The start of anything can be nerve wracking. My first ever time metal detecting was a disaster. I went along with an experienced friend and expected to find something valuable enough to pay off my student loans. He took me to a remote field that hadn’t been touched in years. We came away with a 20-year-old penny and a few nails. This experience nearly made me quit metal detecting all together. Why spend an entire day searching just to find nothing?
It wasn’t until I tried more popular areas that I realized how addictive of a hobby it can be. For beginners like myself, it was all about detecting in the right places. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
1. Playgrounds – Especially Swing Sets and Monkey Bars
Playgrounds are going to give you all sorts of action. As a beginner, it’s important to get as much experience as possible. Learning how your detector works, the different sounds for metal types and gaining an overall feel takes time. Playgrounds are going to have all sorts of artifacts and things to find.
Whether it’s change or a bobby pin, you’re guaranteed to be successful. Mess with your sensitivity and discrimination while at playgrounds. With the plethora of goods in the ground, you’ll want to learn how to dissect between them all.
Tip: Be sure to get permission to metal detect on school grounds. Obviously, it’s best to go on weekends when students aren’t around. Ask a maintenance person or someone in administration before you begin hanging out on school property.
2. Under Bleachers Near Sports Fields – Lots of Coin!
Searching under the bleachers at a local park or school field can make for a profitable afternoon. It may be smart to start with searching under the parents section.
During my third or fourth time ever metal detecting, I found the keys to a Mercedes SUV and there was a tag on them that had the name and phone number of the owner. I decided to give the number a call, ended up returning the keys and received a $50 bill for my trouble! I’ll forever have a soft spot in my heart for bleachers.
3. Old Abandoned Houses – Relics
This is by far my favorite suggestion on this list. There’s something about searching around an abandoned house that not only makes me a bit nervous, but my optimism is always high. I never know what I’m going to pull out of the ground. Depending on what part of the world you live in, the abandoned houses near you may be extremely old and could hold some valuable cargo.
Be careful when you’re thinking of detecting around abandoned houses. Some of these may still be private property and you could find yourself in trouble if caught trespassing. There’s no written rule on what to do before detecting around an abandoned house, but it’s best to ask permission before you do it. Local courthouses all have records of who owns property so a simple phone call can tell you everything you need to know.
You’d be surprised at what people will let you search if you ask. I’ve been granted permission to search a few properties around my school in small town Iowa that I thought I’d never have the chance to scour. I called the owners, asked politely and they said go ahead. Most are curious and ask me to let them know what I find. You’ll get in trouble if you go without asking permission.
Tip: Try and find a house built around 1900. These likely had outhouses and other outbuildings that could hold some valuable artifacts. Take advantage of the opportunities to search abandoned areas if you get them. Be thorough in your digs and put in a little extra effort if at all possible.
4. Fair Grounds – Folks Dropping Money SERIOUSLY
Think about your town or county fair. Imagine all the people that cycle through it throughout the two weeks. The more people, the more chance that some valuable things were misplaced. Many county/town fairs take place in a local field or other public area. This gives you more freedom to start searching. If you attended the fair, take note of where certain things are. If there’s a popular food or game, remember where the booth is located. Also, below where any rides/rollercoasters may have been is a great spot to detect.
I was able to find a watch buried in the mud/dirt below where a rollercoaster was at my local fair. I had it appraised and it was valued at around $200. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find the original owner, but it’s made for a nice fashion accessory.
If there was a rodeo that took place, see if you can search inside the stadium. Rodeo members tend to wear all sorts of bling and jewelry. It’s a great chance to find something interesting!
5. Beaches – Rings and Jewelry Slide Off with a Little Suntan Lotion
Beaches are perhaps the easiest place to search on this list. When you detect a beach, there is little to worry about. No proof of holes dug, the water adds a new aesthetic and if you get hot take a leap!
Choose a nice evening or early morning to search. While it may be the easiest place to hunt, beaches are where I have had the most trouble with the general public. People don’t go to the beach to be crowded and want to enjoy their time relaxing. I have had numerous mothers yell at me to get out of their “area”. I’m not the type of person to crowd anybody, but again, go in the evening or morning and you’ll be just fine.
Also, it’s important to wear headphones while at the beach. People don’t want to hear the loud beeps from your detector. If you’re curious about what headphones to wear, check out this article on the best headphones for metal detecting.
Look for the towel line or other spots where people tend to gather. This is where people are going to lose earrings or rings. Also, look for parts of the beach where there are holes or dips. Water is going to sweep things to the lowest point. If you can find one of these, be thorough with your dig because there’s likely more there than you think.
6. Campground – Think about Folks Packing and Unpacking Every Weekend
Campgrounds are another great place to look. If you’re going out for a weekend of camping, bring the detector along and search around your campsite to see what you can find. There are very few activities where people lose more things than when they are camping. People are used to all sorts of space and places to put things in their homes. If something gets bumped off the picnic table, chances are it’s not going to be found.
I have had great success at campgrounds. I like to go camping as many times as I can in the summer and I always like to have a detector along. This past summer, I found a small metal fly box that had over 20 flies in it that worked perfectly on the stream next to my tent. I couldn’t have been more fortunate. I wasn’t sure what to use so it was a pleasant gift.
7. Ask at the local Metal Detecting Club meeting
There are metal detecting clubs in almost every single state. Here is a great website that lists the various clubs throughout the US. Stop by one of these and see what the members have to say. Most outdoor communities are going to be extremely friendly and inviting. People aren’t going to give up their secret spots, but if you gain their trust they may take you.
I heard a story of a guy that blindfolded and took the phone of each person he took to a certain site of his. He was that secretive, but it always produced. You never know who you’re going to meet, but it will always be an adventure!
Tips for What you Can or Can’t Keep
Be sure to check the state or local regulations when detecting. There are going to be numerous rules that you’ll have to follow and some may cause more confusion than others. The Federation of Metal Detector and Archaeological Clubs has an ethics code that is a great place to start. This will give you a bit of an idea of what to do any time you go detecting.
Also, there are certain states that have finders keepers rules and others that say everything found belongs to the landowner. States like Minnesota, Idaho and Tennessee require anything found on private land to be given to the land owner.
New York and Oregon are considered to be finders keepers states. Where anything found belongs to the person who found it. There are certain exceptions to these rules so it’s very important to be knowledgeable before you go out detecting. If you’re searching on federal or state owned land, check out this article that describes how to properly search on BLM land. It can be a bit tricky, but nothing that a few phone calls can’t clarify.