What Do the Numbers on Metal Detector Mean

What Do Metal Detector Numbers Mean?

Do you know what metal detector numbers mean? When it comes to metal detecting, there are various skills you should learn to make the most out of your metal detector. One of these skills includes knowing how to read your metal detector.

What Metal Detector Numbers Mean

Metal detector numbers, the Target Identification Indicators (TID), or the Visual Display Indicators (VID) measure the conductivity in your metal detector. These numbers range from 1 to 100. Since different types of metals represent specific personal conductivities, the numbers make it easier to identify them.

For example, the low conductivity of iron equates to its lower rank. On the other hand, the highly conductive aluminum tends to have higher numbers.

When your metal detector locates something, notice that it creates a unique sound accompanied by a number shown on the LCD. It is how you know that your metal detector is at work.

Metal Detecting Tip: I’ve written up a guide to the Target ID numbers on the Garrett Ace 400 here’s the link 👉 Garrett Ace 400 Target ID Numbers Explained

Discrimination and Target Identification for Metal Detector
Discrimination and Target Identification for Metal Detector

How To Read Your Metal Detector

To fully appreciate the significance of metal detector numbers, the overall process of reading your metal detector should be well-understood first.

The process of reading your metal detector depends on the type of metal detector you’re using. However, the latest models mainly depend on depth, tone, and visual display indicators. (Source)


A typical metal detector can locate metals around 6-10 inches underground for coin-sized items. While this is an estimate, it is still helpful for giving you an idea of how deep you will dig. It means you don’t have to search longer than what is actually needed.

Aside from depth, sensitivity also plays a vital role. Another term for this is “gain.” When the sensitivity is fixed to a reasonable level, your metal detector can locate smaller items even at greater depth.


When the magnetic field of the metal detector’s coils covers a conductive target, it produces a beeping sound familiar to many metal detector enthusiasts. It happens every time your metal detector locates a metallic material as you hover in an area.

In addition, you may also notice that as the center of the search coil gets closer to the metal detected, the audio tone becomes louder. However, this will also depend on the levels of tone that your metal detector offers.

Visual Display or Discrimination Indicators (VDI)

Aside from the depth and tone, the VDI is an excellent way to locate your target. Synonymous to the target ID indicator, this numerical scale evaluates what is underground based on its electrical properties.

Some Great Materials for Target Identification Numbers on Popular Metal Detectors

Minelab User Manual for Target ID Download

Click on picture above for FREE download the Minelab User Manual and learn the TID numbers

Nokta Simplex User Manual for Target ID Download

Click on picture above for FREE download the Nokta Simplex User Manual and learn the TID numbers

Garrett AT Pro User Manual for Target ID Download

Click on picture above for FREE download the Garrett AT Pro User Manual and learn the TID numbers

The Importance of Reading Your Metal Detector Numbers

Hearing your metal detector beep for the first time is an exciting feeling. However, you don’t want to dig every single hole that corresponds to each of the beeps your metal detector makes. After all, doing so much more than necessary isn’t a sustainable task in the long run.

Being able to predict what lies beyond your metal detector is a necessity at a certain point. Knowing how to read the numbers in your metal detector can save time and effort in digging holes to find unusable junk.

Aside from saving time and effort, having prior knowledge of the type of metal you’re about to discover allows you to know how easy or difficult finding specific metals is – eventually leading you towards your preferred niche.

Similarly, having an idea of your preferred metal detecting allows you to strategically research your ideal locations and any additional equipment you might need. If you’re using metal detecting for profit, you can even search for the market prices of your target metal finds.

👉Hey David here the guy behind this website. Check Out My Favorite Metal Detecting Equipment Below 👍 Recommended

Nokta Ultra
Nokta Simplex ULTRA 👈 Awesome Machine!

When asked what I recommend, the 👉 Nokta Simplex Ultra stands out. Perfect for beginners, it’s waterproof, includes wireless headphones, and offers five functional modes, growing with your detecting skills.

Lesche T Handle Shovel picture
Lesche T Handle Shovel digs through everything

The next thing you need is a great shovel, believe me when I say you’ll dig more knowing you can dig FASTER. The nearly bullet proof Lesche T- Handle Shovel is the most comfortable heavy duty shovel I’ve ever used.

I love the CKG Sand Scoop for Beach Metal Detecting
I love the CKG Sand Scoop for Beach Metal Detecting

Metal Detecting and Beaches are a perfect match. To search a beach you’ve GOT TO HAVE A SAND SCOOP. CKG Sand Scoops are heavy duty and able to be used as a shovel.

Minelab Equinox 800 amazing Metal Detector
Minelab Equinox 800 amazing metal detector

If it’s time up UP YOUR GAME , get the industry standard metal detector. The Minelab Equinox 800 IS THE BEST. Okay it’s not cheap, but your finds are going to increase with this machine.

How to Know What Metal Detector Numbers Mean

Like reading the rest of your metal detector, the process and specifics of knowing what metal detector numbers mean will depend on the model you are using. More specifically, it depends on the manufacturer and the model of the metal detector.

Although every metal detector has a unique way of displaying these numbers for visual purposes, note that more expensive metal detectors tend to have better readings. It is due to the different circuitry of their display screens and other advanced technologies. (Source)

For example, a silver dime is equivalent to the target ID indicator 88 for a Teknetics detector, while 64-66 for Fisher “F” detectors.

To save you from worrying, know that your metal detector comes with a manual that explains the meaning of each Target Identification Indicator. Reading the manual will help you do your metal detecting tasks efficiently.

Metal Detecting Tip: The Nokta Makro Legend is one of the machines that is delivering value way beyond it’s price. Read about how the Target ID Numbers work on it in this article 👉 Target ID Numbers for the Legend

What Metals Can You Read on Your Metal Detector

Around 95 out of 118 elements in the periodic table are considered metals. This estimate is due to the inaccurate boundaries between metals, non-metals, and metalloids. These numbers fluctuate slightly to the lack of universally accepted definitions. (Source)

Given the vastness of metals your metal detector can locate, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with such numbers. It is why it’s best to find a specific type of metal or a group of metals you want to focus on finding. Some metals even have fully customized devices for finding them – an example is a gold detector.

Although metal detectors can detect both ferrous and non-ferrous metals in a general sense, here are four of the most common targets you can focus on:


Most metal detectors will notify you of gold detection with a solid and mellow sound – akin to the sound produced when detecting brass or lead.

On a VDI or target ID indicator between 1-100, small gold items are usually low on the scale ranging from 15-20. Larger gold items range from 50-55. Finally, massive gold nuggets typically fall between 80-85.

The size of a gold item is also an essential indicator of the maximum depth it can be detected. As a general rule, the bigger the gold object, the deeper it can be detected.

Metal Detecting Tip: Seriously all detectorist want to hear that beautiful tone indicating GOLD. Read about the best machines for making this discovery in this article. 👉 Best Metal Detectors for Gold.

For example, you will locate a gold nugget weighing the same as two pennies five inches deep underground. On the other hand, you can locate the exact item weighing five pennies as deep as eight inches underground.


The VDI or target ID indicator of lead ranges from 70-79.

What makes lead challenging to detect is its low conductivity which can be even more difficult if buried deep underground. To give you an idea, the low conductivity of lead is as bad as stainless steel.

Although modern metal detectors can detect lead without a problem, there are specific models that can detect lead better than anything else.

Metal Detecting Tip: A trip into the forest will usually result some lead hits. Bullets are a common find and fun to identify. Read more in this article Metal Detecting for Bullets

Suppose you’re using a metal detector specially designed to detect non-magnetic and non-ferrous metals like aluminum, silver, and gold. In that case, lead can also have some of the highest tones.


Since platinum has low conductivity, it is expected to rate low on the VDI or target ID indicator scale, even lower if the located platinum is small. There are cases when low-rated platinum is even classified into the ferrous range, ranging from 0-5.

The platinum range 0-5 is ideal for petite women’s rings, thin gold chains, earrings, and other small platinum items.

Remember that platinum is typically alloyed with other metals, which alters its conductivity. Pure platinum rings are basically non-existent. Even a KT stamp inside isn’t an accurate representation of its platinum content.


In general, tungsten items tend to have similar sounds as gold. Hence, its target ID indicator or VDI usually falls between 40-45, or even larger.

In the case of bigger tungsten items, its number can reach the 60s mark.

Metal Detecting Tip: I always wondered about discovering tungsten. Yes you can and this metal is valuable. Read 👉 Can a Metal Detector Detect Tungsten?

Note that these are general observations; readings will still depend on your metal detector. Moreover, remember that the closer your target metal is to the surface, the clearer the sound will be. The same analogy also applies to its size.

Simplex LCD screen and keypad is easy to see and adjust
Simplex LCD screen and keypad is easy to see and adjust

The Metal Detector Number Chart

Metal detector enthusiasts use a Metal Detector Number Chart to identify the rest of the metals.

The Metal Detector Number Chart is based on a numerical value wherein the higher the Target Identification Indicator or the number itself, the rarer and more valuable the material is.

Although we already mentioned that the metal detector number chart varies depending on the model and manufacturer of the metal detector, manufacturing companies usually follow a general outline.

The following shows a visual demonstration of the metal detector number chart:

  • 0 – Iron, since you can find it anywhere
  • 0-8 – Foil made of regular metal
  • 28 – Nickel coin worth 5 cents
  • 35 – Gold coin worth $2.50
  • 45 – Silver coin worth 3 cents
  • 50 – Gold coin worth $5
  • 70 – Gold coin worth $20
  • 82 – Silver quarter
  • 90 – Silver dollar coin

Iron is typically considered the lowest metal in this outline, while gold and silver are the highest. In the case of materials, unusable junk such as foil, nails, and eraser tips are low-rated compared to high-end coins and jewelry. (Source)

However, remember that this is just a general outline, and you still need to consult your metal detector manual. It should give you a comprehensive idea of how your metal detector works with its own number chart.

Understanding The Different Beeps of Your Metal Detector

Like what your metal detector numbers mean, the different beeps of your metal detector also mean the same thing: the type of metal it detected.

As you hover your metal detector on or below the ground, you’ll hear high- and low-toned beeping noises that track various objects. Instead of numbers, these beeps use audio cues known as “tones” to let you know the types of metals that your metal detector has located.

Like the number chart you’ve seen earlier, the tone of beeping of your metal detector follows a similar pattern. Low pitches usually indicate low-value metals, while high pitches indicate high-value metals like silver and gold.

For specific materials, coins generally produce loud and high-pitched tones. Such noises are easily distinguishable since they go from silent to very loud. You can identify junk with a rough and turbulent tone that creates a “broken” sound effect. (Source)

Tips For Successful Metal Detector Use

More tips for using a metal detector
More tips for using a metal detector – I’ve got a full article with more tips 👉 Metal Detecting Tips

Aside from paying attention to the sounds and numbers of your metal detector, you can get ahead of the game by manipulating your metal detector’s settings for more customized results.

To start, here are six features you should consider. (Source)

All-Metal Mode

As the name suggests, the all-metal mode allows you to get signals on every type of metal – including aluminum, iron, steel, tin, and more. It is a good starting point for metal detector enthusiasts who are still looking for their niches and aren’t searching for anything in particular.

The all-metal mode is ideal for all-purpose metal detecting since it allows you to find deeper targets than the discrimination mode.

On the other hand, a disadvantage of the all-metal mode is that you’ll get signals from everything. It can be a hassle if you’re metal detecting places with lots of junk, like demolition sites and dumpsites.

Discrimination Mode

As a solution to the disadvantage offered by the all-metal mode, you can opt for a discrimination mode to filter some signals that are most likely junk or trash. A discrimination mode is ideal in parks, beaches, and old burn piles since they usually have considerable trash.

However, make sure not to set your discrimination mode too high. Doing so might make you miss out on valuable and unusual finds mistaken for junk.

Ground Balancing

Soil mineralization is a menace for most metal detector enthusiasts since it produces false positive signals that can waste your time and labor. Hence, ground balancing is another feature that you should consider.

Ground balancing is a setting that increases your detection depth in mineralized ground. It is especially essential in metal detecting areas where the land contains lots of salt, such as wet beach sands, and fine iron particles like those in the red earth.

The problem is that these metal detectors locate these minerals the same way a target metal does. Since the mineralized ground contains a larger mass and area than your target metal, mineralization can easily mask smaller targets. It causes false positive signals.

In order to prevent this, the ground balancing settings remove any responding ground signals so you can only hear target signals instead of the distracting ground noise. (Source)

Target Identification

It is basically what the article is all about – but as mentioned, target identification refers to the numbers that appear on your screen every time you hear a beep. These numbers correspond to the kind of metal that makes the target.

Tone Identification

Like the target identification, metal detectors usually have different tones for different metals. For example, metals like iron typically produce low tones, while more valuable items like silver, gold, and coins have a higher pitch.


In metal detecting terms, gain refers to the sensitivity of your metal detector. It controls the strength of the signals as well as their responses to the surrounding environment.

Increasing your metal detector’s gain allows you to find smaller and irregularly-shaped objects. It is also beneficial if you need to use your metal detector in deeper locations.

However, note that using higher gain means that your metal detector also becomes more sensitive to possible interference. Ground mineralization might also trigger a metal detector with higher gains.

When using your metal detector with high gain, make sure that you’re the only one metal detecting in the area at the moment. Otherwise, the rest of the metal detectors (including yours) could be subjected to potential intrusions.

Looking for some “How To” metal detecting articles? I’ve got you covered

The Best Metal Detectors Right Now

Although most metal detectors quickly locate low-rated and high-rated metals, it’s understandable to look for the best models, especially if it’s your first metal detector.

With lots of metal detectors around, we narrowed them down into eight of the best metal detectors by category: (Source)

1.   Minelab Vanquish 440 Metal Detector | The Best Metal Detector for Beginners

It is a beginner-friendly metal detector that is lightweight, collapsible, and with multi-frequency technology. It allows you to look for several metals, such as gold, silver, and other jewelry.

Another factor that makes this metal detector beginner-friendly is that it provides both the target ID indicator or VDI readings and the depth readings of the metal it has located. It is an excellent feature for a beginner-friendly metal detector since it can save you the time and energy of digging a location only to find useless or low-rated junk.

Its waterproof search coil allows you to use it in damp locations – resisting water as deep as three feet. This metal detector enables you to explore riverbeds, streams, and even beaches.

If its price of $289 is too high for you, you can opt for the Vanquish 340 instead – a slightly cheaper yet equally beginner-friendly option.

2.   XP Deus MI-6 Pinpointer Metal Detector | The Best Pinpointer

Aside from a trusted metal detector, it’s also a good idea to have an additional pinpointer to assist you in locating your metals once you start digging. A pinpointer is like a smaller version of a metal detector that prevents you from digging unnecessarily huge and messy holes.

However, note that this specific model sells fast, so you must watch out for the latest release or opt for a similar model from XP.

3.   Minelab Equinox 800 | The Most Intuitive Metal Detector

This metal detector uses Minelab’s multi-frequency technology which allows for supersensitive detections. You can choose between its four detecting modes – beach, field, gold, and park.

Ideal for long-term use, this model has a battery life of 12 hours – imagine all the metals you can find in one go. It is also waterproof for up to ten feet, making it excellent to use even in wet locations.

Depending on the version you choose, this metal detector also comes with wireless headphones for clearer audibility of the tones. It also includes a pinpointer to help you find your target metal up close.

If its price of $1,000 is too high for you, you can find used models in excellent condition at a slightly lower price.

4.   XP Deus Metal Detector | The Best Metal Detector For All Terrains

Due to its high frequency, this metal detector allows for better sensitivity in small items and even items with low conductivity, like alloyed or thin jewelry pieces. The Deus expert-level metal detector is great for multiple tasks. Its modes include coin-hunting, dry sand, relic, and wet sand.

Using this model in remote locations is not a problem thanks to its battery life which lasts up to 27 hours. It is also fully allegedly waterproof to as deep as 60 meters.

The company often updates the model’s software and provides free and lifetime downloadable software upgrades. All you need to do is get this metal detector out there.

5.   Minelab CTX 3030 | The Most Waterproof Metal Detector

Aside from its waterproof feature that can go as deep as ten feet, this metal detector also allows for many customizable settings. It features a full-color LCD screen where you can find multiple objects simultaneously, suitable for those with limited time and distinguishing the good finds from the unusable junk.

Freebies also come with this metal detector – wireless headphones and a built-in wireless speaker that you can attach to your belt.

6.   Garrett Ace 250 | The Best Metal Detector for All-Around Work

Garrett Ace 250
Garrett Ace 250

At $250, this metal detector is excellent for its price. It is easy to use and carry. It also has “notch discrimination,” which refers to the ability of a metal detector to choose which types of metals to locate, ignoring anything else.

You can choose between its five search modes and various other auxiliary features. Its search coil is also waterproof up to a depth of nine inches, making it an ideal metal detector for sandy beaches.

If this specific model is too expensive for you, the Garrett Ace 200 offers similar features but at a slightly lower price.

7.   Minelab 15-by-12-Inch EQX 15 Elliptical Double-D Waterproof Smart Search Coil for Equinox Series Metal Detectors | The Best All-Terrain And Intermediate-To-Expert Level Metal Detector

Not all metal detectors will allow you to replace their built-in search coils, but this specific model is an exception. This is because this metal detector is designed for expert level, hence a more flexible room for customization.

Upgrading to a more extensive search coil such as this 15-inch one allows you to locate even the smallest pieces of bronze, gold, and silver, even with fast settings. Its larger search coil also enables you to explore deeper locations and find small amounts of valuable metals.

This metal detector is also waterproof, allowing you to cover various locations.

8.   Nokta Mini Hoard Waterproof Kids Metal Detector | The Best Metal Detector for Kids

This model is right on the spot if you have an eight-year-old or younger kid interested in taking up metal detecting. This metal detector is short, lightweight, and has a unique display of either a smiley face with thumbs up or a frowning face with thumbs down to indicate whether a location is worth digging or not.

This model is waterproof up to three feet only, allowing your kid to explore shallow waters and loose sand before moving on to more challenging terrains. Aside from its retractable wand, ideal for traveling, it also comes with two sets of stickers, a sand scoop, a sand sifter, and two years of warranty.

Is Metal Detecting Profitable?

Understanding the work, time, and energy that come with metal detecting, you’re probably curious whether metal detecting is a profitable hobby.

Yes, metal detecting is a profitable hobby. However, to deem itself profitable, you must devote ample time and money to research, networking, equipment, and even a little luck. For the average metal detector enthusiast, an hour of site work results from 3-4 hours of scouting and research. (Source)

What do You Need For Beach Metal Detecting?

I’m going to provide an ESSENTIAL beach gear list. Everyone wants to enjoy beach time and dragging a pile of gear to the beach sucks.

  • A great multi-frequency metal detector. Different metals react to different frequencies. Having a machine that utilizes multiple frequencies at the same time will greatly improve finding gold and coins. The Best Value is the Nokta Makro Legend check prices and reviews on Amazon with this shortcut link 👉 Nokta Makro Legend
  • A great pinpointer, I’m an absolute believer in wireless tech. For years I would get tangled in my headphone wires. GO WIRELESS the Nokta PulseDive links to the Legend’s wireless headphones. Since it’s built for diving, it’s Heavy Duty. Short cut link to Amazon – Nokta Makro PulseDive
  • Get a heavy duty sand scoop, I’ve bought the cheap plastic and metal scoops – NOT GOOD. They usually break within a day. 2+ years later I’m still hammering on my CKG Metal Detecting Sand Scoop 👈 Link to Amazon

Ready To Start Metal Detecting Now?

An excellent way to become familiar with your metal detector beeps or tones is to dig small patches of land and bury various types of metals in your backyard. These metals include aluminum, gold, iron, nickel, and steel.

Once your mock-up metal detecting area is set, you can hover your metal detector throughout the entire location to get used to the different sounds it produces.

Although this is a comprehensive guide on knowing what metal detector number means, the experience remains the best teacher – so go out there and find out what your metal detector has to offer.

David Humphries, Writer and Creator of METAL DETECTING TIPS. After borrowing my son’s detector and finding $.25. I felt like a treasure hunter. FREE MONEY! I was seriously bitten by the metal detecting bug.


  1. Liza Corsillo, “The Very Best Metal Detectors,” The Strategist, June 14, 2022. https://nymag.com/strategist/article/best-metal-detectors.html. Accessed August 30, 2022.
  2. Wikipedia, “Metal,” Wikipedia, n.d. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metal. Accessed August 30, 2022.
  3. Treasures Of America, “Beginners Guide To Metal Detecting,” Treasures Of America, n.d. https://treasuresinamerica.com/metal-detectors/beginners-guide-to-metal-detecting/. Accessed August 30, 2022.
  4. Kentin Waits, “Metal Detecting For Beginners: Patience And Profit,” Wise Bread, n.d. https://www.wisebread.com/metal-detecting-for-beginners-patience-and-profit. Accessed August 30, 2022.
  5. David Humphries, “What Is Sensitivity On A Metal Detector And How Do I Set It?”, Metal Detecting Tips, n.d. https://metaldetectingtips.com/what-sensitivity-metal-detector/. Accessed August 30, 2022.
  6. Gold Master, “Ground Balance In Metal Detection,” Gold Master, n.d. https://www.golddetectordubai.com/ground-balance-in-metal-detection/. Accessed August 30, 2022.
  7. Metaldetector.com, “Target Identification – An Amazing Metal Detector Feature!”, Metaldetector.com, July 11, 2016. https://blog.metaldetector.com/2016/07/target-identification-an-amazing-metal-detector-feature/. Accessed August 29, 2022.
  8. Shimon Leizerovich, “How To Read A Metal Detector,” DetecTIME, n.d. https://detectime.com/how-to-read-a-metal-detector/. Accessed August 29, 2022.
  9. Detecting School, “How To Read Your Metal Detector Properly? [Helpful Guide]”, Detecting School, n.d. https://detectingschool.com/how-to-read-a-metal-detector/. Accessed August 29, 2022.
  10. Discover Detecting, “How To Use A Metal Detector To Find Amazing Treasure,” Discover Detecting, n.d. https://www.discoverdetecting.com/how-to-use-a-metal-detector-to-find-amazing-treasure/. Accessed August 29, 2022.
  11. Teknetics, “How To Use Your First Metal Detector – A Beginner’s Guide,” Teknetics, n.d. https://www.tekneticsdirect.com/blog/metal-detecting-treasure-hunting/233-how-well-do-you-know-your-metal-detector-7. Accessed August 29, 2022.
  12. David Humphries, “How to Set the Discrimination on a Metal Detector,” Metal Detecting Tips, n.d. https://metaldetectingtips.com/discrimination-metal-detector/. Accessed August 29, 2022.
Scroll to Top