What Can I Find with a Metal Detector?


Metal detecting is a great hobby, done either alone or with a group of others. You never know what’s under there when your detector starts beeping, and you’ll be amazed at what you find.

There are tons of interesting things you can find with a metal detector. Typical items include:

  • Coins
  • Jewelry
  • Pots
  • Cups
  • Belt buckles
  • Buttons
  • Metal war relics
  • Shotgun shells
  • Bullets
  • Gold
  • Toys
  • “Bobby” (police) whistle
  • Horseshoes
  • Nails
  • Metal badges
  • Barbed wire

I’ve discovered some really cool stuff over the years and I’ll walk you through what to expect. The most sought-after finds are generally things of cash value, but no matter what you find, you’re gonna enjoy the hunt!

Detecting can be as simple as going out in the yard to find something you lost, or it can be a day trip to a great hunting location.  You’ll find a lot of junk some days, but don’t let that discourage you! It’s a truly enjoyable hobby. Let’s dig deeper into the things you can find.

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Coins and Jewelry – for the treasure hunters!

Finding Coins with a Metal Detector

You’ll find coins with pretty much any good metal detector, however, to be more efficient and targeted in your hunt you’ll benefit from a detector more purpose-built for coins.

These detectors will have controls on them with a setting useful for coins. They help filter out false alerts, providing better discrimination and ground balancing so you don’t get hits on junk metals and trash.

Any coin is fun to find, but older coins are more exciting to find!

  • A lot of coins minted pre-1964 are made almost entirely of silver, which increases their value. Coin collectors will pay good money for these finds.
  • Modern coins usually consist of copper, nickel, or zinc in some combination. Still… they’re good for pocket change!

Finding Jewelry with a Metal Detector

You can use the settings mentioned for coins for jewelry as well. Jewelry pieces made of gold, silver, platinum, or bronze are quite easy to detect. Also, they’re the most valuable. Note that metal detectors can’t detect gems, pearls, diamonds, etc. However, if they’re in the jewelry’s metal frame, they can be quite detectable.

In most cases, jewelry you find may not be made of the more premium metals. If they are, that’s obviously good. If not, then look at the aspects of the item’s age, rarity, or vintage. 

Do you know anyone who’s lost jewelry? Many people do, so hunting for these pieces can be fairly easy.

How to pick a good coin and jewelry metal detector

A metal detector with a mid-level frequency generally provides the best chance to detect coins and jewelry. Some metal detectors allow you to select different frequency modes. If yours does (or if you’re looking for one that does), follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Generally, that will lead you to a frequency setting in the range of 5-15 kHz.

Coins are detected best from 10Khz and below, while jewelry is 10KHz and above. You also want a detector that goes a bit lower in frequency to find coins deeper in the ground. Just know that most detectors will find coins even without a filter selection, but narrowing the range helps your chances.

If it’s gold you’re looking for, a frequency at 14Khz and up is best. If you’re searching for silver or copper coins, a lower frequency between 3-7 Khz will do fine. 

TIP: You can also use an accessory called a “pinpointer” to home in on smaller coins or jewelry. Here’s an example of a highly rated one on Amazon.

So Many Things to Find with a Metal Detector

People lose stuff. Car keys and rings. Things break and fall on the ground. Battles rage and weapons are fired.

In the list above, I included many things you can find other than coins and jewelry. You’ll run across these almost anywhere you go to hunt. Sometimes you’ll target specific locations, looking for a general class of items. For instance, a beach where you may find lost rings, metal toys, money clips, fish hooks and lures (ouch), even iPod Shuffles.

More often, you’ll go to large open fields or into the woods where hunters were during a certain season (don’t go there during the season), or near a hiking trail or campground, schoolyards, abandoned housing areas, fairgrounds, and creeks/rivers/lakes. Another unique idea? Trash pits.

If you’re looking for war relics, you don’t need to go to public historical sites. In fact, they’re usually closed to metal detecting without specific permission. However, you can find items like uniform parts or round bullets in creek beds where battles were fought.

One place to check is in your own backyard! I know in my area before houses were built, it was farmland. Even though the land was altered somewhat for lawns and basements, there will almost certainly be things to find. Your yard is a great place to practice using your detector, properly digging holes, and replacing the dirt. Might as well mention getting used to kneeling on the ground a lot! This practice will prepare you better for when you have your first outing.

If you’re really not sure where to start, consider joining a club or a Facebook Group. If you know someone who’s in the hobby, ask them for some ideas, even go with them and learn from their experience.

Finding anything is part of the fun. Like fishing, it’s a bummer when you don’t catch anything, but it’s a rush when you do.

Bottom Line: You want to find areas that people have frequented over the years… and hopefully lost stuff.

Finding “Oddities” with your Metal Detector

Occasionally you’ll run across something you either never expected to see or isn’t metal. Enjoy the experience. You may just return it to the ground for the next person or add it to your collection. It’ll make a great story!

So how do you find something not made of metal? When it’s in the ground associated with metal that’s there. For example, it’s not unusual to find some marbles or plastic items buried with an old metal toy.

Remember, metal detecting isn’t all about finding riches. It’s the thrill of the hunt. Many of the things you find could be more mundane, like pull tabs, the end of a lightbulb, shotgun shell stamps, You may find a small metal container such as a can or index card box, buried with some interesting items in them. Sometimes you might find one coin, but while you’re digging you’ll notice more coins or other items right near the hole you dug.

It’s interesting, and not surprising, that when people find a good spot that produces for them time after time, they like to keep this “honey hole” to themselves. Some of the things people have found in their “secret” locations include war relics like round ball bullets and broken spurs, uniform pins and buttons, knives, steel bearings, fence nails, farm pieces, burial urns, cufflinks, cap guns, class rings, hearing aids… and the list goes on!

things to find with a metal detector
Things I’ve found over the years

More Information

What do you do with the stuff you find?

Obviously, if there’s monetary value, you’ll want to keep it. That doesn’t mean you have to sell it. For example, old coins will probably gain value over time. Keeping these items in a collection makes for good stories and you can take pride in your accomplishments.

If there’s no monetary value, these items are just fascinating to clean, keep, display, and talk about. Fear not, if you find it and it doesn’t hold your interest, you’re not gonna hold on to it. Just put it back.

Where do you buy metals detectors?

There are many reputable dealers online. If you can find a small business site that deals in metal detectors and the price is right, it’s great to give them your support. If you don’t find what you like, you can get good reviews and prices on Amazon.

Do you need a special metal detector for the water?

Why yes, yes you do. The main reason for this is waterproofing for the detecting coil. You simply can’t have water getting into the electronics. If you’re only working shallow surf areas or on the river, lake, or creek banks then make sure you at least have a model with waterproofed coils.

If you are going to work deeper water where the electronic circuits are up by the handle, you definitely want a submersible model. These not only protect the entire unit but are built to withstand reasonable water pressure increases that occur at depth. Look for these features if you’re hunting while shallow water snorkeling or SCUBA diving.

How to Get Started in Metal Detecting

If you’re interested in getting started now, start here with my practical guide, and feel free to ask questions at my Facebook page!

Wrap Up

There’s not really any limit to what you’ll find while metal detecting. You may run across some very lucrative treasure, you may run across historical items, and you may run across just plain stuff.

No matter what, you’ll have fun and excitement along the way. You may also need to research what you’ve found. You’ll learn something!

If you want to check out some best-selling metal detectors, here’s what’s current on Amazon.

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