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.

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 For details on other coins, see the recommended coin value books and my slightly outdated “Jackpot Coins” article.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.

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.

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.