benefit from processing the coins and non-monetary treasures that you collect. This includes the immeasurable pleasure you get from returning someone’s long-lost wedding ring.

Start by Evaluating Your Detecting Finds

Admit to yourself that you often don’t know the value of what you have found.

That’s always a safe strategy. A man finding jewelry, for example, generally doesn’t know what appeals to women. You might find a cheap-looking bracelet and not know that it’s a classic Italian charm bracelet with collector value. That zone of uncertainty often applies to the other trinkets you find in the ground.



I’m always getting asked what equipment I use. I’ve been recommending the same solid metal detecting equipment for years.

  • My first metal detector was the Garrett Ace 250 (link to Amazon for current prices and reviews). This machine is still working great after 6 years. I keep it around for “group” treasure hunts.
  • I’m currently sweeping with a Garrett AT Pro Metal Detector (Link to Amazon for Prices). Since I bought my AT PRO Garrett has come out with a package that includes wireless headphones. Getting tangled up in a wire when your on your knees digging is a pain. Check out the Garrett AT MAX package with Z-Lynk Headphones and Pin Pointer (Link for great prices over at Amazon)
  • When it comes to digging two tools are a must have. 1. A hand trowel -I recommend the Lesche Digging and Cutting Tool (link to check it out) and 2. A sand scoop – the one I’m using is the CKG Sand Scoop with Handle (Link to Amazon for current price and reviews) A good sand scoop is a game changer for beaches.
  • Finally get a good pinpointer. I have an older Garrett Pro, but the newer version – Garrett Pro-Pointer AT with Z-Lynk is completely waterproof to 20 feet and hooks up to your wireless headphones.

Valuing Coins – Face Value Versus Collector Value

Coins are probably the easiest to evaluate, since most are worth exactly face value. Some detectorists memorize a handful of coin dates that are worth taking a second look at, such as the 1943 copper penny.

Metal Detecting Tip: Some folks target finding coins.  These are called “coin shooters” they’ll by machines and tools for scanning beaches.

Many coins minted before 1800, early American and colonial coins, are worth thousands of dollars. Anything from the 1800s is worth setting aside and referring to one of those coin value books. 

Check out this full listing of high rated coin books from Amazon link -> COIN VALUE BOOKS

Only a few coins from the 20th century, 1900 to 1999, have any big values. Examples are:

  • Specific dates of Buffalo Nickels: 1916, 1918, 1936 and 1937.
  • The 1916 Mercury D dime.
  • Certain coins with double date stamps, called Double Die (DD).
  • The rare 1943 copper penny.

Note that the steel 1943 penny is common. The rare copper 1943 penny is also the subject of fakes and frauds. For more on this controversy see a discussion on the 1943 pennies. For details on other coins, see the recommended coin value books and my slightly outdated “Jackpot Coins” article.

In addition, keep an eye out for any coin process errors, such as double die presses, off center stamping, or double stamps. See more on this topic in the coin cleaning section.

The Value of Jewelry Found Metal Detecting

Most of the jewelry you find will be costume jewelry, which is common and inexpensive. Still, with changing fashion trends, even these can be favorites for teenagers or collectors.

Quality jewelry items are engraved with the purity of the metal used.  These are often called HALLMARKS

gold ring hallmark
Gold Ring Hallmark

These marking are based on parts per 1000, so a gold ring engraved with “375” will be 37.5% gold. This same hallmark percentage holds true for silver.  Of course, the higher percent purity the more valuable the find.

Gold and Silver Hallmark Chart
Gold and Silver Hallmark Chart

The biggest mistake detector people make is to think only in terms of melt value for the metals. Jewelry in particular holds much of its worth in the design, engineering, and craftsmanship of the piece. Often, an old piece of jewelry will fetch more if cleaned up and resold than if sent to the smelter. If you find a ring, for example, with an unusual setting or unique design, consider the effort added by the artisan to be a big part of its value.

Precious and semi-precious stones in jewel are something to keep an eye out for. Even costume jewelry often has gemstones worth retrieving. This includes stones from rings, necklaces, broaches, and hair pins.

Everyone knows a diamond ring can be worth a lot, but even here there are factors such as cut, color, mounting, and size in carats that will determine the value. The same is true for less common gemstones, such as tanzanite, opal, beryl, musgravite, alexandrite, emerald, ruby, sapphire, and jadeite. Here you will need the opinion of an expert, or at least a reference book on gems.

If you’re looking for more about the value of GEMS, Patti Polk has an excellent book. Collecting Rocks, Gems and Minerals ( Values and Lapidary Uses)

Far less valuable, but worth collecting, are the semi-precious stones found in much of the common jewelry. These include onyx, amethyst, tiger’s eye, quartz, and jade, to name a few. I’ve found one of the best ways to assess this value is to look at jewelry parts suppliers, such as Fire Mountain, where you can see bulk prices for both the semi-precious stones and their mountings.



Warning: If your metal detector isn’t completely waterproof you might not want to scan beaches. When a metal detector manufacturers WATERPROOFS a unit it has been designed to keep SAND, SALT WATER and MOISTURE out. Don’t ruin your machine get a waterproof unit – I highly recommend the: Garrett AT MAX link to Kellyco

Garrett AT MAX photo credit Kellyco

The Value of Metal Detecting Relics and Other Collector Items

Here again, the rule of thumb mentioned above applies. Relic values are all over the map and often fluctuate depending on the times.

If you’ve ever watched the television show “Antiques Roadshow” you know that what looks like junk is very often worth a small fortune to collectors and specialists in different areas of historical importance.

The most popular items for East Coast Americans are Civil War relics, but historical items from any of our more recent wars are also valuable. Likewise, presidential campaign trinkets and buttons often have collector value. The same is true for a wide variety of Americana; that is, American fad items, including such disparate finds as lunch pails, toy soldiers, watch fobs, and even barbed wire.

This subject is so broad that it requires some caution and research before toss that “junk” into the garbage heap. If you’re finding a lot of vintage items in your area, it might be worthwhile to consult books that cover garage sale values or vintage collectibles. If you’re not sure, check out similar items for sale on any of the on-line auction sites.

Reference book examples:

Valuing Scrap Metal Finds while Metal Detecting

Various metals (scrap metals) gets us into one of those areas, like magnet fishing, that’s really on the periphery of metal detecting. But anyone who goes metal detecting regularly begins to accumulate a good-sized pile of metals, finds that belong no where else but the scrap heap.

Metal Detecting Tip: If you’re scanning on private property, PLEASE pick up any trash and scrap metal. Maybe it doesn’t have value for you, but showing you care is the BEST way to be invited back.

Although many detector enthusiasts toss these into the trash, it pays to keep an eye out for the more valuable types. In my club, after club hunts, there are a few volunteers who will “take that junk off your hands,” as if it were a favor. Make no mistake: many folks in our neck of the woods make a full-time living out of collecting scraps.

Here’s how to tell if it’s worth it for you: Keep your scrap metal finds in a pile after one month of metal detecting, then consult the chart below to estimate how much the finds are worth..


Material / MetalPrice per Pound
Copper and Brass$2.00
Copper Tubing$1.62
Bronze$1.23
Aluminum$0.78
Lead$0.40
Stainless$024
Check out the current Scrap Metal Prices at METALARY

Should You Give Away Your Metal Detecting Finds?

There’s that happy time when you plunk down on the table all the loot that you’ve gathered on you metal detecting excursion. So then, what do you do with it? The choice is yours. On rare occasions, like finding a toy car in the sandbox at the playground, I just leave it there. Like most folks, however, I take most of it home and then decide.

For coins, most folks clean them up and they go right to the coin counter machine or piggy bank. It’s easy to decide what to do with the coins, but it’s the other stuff that takes some thought. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of options on what to do with your finds. Some suggests follow. Older folks often give the coins to their grandchildren.

An informal survey among my detecting friends indicates that most non-monetary finds are given away to children, family members, and friends. This is especially true of jewelry and toys. There’s a real pleasure in giving, and it opens an opportunity to talk to them about metal detecting.

The biggest recipient of giveaways seems to be charities, like Good Will, and special purpose groups, such as historical societies and museums.



I’ve written about pin pointers in this article – What is a Metal Detecting Pinpointer. I highly recommend the Garrett Pro-Pointer AT (Kellyco Link) Waterproof, LED Light and the Z-Lynk Wireless System.


Return Metal Detecting Finds to Owner

For many people it sounds crazy to give away a valuable gold ring or engagement ring. However, I’ve done it, and there’s nothing that can match the sheer joy you bring an old married couple when you find their lost family treasure. It often brings tears to their eyes. Keep this option open. It brings with it good karma.

How to Sell Your Metal Detecting Finds

Selling can be difficult. You have to offer a clear value but consider what you find is free to you.

Go to an auction site, like eBay, and you can see people selling their “detector finds,” Usually it’s a bunch of buttons, costume jewelry and damaged rings. Best chances at selling seem to be when you include a vintage item or two and offer several silver or plated rings. You can also sell such items at garage sales and flea markets.

Typically Metal Detecting Finds on Ebay
Typically Metal Detecting Finds on Ebay

Recycling Metal Detecting Finds

A good number of detectorists clean up and refurbish old or dirty items to then resell them or put them to use. This includes old and slightly damaged tools, relics, and pieces of finds that can be repurposed into other craft items. Examples: finding copper rods on a broken household decoration and using the copper for a craft project.

Many farm tools are cleaned up and reused. You can remove the rust with Naval jelly or even electrolysis.


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.

Gear for Metal Detecting: Find Coins, Jewelry and More

Gear for Metal Detecting: Find Coins, Jewelry and More

What Metal Detecting Gear Do You Need?

Strictly speaking, there are only a few things you really NEED other than your metal detector to enjoy the sport. Things like a digging tool and a pin-pointer. But you’ll have A lot more fun, and you’ll be much more comfortable and productive with the right equipment.

When I was a child, we took a lot of pleasure in playing “baseball” with a rubber ball and a sawed-off broomstick that served as a bat. Later, as an adult, the game became more grown up with a good leather glove, real bats, and a regulation baseball diamond to play on.


I’m always getting asked what equipment I use. I’ve been recommending the same solid metal detecting equipment for years.

  • My first metal detector was the Garrett Ace 250 (link to Amazon for current prices and reviews). This machine is still working great after 6 years. I keep it around for “group” treasure hunts.
  • I’m currently sweeping with a Garrett AT Pro Metal Detector (Link to Amazon for Prices). Since I bought my AT PRO Garrett has come out with a package that includes wireless headphones. Getting tangled up in a wire when your on your knees digging is a pain. Check out the Garrett AT MAX package with Z-Lynk Headphones and Pin Pointer (Link for great prices over at Amazon)
  • When it comes to digging two tools are a must have. 1. A hand trowel -I recommend the Lesche Digging and Cutting Tool (link to check it out) and 2. A sand scoop – the one I’m using is the CKG Sand Scoop with Handle (Link to Amazon for current price and reviews) A good sand scoop is a game changer for beaches.
  • Finally get a good pinpointer. I have an older Garrett Pro, but the newer version – Garrett Pro-Pointer AT with Z-Lynk is completely waterproof to 20 feet and hooks up to your wireless headphones.

You can expect to gain the same types of benefits by learning and using the right detecting gear to improve your searches. Here we cover the add-ons, tools, and peripheral gear you might want to consider for general metal detecting. That is, for coins, jewelry and relics. Specialized detecting, such as for gold and beach detecting are covered in separate papers.

I’ve divided up the general categories of related gear into three, somewhat overlapping, categories:

  • Before the hunt.
  • During the hunt.
  • After the hunt.

Having the right tools to dig with makes a HUGE difference when Metal Detecting. Digging items quickly allows you to work more ground. I recommend three tools:

Lesche Digging Tools for Metal Detecting
Lesche Digging Tools for Metal Detecting

Maps for Metal Detecting

The simplest, cheapest, yet most effective piece of “equipment” you can buy is a map of your town dated from the mid-1960’s. This will show you the oldest streets and where your best chances finding silver are.

You can find such maps on auction sites, from historic documents in your local library, or from older USGS Topographical maps, Figure 3. The most often used are the 1:24000-scale topographic maps available on line. The “Historical” topographic maps are generally older, which I prefer, as they more easily direct you to silver coins. Newer digital maps from the USGS began appearing from 2006.

Old Map to use for Metal Detecting
Old Map to use for Metal Detecting

When I first started metal detecting in my home town, I found only recent coins. Checking the map, my city was only about one-tenth the size back in 1965 when clad coins were introduced. I had been searching in areas that were built in the last 20 years, with not much of a chance to accumulate lost items.

Historical Topographical Map for Metal Detecting
Historical Topographical Map for Metal Detecting

Best Clothes for Metal Detecting

We’re all adults here, so I won’t bore you with a lecture on dressing appropriately. You know your home environment and which hazards to look out for. That said, some things you may want to think about:

  • A hat that has a flap to protect your neck from the sun and insects.
  • A good pair of gloves. This prevents cuts and bruising to your fingers. I use the new nitrile gloves with cloth backing.
  • Rugged, all-weather shoes.

If you’d like more articles about metal detecting check out the links below.

I use a box in the trunk of my car for all the detecting gear. This keeps things neat, and if you need the car for a vacation or group trip, carrying one box back to the garage is easier than gathering lots of little items stashed in various nooks and crannies.

Metal Detecting Gear Packed in Trunk
Metal Detecting Gear Packed in Trunk

I find it best to have a dedicated pair of boots and pants for metal detecting, as things get dirty quickly. Maybe keep the dirty items confined to the garage.

This can save your marriage. I also use an old dish towel to collect the dirt when I’m digging a hole. Simply fold the towel in half when you’re done, and pour the dirt back into the hole.

Sturdy Boots for Metal Detecting
Sturdy Boots for Metal Detecting and a Brush

Get a Compass and GPS for Metal Detecting

The idea here is not to get lost. If you are detecting in wilderness areas it’s easy to become disoriented. I take a compass and generally set off in one direction, stick to that, and follow the line back to the starting point.

In extreme cases of wooded or hilly areas, it may be advisable to get a hand-held GPS unit, or have an app installed on your phone. Set the starting point as a landmark. The GPS unit will tell you the distance and the direction back to your car.

A decent map application on your smart phone also works well to keep you oriented. The trick there is to remember your starting location.

A Compass and GPS for Metal Detecting
A Compass and GPS for Metal Detecting

Be Prepared for Bugs and Vermin Metal Detecting

The big headache in my area is rattlesnakes and mosquitoes. I always bring bug spray and wear long pants and boots. Again, you know your home environment and what to do. It may be ticks and no-see-ums (sand flies, gnats and biting midges). Just use common sense and good judgment.


I’m always getting asked what equipment I use. I’ve been recommending the same solid metal detecting equipment for years.

  • My first metal detector was the Garrett Ace 250 (link to Amazon for current prices and reviews). This machine is still working great after 6 years. I keep it around for “group” treasure hunts.
  • I’m currently sweeping with a Garrett AT Pro Metal Detector (Link to Amazon for Prices). Since I bought my AT PRO Garrett has come out with a package that includes wireless headphones. Getting tangled up in a wire when your on your knees digging is a pain. Check out the Garrett AT MAX package with Z-Lynk Headphones and Pin Pointer (Link for great prices over at Amazon)
  • When it comes to digging two tools are a must have. 1. A hand trowel -I recommend the Lesche Digging and Cutting Tool (link to check it out) and 2. A sand scoop – the one I’m using is the CKG Sand Scoop with Handle (Link to Amazon for current price and reviews) A good sand scoop is a game changer for beaches.
  • Finally get a good pinpointer. I have an older Garrett Pro, but the newer version – Garrett Pro-Pointer AT with Z-Lynk is completely waterproof to 20 feet and hooks up to your wireless headphones.

Be Safe Metal Detecting

For safety reasons I always bring a cell phone with me on hunts. More than once I’ve pulled out the phone and pretended to talk when unsavory characters started loitering too close for comfort.

In wilderness areas I’ve often encountered vermin and animals, but they are generally more frighten of me than I am of them. If you detect in an area where bears, wild boars, or other predatory animals roam, you might want to consider stronger measures such as pepper spray.


Warning: If your metal detector isn’t completely waterproof you might not want to scan beaches. When a metal detector manufacturers WATERPROOFS a unit it has been designed to keep SAND, SALT WATER and MOISTURE out. Don’t ruin your machine get a waterproof unit – I highly recommend the: Garrett AT MAX link to Kellyco

Garrett AT MAX photo credit Kellyco

My digging tool looks something like a Bowie knife or dagger, which I feel is enough security for my purposes, against both small animals and threats of the the two-legged kind.  More useful is to bring an ace bandage and various sized band-aids for the scratches and hazards so common in wild areas.

For really remote or distant hunts your best bet is to go with friends. I always find detecting with others more enjoyable than detecting alone, and it is a lot safer. If you hunt in areas that don’t have cell phone coverage, be sure to let others know where you are going, and consider using Walkie-Talkies to stay in touch with your fellow hunters.

Gear for During a Metal Detecting Hunt

Metal Detecting Coils

Most detector manufacturers let you change coils. You can then choose different coil sizes and types to meet your needs.

The main choices are smaller coils, larger coils, and Double-D (or D-D) coils. Small coils are better for junk filled areas. They help in sorting out coins from bottle caps and other trash. Small coils do not penetrate the earth as deeply and you have to swing the coil more often to cover the same area as a larger coil.

Different Size Metal Detecting Coils
Different Size Metal Detecting Coils

A larger coil will help you find deeper objects, but you will often pick up multiple items at the same time, so you would need to scan from different angles and use the detector’s pin-pointer function to separate the valuables from the junk.


Learn even more about coils in this article. – How Does a Metal Detecting Coil Work? It’s surprising how much science goes into a metal detecting coil.


Round coils create a bowl-shaped search field. Many detectorists prefer the Double-D type coil. This design forces the field into a narrow band, like two dinner plates stuck together. With this design it’s much easier to find the exact location of the object before you start digging. If you’re like me, once you start using DD coils you won’t want to go back to the round ones.

Essential a Pin-Pointer for Metal Detecting

The hand-held pin-pointer is the single most valuable add-on I would recommend. Sure, you can zoom in on the target area with the detector alone, but the pin pointer adds another dimension to your search. If you dig a 1-inch round hole, for example, 2-inches deep, the pin-pointer will vibrate the loudest when it’s on the side of the hole nearest the coin.

Likewise, it will tell you if the target is near the ground surface or deeper in the hole. The pin-pointer makes retrieving the target MUCH faster. This increases your productivity.

Pin-Pointer and Probe for Metal Detecting
Pin-Pointer and Probe for Metal Detecting

Having the right tools to dig with makes a HUGE difference when Metal Detecting. Digging items quickly allows you to work more ground. I recommend three tools:

Lesche Digging Tools for Metal Detecting
Lesche Digging Tools for Metal Detecting

For a long time I didn’t have a metal detecting pinpointer. UGH…..that was a mistake. My finds increased and I was able to scan more thoroughly. Read about how to select and why a pinpointer is so important in this article. What is a Pinpointer and Do I Need One


Headphones for Metal Detecting

After your first hour of scanning a beach you’ll understand how important headphones are. The sun will shine off the detector screen and you won’t see a thing.

Headphones for Metal Detecting
Headphones for Metal Detecting

Headphones and learning “tones” is a basic skill when metal detecting. Learn beeps from bongs and chirps is going to fill you pockets with treasure or dash your dreams.


I devoted a complete article on metal detecting headphones. Find out the pros and cons, qualities, prices and where to get metal detecting headphones in this article. – Selecting Headphones for Metal Detecting (How and Why)


Probes for Metal Detecting

Sometimes a pin-pointer is called a probe, but strictly speaking, for detecting purposes, a probe is a thin metal or plastic rod used to puncture the ground and feel for a coin or object. This saves a lot of time by zeroing in on the target without a lot of digging. Once located, the coin can be easily removed with a much smaller digging tool, such as a flat-head screwdriver. A probe is shown between the two pin-pointers above.

A probe is best suited for sandy locations or loose, arable soil. Rocky and hard-packed ground generally prevents the effective use of a probe.

Digging Tools for Metal Detecting

Whoa! This is a big, messy topic. Much depends on the soil type where you live and what kinds of detecting you favor, such a coin-shooting or relic hunting.

If you’re like most folks, you’ll start with a 2-dollar gardening spade, and about the third time the handle comes apart or the blade breaks trying to pry up a rock, you start to think something much sturdier is needed here. Specialized tools, designed specifically for metal detecting are worth the extra cost.

Shovels for Metal Detecting
Shovels for Metal Detecting

If you’re hunting in farm land, deep, rich soil, or searching for relics, a long-handled but light spade might be appropriate. For general coin hunting you can usually get by with a good hand-held digger.

Hand Shovels for Metal Detecting
Hand Shovels for Metal Detecting

Having the right digging tools is essential to metal detecting. It’s so important I wrote a full article about digging tools. Best Digging Tools for Metal Detecting


In clay heavy soils or newer locales, such as California, where most of the coins are less then a few inches deep, a simple weeder or even a flat-head screwdriver is all you need. In undeveloped areas or hard-packed soil I sometimes use a curved weeder where the arch serves as a fulcrum; you press the point into the soil then simply press down on the handle, and the coin pops right out.


Metal Detecting is Hard on Your Knees

People have different styles of digging. Some squat down, some bend over, and some sit on the ground. If you are the type that kneels on your knees to dig then knee pads will both save your pants and make kneeling a lot more comfortable.

Knee Pads help on long days detecting

The problem is that most knee pads get poor ratings, due to them slipping down your leg or having the padding wear out quickly. Some that pass the comfort and slip tests are the Kellyco Knee Pads – heavy duty knee pads. (link to Kellyco) These are all over $20. If you want knee pads simply for occasional use, then lower cost models might work just as well for you.

Balance the Load Metal Detecting

The shoulder harness displaces most of the weight of the detector from your arm to your shoulders. This is good for when you are detecting for more than a couple hours, relieving the strain on your arms.

I find it a mixed blessing: It does take the weight off your arms, but being a fixed point of support, the coil head moves in an arc-shaped curve. That is, at the extremes of the swing the coil may be 3 inches above the ground and at the lowest point almost touching the ground. With a bungie chord connection you can push or pull the detector to keep the coil level, but that just adds more exertion to the swing.

Detector manufacturers and third-party can supply you will all sorts of harnesses. The best ones let you quickly adjust the height of the detector as you move along hills and slopes. You can also make your own pretty easily by buying a padded shoulder strap and rig it up with a sturdy bungie-cord. Some commercial versions, the Minelab Harness Assembly (Link to Kellyco)

Metal Detecting Harness
Metal Detecting Harness – Balances the Load

Protect Your Metal Detecting Gear with Rain Cover

Most detector control boxes are “water resistant” but not necessarily waterproof. This means that a light sprinkling of rain will not ruin the detector, but a heavy downpour could be dangerous. Often the headphone jack, the charging connection, the coil plug, or the battery case will allow water to get in.

Several detector manufacturers offer their own custom rain covers. You might also buy a package of the stretchy plastic covers used on salad bowls to keep your food fresh.

Only a few detectors, specialized for water detecting, are truly waterproof. Coils are usually waterproof.


Warning: If your metal detector isn’t completely waterproof you might not want to scan beaches. When a metal detector manufacturers WATERPROOFS a unit it has been designed to keep SAND, SALT WATER and MOISTURE out. Don’t ruin your machine get a waterproof unit – I highly recommend the: Garrett AT MAX link to Kellyco

Garrett AT MAX photo credit Kellyco

Eye Loupe and Magnifier for Metal Detecting

One of the first orders of business after you find a coin is to check the date. This is often hard to see with years of caked dirt and oxidation on the coin, so a good magnifier is quite handy. Likewise, if you find a ring, you want to see if there is a mark for silver or gold inside the band.

There are all kinds of magnifiers that are handy or fit on a key chain that you can use. I use an eye loupe with a 10X power. Any magnification from about 5X to 20X will work. Since you’re working around dirt, most folks prefer the kind of magnifier that hinges into a protective cover.

Metal Detecting Tool Belts and Holsters

I used to strap a small plastic bag under my pants belt and collect the junk items in the bag, and I put the coins in my back pocket. Coins, however, are pretty heavy, so more than once they tore a hole in the pocket. I learned this the hard way. I found an old dime, put it in my pocket, turned around an found another dime with the same date. Whoops! It was the same coin fallen through the hole in my pocket!

Metal Detecting Gear - Pouch and More
Metal Detecting Gear – Pouch and More

My do-it-yourself tool belt uses a regular utility belt, a holster for the digging tool, and a tool pocket for the pin-pointer, magnifier, brush, and tiny spray bottle.

So now, like the smarter hunters, I switched to using a tool belt with pockets for my various tools. Some tool belts have built in pockets. You can use one to stash valuables and another to collect the junk and trash.

Many people patch together their own home-made belt. Mine holds the digging tool, my magnifier, and the pin-pointer. Notice I have lots of clips and strings attached so tools don’t get lost.

Some coin hunters prefer to use a vest with many pockets instead of a tool belt. These you can find among photographer supplies or fishing supplies.

Most tool belts have funnel-shaped containers with a hole in the bottom to receive a wrench or screwdriver. Many detectorists use these pouches to hold a coin purse or container of some kind for their coins.

Since most coins are dirty, there is a growing trend to use a small jar, like a long, narrow olive jar, and fill it with soapy water, with a slot cut into the cap, so that by the time you get home the coins are already partially cleaned. In any case, depending on how much add-on gear you carry with you, a good tool belt is mighty handy.

Leather tool belts are generally the strongest, but you can find good ones made of cloth, canvas, and plastic that will do the trick. Examples, like the Kellyco Pouch (link to Kellyco to read great reviews and check prices).


Gear for After Metal Detecting


Identification Books for Coins and Relics

The value of a coin depends on its denomination, the number of such coins minted, and its condition. The condition is evaluated using a grading scale.

See https://www.wikihow.com/Get-a-Coin-Graded. Even the patina, or rather the lack of one, can decrease its value.

The point is that you don’t want to damage the coins you find by rough handling or harsh cleaning. I always check the date first, in the field, and if there’s even a chance that the coin is collectible, I put it in a soft purse for special handling later.

When you get home, then, check your finds against a coin value book.
Coin book examples (link to Amazon): United States Coins 2020; and 2020 U.S. Coin Digest.

Price guide examples (Link to Amazon for price check): Jewelry; and Buttons.

Metal Detecting Cleaning Supplies and Tumblers

For most coins, you can clean them simply with soap and water followed by a soak for a few hours in a solution of vinegar with a little salt added. This soak should last about 2 hours. If you have to scrub away dirt or grime, use a soft bristle brush or one of those sponges with a plastic scouring pad on one side.

Jewelry is treated the same way. For valuable finds take them to a jeweler for ultrasonic cleaning. Use the same kind of care for vintage finds, such as metal buttons, pens, and personal items. Besides a coin value book, you may want to get a catalog for vintage finds, antiques, and garage sale finds.


I found that using an ultrasonic cleaner is the perfect tool for cleaning coins and jewelry. It doesn’t damage your finds, so they retain the highest value. Magnasonic (pictured above has a great unit with thousands of reviews on Amazon. Check it out with this link to Amazon – Magnasonic Professional Ultrasonic Jewelry and Coin Cleaner


The vast majority of your finds will not fetch much more than face value, and these you can clean yourself with the soak described above. For large quantities of coins, many hobbyists buy a rock tumbler.

If you decide to go that route, again use just vinegar and salt (2 tablespoons of salt for a pint of vinegar) with 1 part coins to 2 parts aquarium gravel. Do not use scouring powder, such as Babbo or Bon Ami. These release a gas which can cause the tumbler to pop. After tumbling, rinse the coins thoroughly and, if necessary, wash again with a little dish-washing soap.


I’m always getting asked what equipment I use. I’ve been recommending the same solid metal detecting equipment for years.

  • My first metal detector was the Garrett Ace 250 (link to Amazon for current prices and reviews). This machine is still working great after 6 years. I keep it around for “group” treasure hunts.
  • I’m currently sweeping with a Garrett AT Pro Metal Detector (Link to Amazon for Prices). Since I bought my AT PRO Garrett has come out with a package that includes wireless headphones. Getting tangled up in a wire when your on your knees digging is a pain. Check out the Garrett AT MAX package with Z-Lynk Headphones and Pin Pointer (Link for great prices over at Amazon)
  • When it comes to digging two tools are a must have. 1. A hand trowel -I recommend the Lesche Digging and Cutting Tool (link to check it out) and 2. A sand scoop – the one I’m using is the CKG Sand Scoop with Handle (Link to Amazon for current price and reviews) A good sand scoop is a game changer for beaches.
  • Finally get a good pinpointer. I have an older Garrett Pro, but the newer version – Garrett Pro-Pointer AT with Z-Lynk is completely waterproof to 20 feet and hooks up to your wireless headphones.

Metal Detectorist Need Coin Holders and Display Cases

Most of my cash finds I just dump in a jar and take to the coin machine at the grocery store. I get a gift certificate, usually for a popular consumer site, so I don’t have to pay the outrageous fees.

For rare coins and odd finds I buy cardboard coin holders and store them in binders. The coin holders fit nicely into plastic pages made for photographic slides. I have a separate binder for flat finds, such as jewelry, pins, and tokens. For thicker treasures I use clear plastic organizers. These you can find in the hardware store and are usually used for storing nuts and bolts.

Collecting Coins When Metal Detecting
Collecting Coins When Metal Detecting
Storage Case for Bulky "Finds" When Metal Detecting
Storage Case for Bulky “Finds” When Metal Detecting

Metal Detecting For Gold – You May Need a Scale

You don’t really need a scale, but sometimes hobbyists like to sell their jewelry and pins on auction sites and the buyers want to know the weights of the trinkets you are selling, especially if they are silver or gold. You can use this calculation to set a minimum starting price for your sales.

Digital scales are pretty inexpensive. I bought one in the days I was dreaming of weighing gold nuggets. (Clue: It never happened.)

Testing Gold Finds Metal Detecting

Valuable jewelry generally has markings that tell you the metal used, such as “925” for silver, or “14K” for gold. For unmarked jewelry you may want to use a chemical test for silver and gold. These are relatively inexpensive from multiple sources. See Amazon Gold and Silver Test Kit

Metal Detecting Gear It Seems Like You Can’t Have Enough

This has been an overview of the gear and equipment that might help you in metal detecting. I suspect as you get deeper into the sport there will be new tools and inventions that you’ll want to add to your Gotta Have list. Like wireless headphones.

Here’s hoping the review of gear is helpful to you. There will be separate detecting gear papers for gold detecting and water detecting.


Check Out These Spots for your Next Metal Detecting Trip


Vince-Migiore_Author-Metal-Detecting-Book

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.

How Deep Can Your Metal Detector Detect?

How Deep Can Your Metal Detector Detect?

Yep, most of metal detecting enthusiasts have heard this question dozens of times.
There are at least three different ways to answer it:

  • The quick, sloppy, just-being-neighborly response.
  • The technical, journeyman coin-shooter response, and
  • The practical explanation that gets to the heart of the matter, that is, how deep can I personally go with MY detector?
    Lets look at all three perspectives in turn.

The quick, answer to How Deep can a Metal Detector Detect?

The very easiest of answers is that the depth is about 80% to 100% of the diameter of the round coil you are using, or a little deeper for a D-D coil.


I’m always getting asked what equipment I use. I’ve been recommending the same solid metal detecting equipment for years.

  • My first metal detector was the Garrett Ace 250 (link to Amazon for current prices and reviews). This machine is still working great after 6 years. I keep it around for “group” treasure hunts.
  • I’m currently sweeping with a Garrett AT Pro Metal Detector (Link to Amazon for Prices). Since I bought my AT PRO Garrett has come out with a package that includes wireless headphones. Getting tangled up in a wire when your on your knees digging is a pain. Check out the Garrett AT MAX package with Z-Lynk Headphones and Pin Pointer (Link for great prices over at Amazon)
  • When it comes to digging two tools are a must have. 1. A hand trowel -I recommend the Lesche Digging and Cutting Tool (link to check it out) and 2. A sand scoop – the one I’m using is the CKG Sand Scoop with Handle (Link to Amazon for current price and reviews) A good sand scoop is a game changer for beaches.
  • Finally get a good pinpointer. I have an older Garrett Pro, but the newer version – Garrett Pro-Pointer AT with Z-Lynk is completely waterproof to 20 feet and hooks up to your wireless headphones.

A slightly better estimate comes from reports of experienced dirt fishers. As a member of the Sacramento Valley Detecting Buffs, hunting with them about every weekend for several years, I’ve come up with rough estimate of coin retrievals and depths as summarized in Table 1.

We usually detected for about 3 hours, from 9:00 AM until about Noon. Then we’d lay out our coins and jewelry in front of each other and compare notes. A typical day would have twenty or so members, each displaying between a dozen and three dozen finds, mostly coins.

Experienced dirt-fishers with high-end detectors would generally have the highest counts, and beginners with $100 detectors would have the lowest. Similarly, the depths are deepest with the more advanced detectors. They would typically find money as deep as 9-inches. Although the expensive detectors can scan deeper, they still find treasure mostly in the top few inches of the soil. This is in California, after all, which is a relatively young state, so coins have not accumulated as much as in eastern states.

Table 1. Estimated depth based on detectorist reports.

Now, don’t go ballistic with this table. Conditions vary widely across the United States, by the experience of the dirt fisher, and by the equipment used, among other factors.

The Technical, Journeyman Response to How Deep do Metal Detectors Detect

For the thinking hobbyist the question of how deep you can find coins requires a more detailed look at the factors that affect performance. Some of these factors, like detector engineering, are beyond our control. Others may have fixes or work-arounds. All of them contribute to your understanding of the science of metal detecting, and that, in the end, serves to make you a better coin-shooter.


Having the right tools to dig with makes a HUGE difference when Metal Detecting. Digging items quickly allows you to work more ground. I recommend three tools:

Lesche Digging Tools for Metal Detecting
Lesche Digging Tools for Metal Detecting

Baseline Factors for the Metal Detecting Depth

Metal Detector Engineering: Strength of Field, Circuit Design, Signal Processing

The upper limit of the search field of a detector is based on the strength of the radio frequency (RF) signal generated in the circuitry and the quality of the components, including the signal processing software. Manufacturers are constantly trying to balance the cost of the unit with consumer demanded features. This is why the higher priced detectors often work better. Generally, this is a fixed factor, except for your ability buy the next higher priced machine.

Power Supply of Metal Detector

Like the circuitry, the power supply is built in: you cannot change it. To work best you can keep the batteries fresh and recharged. Some detector models now have the option of a separate power pack that keeps the supply voltage at an optimum level for a longer period of time.

Metal Detecting Coil Size and Design

A larger coil size will penetrate deeper into the earth. Double-D, or D-D coils are better for deeper detecting. Many detectors models offer the ability to switch coils.

Detector type: VLF, Pulse-Induction, Two-Box

Many VLF Detectors now offer a choice of the radio frequency you can use. The lower frequencies generally penetrate deeper into the earth. Pulse Induction detectors usually penetrate deeper than the radio frequency models, but they suffer from sketchy target identification.


Warning: If your metal detector isn’t completely waterproof you might not want to scan beaches. When a metal detector manufacturers WATERPROOFS a unit it has been designed to keep SAND, SALT WATER and MOISTURE out. Don’t ruin your machine get a waterproof unit – I highly recommend the: Garrett AT MAX link to Kellyco

Garrett AT MAX photo credit Kellyco

Pulse-Induction Detectors are superior in mineralized and salty environments. They are favored for beach detecting and even into the surf. The only drawback of these detectors is that they are often poor at target identification. See: https://electronics.howstuffworks.com/gadgets/other-gadgets/metal-detector4.htm


Metal Detecting Tip: If your ready to get serious about metal detecting Garrett makes a PI (pulse induction) unit that is AMAZING. Plus it’s probably the best value for a high end PI detector. Garrett ATX Extreme PI (link to Kellyco to read more)

Garrett ATX Pulse Induction Metal Detector
Garrett ATX Pulse Induction Metal Detector

The Two-Box Metal Detector is used to find very deep treasure. Think pirate trunks filled with gems and bullion buried on an island in the Pacific. Although they penetrate deep into the ground, they are not suited for small coin hunting. They are generally heavy and quite large.

These detectors are best employed when a treasure hunter has an approximate location to hunt in where a cache is known to exist (very rare). Normally two-box detectors would be far beyond the range of the hobbyist coin-shooter, but now some famous brands have stepped into the arena with specialized and add-on units for the hobbyist.

For more on two-box detectors see: https://www.kellycodetectors.com/catalog/library/best-two-box-deep-metal-detectors.


Environmental Factors Affect Metal Detector Depth

Soil Type

Hard-pan, heavy clay, and densely packed soils are harder for the detector signal to penetrate than loose, arable land. Similarly, ground containing large rocks, aggregate accretions, and intermittent strata can create chaos in the return signal, making both depth and target identification readings less reliable. See Figure 1.

Ionization and Mineralization

Certain minerals, especially salts, often interfere with the coil signal and will decrease effective depth. Water in salty terrain can create ionized particles which block the signal. Many minerals and ores, such as at quarries and in desert landscapes can create false readings and faulty target identification.

Be sure to adjust your ground balance in these areas. Many detectors compensate for mineralized soil by decreasing the signal strength or sensitivity, which in turn reduces the effective depth of your searching.

Electromagnetic Interference

Buried power lines, overhead power lines, and large utility transformers often muddle or even incapacitate your detector functions. Interference from other coin-shooters will do the same. Operating near a radio station will sometimes cause problems.

Air Test vs Ground Test metal Detecting
Figure 1 Air Test vs Ground Test – Junk metals, minerals, ionized particles all tend to scatter the radio signal, making depth measurement and target identification more difficult.

Figure 1. Air test versus ground test. Junk metals, minerals, ionized particles all tend to scatter the radio signal, making depth measurement and target identification more difficult.

Metal Detecting Target Factors

Metal detectors work by sending a radio signal through a coil. The electromagnetic field generated by the coil is transmitted into the ground. A metal object in the ground acts like a tiny radio antenna. Energy from the coil signal generates a minute current in the target, and the coil picks up that return signal, processes it, and tries to identify the target.
(Reference: https://www.minelab.com/knowledge-base/getting-started/how-metal-detectors-work.)

The return signal from the target is not very strong. It’s strength diminishes with distance, which is another way of saying depth. Any interference from other objects or ingredients in the soil will contaminate that return signal. This process works against both the ability to detect a coin and the ability to identify it.

Target Size and Orientation

The best orientation for maximum depth is horizontal to the land surface, and parallel to the surface of the coil. This position captures the most energy from the coil. Likewise, a larger coin, or larger metal object, will have a better response. A coin in the horizontal position receives the least energy and is most difficult to detect. See Figure 2.

Metal Detecting Target Orientation and Size
Metal Detecting Target Orientation and Size (FIGURE 2)

Figure 2. Return signal from the target to the receiving coil at different angles of orientation: A, parallel; B; askew at 30 degrees, C; on end.

Target Composition

If the target is a good conductor, such as copper or silver, the return signal will be strongest. Cheap, impure, and corroded metals will return a weaker response.

Metallic and Chemical Interference

Other metal objects near the coin, salts and ionizing chemicals, even ferrous rocks, will hinder the detection of the return signal. The most common culprits are nails, bottle caps, pull-tabs and metal garbage.


Learning How to Use Your Metal Detector Can Be Tough, But I’ve Got You Covered with These Articles

Metal Detecting Operator Factors

Swing Technique

Keep the coil close to the ground for maximum depth. It’s not a good idea to actually touch the dirt, as this will quickly sand-paper away the protective cover. Touching the grass is not as abrasive.

Use the pin-pointer feature on your detector if you have one. When you find a target, scan it again facing a different direction. For example, change a north-south scan to an east-west scan. Changes in the signal may indicate an oblong or tubular target.

Knowing Your Metal Detector

There’s very common saying in the detecting world. “RTFM!” It means Read the Manual. Not exactly sure what the ‘F’ stands for. (Wink!)

You have to know how to adjust the gain, the discrimination level, the notch filters, ground balance and related controls. This is one of the biggest factors in getting maximum depth out of your detecting. Not knowing, or not caring about these settings is the most common error among detectorists, and it’s the most easily corrected with just a little tinkering with your controls. The solution, again, is to read your user manual.

Detector depth is also related to your chosen goals. Relic hunting, or settings for “All Metal” mode with cranked up gain will get you pretty deep. Gold prospecting, with a higher radio frequency and a small coil will get you only a few inches deep. And there’s a vast range in between.


A couple tools are a must for beach metal detecting. A waterproof proven pin-pointer and a strong sand scoop. I highly recommend the GARRETT AT PRO POINTER and the CKG SAND SCOOP (link to Kellyco to check prices and ratings)


The Personal, Definitive Answer to Depth

In order to determine exactly how deep ANY metal detector can operate you would have to calculate each of the above listed factors, measure the percentage of loss by each of the variables, then multiply those losses by the ideal air-test depth measurement.

That, of course is impractical, if not impossible, for the average detectorist.
Instead, there are simple methods to determine exactly how deep YOUR metal detector operates.

Air Testing Your Metal Detector

  • Turn on your detector and prop it up against a wooden table or fence, away from any metal objects.
  • Lay out an 18-inch or 3-foot wooden or cloth ruler (nothing metallic) onto the table.
  • Cut a V-shaped notch into the side of a dowel or wooden stick, so that you can jam coins or objects into the notch and they will stay secure as you wave them under the coil.
  • Wave a series of objects directly perpendicular under the coil. The coins should be parallel with the base of the coil. See Figure 3. Suggested coins: zinc penny, copper penny, nickel, clad and silver dimes and quarters.
  • Measure the distance from the coil where you can just barely read the Target ID on your detector. Write down that distance onto a note-pad.

Field Testing Your Metal Detector

When you’re in the field and you find a relatively deep coin in your Target ID, write down the target and, if your detector displays it, the depth reading.
Dig for the coin without removing it. Once you locate it with your pin-pointer, measure the actual depth. Write that depth reading down next to the depth that was recorded by the detector. Is there much of a difference?
Repeat that for different coins and depths.

Field Research With Your Metal Detector

Remember that stick with the notch in it? (Air Test, above.) Use it to measure actual depth of your finds.

Take the stick and some test coins with you on a hunt.

When you’ve found something and you have deep hole, say 9-inches, then place the stick with a coin in the notch, and bury it with the loose dirt from the hole. Then scan it with your detector and record your readings. Repeat for each test coin.

Now you can measure the depth of each test coin in more realistic conditions. You will then have depth readings from three sources: the air test, the detector depth readings, and you own physical measurements from retrieved coins.

How Deep will a Metal Detector Go?
How Deep will a Metal Detector Go?

Figure 3. Depth calculations using an air test and measures in the field.

If the test coin is a quarter and you can easily detect it in the hole with dirt in it, then raise the coil up an inch at a time until the coin is just barely detectable. Add the height of the coil to the depth of the hole.

Now you will have a measure of depth for each coin in real-world conditions.

Of course, the loose soil in the measurements will not be as compact as the original conditions, but it will be a lot more accurate than the air test.

PRO TIP: Paint inch marks on your pin-pointer, or your digging too, so you can measure the depth in the field without carrying a ruler around with you.

Conclusions is Deeper Better Metal Detecting

So there you have it. You should now be able to rattle off the answer to the depth question for three different audiences.

Examples:

  • For curious passers-by: “Oh, about the diameter of the coil.”
  • For the fellow dirt-fisher: “Well, it’s complicated. It’s mostly coil size, the quality of the detector, and conditions in the ground.” See Figure 4.
  • For your own satisfaction: “I did my own research and this machine goes reliably to 10 inches deep.”

I leave you with some helpful references. Happy hunting!

Where you Metal Detect also affects how deep your machine will go
Where you Metal Detect also affects how deep your machine will go

References

Typical depth-testing videos on YouTube:


Vince Migliore_Author Metal Detecting Book

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. Your can read more about Vince on his Biography Page


Finding Silver Coins With Metal Detecting

Finding Silver Coins With Metal Detecting

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)

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.

Hints:

  • 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.


I’m always getting asked what equipment I use. I’ve been recommending the same solid metal detecting equipment for years.

  • My first metal detector was the Garrett Ace 250 (link to Amazon for current prices and reviews). This machine is still working great after 6 years. I keep it around for “group” treasure hunts.
  • I’m currently sweeping with a Garrett AT Pro Metal Detector (Link to Amazon for Prices). Since I bought my AT PRO Garrett has come out with a package that includes wireless headphones. Getting tangled up in a wire when your on your knees digging is a pain. Check out the Garrett AT MAX package with Z-Lynk Headphones and Pin Pointer (Link for great prices over at Amazon)
  • When it comes to digging two tools are a must have. 1. A hand trowel -I recommend the Lesche Digging and Cutting Tool (link to check it out) and 2. A sand scoop – the one I’m using is the CKG Sand Scoop with Handle (Link to Amazon for current price and reviews) A good sand scoop is a game changer for beaches.
  • Finally get a good pinpointer. I have an older Garrett Pro, but the newer version – Garrett Pro-Pointer AT with Z-Lynk is completely waterproof to 20 feet and hooks up to your wireless headphones.

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: Finding Silver with a Metal Detector
Figure 1: Finding Silver with a Metal Detector

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.

Settings on Metal Detector for Silver
Figure 2: Settings for Silver on Ace 300 and White

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.


Warning: If your metal detector isn’t completely waterproof you might not want to scan beaches. When a metal detector manufacturers WATERPROOFS a unit it has been designed to keep SAND, SALT WATER and MOISTURE out. Don’t ruin your machine get a waterproof unit – I highly recommend the: Garrett AT MAX link to Kellyco

Garrett AT MAX photo credit Kellyco

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.

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.

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.

Examples:

  • 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.

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.


Having the right tools to dig with makes a HUGE difference when Metal Detecting. Digging items quickly allows you to work more ground. I recommend three tools:

Lesche Digging Tools for Metal Detecting
Lesche Digging Tools for Metal Detecting

Metal Detector Coil Type for Silver

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.

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.

Different Metal Detecting Coils for Silver Coins
Different Metal Detecting Coils for Silver Coins

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.

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.

Suggestions:

  • 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.

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.

Hand-Held Probe – Pinpointer

Do yourself a favor and buy a hand-held probe. They make pinpointing and coin retrieval about twice as fast.

Metal Detecting Pinpointer
Metal Detecting Pinpointer

A complete guide to selecting a Pinpointer for Metal Detecting is HERE – What is a Pinpointer for Metal Detecting and Do I Need One?

Handle any Silver Finds with Care

When you find a potential silver target:

  1. Scan the target from one direction, say facing north.
  2. Scan again at 90 degrees, say facing west.
  3. You should now be able to pinpoint the exact coin location.
  4. If you have one on your detector, check the depth reading.
  5. If you have a hand-held probe, try to fine-tune the target area.
  6. Place your digging tool about 2 inches to the side of the target.
  7. Press the digger at least one inch deeper than the depth reading.
  8. Crank out the dirt slug and scan with your hand-held probe.
  9. Grab the coin from the edges without rubbing dirt across the surface.
  10. 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.

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!


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References


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.