Target ID numbers on metal detector

What is Target ID in Metal Detecting? (with Examples!)

One of the best advances in metal detecting technology is the evolution of the Target ID systems. This system has been a game changer in the way hobbyists and professionals approach metal detecting. Target ID gives a more informed and precise method of identifying finds under the surface before digging.

There are several types of Target ID, and each gives you information about the item your detector has found, including the most likely metal, depth, and size. Target ID makes it easier to decide if you want to dig a target or leave it in the ground.

VID for Old Keys
VID for Old Keys

How Does Target ID Work

Early metal detectors used only audio tones to indicate potential targets. It took a lot of practice to be able to differentiate these audio tones and understand what metal targets were found. Manufacturers realized the limitations the audio only feedback system had and created a more visual representation of targets.

Radial and physical ID meters were created out of this need. These meters were analog systems that used a needle to point to a specific area on a scale. This would indicate the probable item discovered. Some metal detectors still use this scale, including the first metal detector I got for my kids, the Fischer F11.

Fischer F11 Metal Detector
Fischer F11 Metal Detector

More recent digital innovations in the metal detecting world have brought a new evolution in Target ID. This is the digital Target ID system. Most newer metal detectors will have this technology. This provides a clear numerical value, typically on a scale of 0 to 99, on an LCD screen. The number correlates to the detected object’s conductivity.

Are VDI and Target ID the Same Thing?

VDI stands for Visual Discrimination Indication. The output on the LCD screen of a numerical value is called the VDI number. Discrimination output uses multiple modes to alert you to finds. A high audio tone indicates a highly conductive target, while the LCD screen will show a two-digit number corresponding to a probable target.

To put it simply, VID is part of Target ID. VID is the numerical value associated with probable targets. For example, some metal detectors will show a VDI of 18, which indicates nickel. Others will show a VDI of 80, which could be a modern dime or penny. Each detector will have different numbers that correspond with different targets. Don’t forget to study your user manual so you know which numbers correspond to which metal types.

Example Target ID Charts

Nokta Makro Simplex VDI Target ID Numbers
TargetVDI Number
Gold Ring10 – 60
$1 Gold Coin22
US Nickels23 – 57
Zinc Penny67
Wheat Penny69
Spanish Reale78 – 79
Check out more about the VDI 👉 Nokta Simplex VDI
Garrett AT Pro VDI Target ID Numbers
TargetVDI Number
Iron/Steel/Foil1 – 40
Gold Rings40 – 50
Pull Tab/US Nickels52 – 53
Bottle Cap/Musket Ball/Copper Penny70 – 75
Sacajawea Dollar/Spanish Reale/US Quarters80 – 90
Ike & Morgan Silver Dollars96 – 99

Do Different Frequency Metal Detectors Find Different Targets?

Frequency is the number of waves per unit of time, usually measured in kilohertz (kHz). The number of waves passes through the metal detector and into the ground while metal detecting. Each metal detector has its own operating frequency. Some metal detectors are single frequency, some are multiple frequency, and some are a completely different system called pulse induction.

For example, my metal detector operates at 12 kHz. This means the metal detector transmits and receives 12,000 times every second. If a detector signal repeats 40,000 times a second, its operating frequency is 40 kHz. Most metal detectors operate between 5 kHz and 15 kHz. This is considered the “all-purpose” range of metal detecting.

All-purpose metal detectors are easiest for new detectorists, but more specialized metal detectors can be purchased once you master the beginner models. If you are looking to prospect for gold, you will want a higher operating frequency. Gold metal detectors usually operate from 15 kHz to 70 kHz.

Low frequency metal detectors will easily locate iron and other higher conductivity metals like silver, relics, and underground pipes and cables. Low frequency metal detectors have longer wavelengths, get better depth because long waves penetrate the ground easier, and are best for finding larger targets.

Higher operating frequencies will more easily locate lower conductivity metals like iron and gold. These have shorter wavelengths, are great for finding small objects, are more sensitive to ground mineralization, but have less depth.

My metal detector is a single frequency detector, meaning it operates solely on one frequency. There are some detectors that use multiple frequencies simultaneously. These include the Minelab CTX 3030 and Nokta Makro Legend. These detectors operate on a range of frequencies at the same time. These are great for finding all treasure types, including gold. Learn more about the Nokta Makro Legend here:

Short answer, yes. The frequency of metal detectors will change what items it finds. My metal detector will struggle to find small gold nuggets, flakes, and fine gold jewelry because of its low operating frequency. It will easily find most jewelry, relics, and coins.

How Do I Become Familiar with My Metal Detector’s Target ID System?

One of the first things you should do when getting a metal detector is to read the user manual. It may not be the most fun thing to do on a Saturday afternoon, but I promise it will be worth it. The manual gives you an overview of your metal detector and its capabilities.

Finding treasure with the Dr Otek metal detector
Finding treasure with the Dr Otek metal detector

My favorite way to learn about the Target ID system on any metal detector is to test it at home. Go around your house and find items like pennies, nickels, dimes, quarter, nails, gold and silver jewelry, iron, etc. Put your metal detector in different settings and wave each item over the detector’s search coil. Look at the LCD screen to see the number readout and listen for the corresponding audio tone.

Some people like to make a “test garden” in their yards. Find an area free from metals and bury each item with a wooden post nearby. Use the metal detector as you would in the field, and you will easily and quickly learn how the Target ID and VDI numbers work on your metal detector.

I found our lost mail box key a penny and my test quarter with the Kaiweets
I found our lost mail box key a penny and my test quarter with the Kaiweets Metal Detector

One More Sweep

Target ID has come a long way since its inception on early metal detectors. We now have numerical ID that gives us a number that corresponds to a range of metals, which makes deciding what to dig and what to leave much easier. If you have dug several junk targets that show up at a specific number, you can skip the next ones you find since they are likely to be the same composition.

VDI for 2022 Penny
VDI for 2022 Penny

Understanding the Target ID system will help you become a better metal detectorist and keep you from wasting your time digging dozens of useless trash targets.

As always, Happy Hunting!

Malory Ericksen discovered metal detecting in 2015, initially unearthing nails and pull tabs in Idaho. The finding of an old railroad tie cemented her passion for the hobby. Now in Utah, she delights in uncovering historical treasures, driven by her love for history.

Read Malory’s complete bio 👉 About Malory Ericksen

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