Metal Detecting for Fun and Profit
By James E McCarthy
Your great-grandfather was courting your great-grandmother. Her diary tells you that
they frequently sat down under the old oak tree just behind the house. You take your new metal
detector and anxiously scan the ground beneath the tree. Your heart is pounding as it suddenly
rings in your headphones. What treasure have you discovered? Did it actually belong to the
young lovers ... dropped years ago when their love still new?
There are four basic types of metal detectors.
There are small metal detectors designed to be used to scan people or things. They are
hand-held and usually used for security purposes.
Other metal detectors are used to find large buried metal objects. They consist of a
sending loop and a receiving loop joined by a bar that is held horizontal to the ground as
you walk along at a fairly rapid pace. You might use it to find cars and trucks buried in a
mudslide, or a steel plate buried in a construction site, or steel culvert pipes, or a chest
of gold. Big metal things.
However, the two types of metal detectors that this article refers to are the type that
you will see people using in parks for land "hunting", and the type that you will see folks
using in the water or on the sand at the beach.
The land detectors are used to find smaller objects like old coins, rings, lockets, small
metal toys etc. You would have been using a land detector while looking under the oak tree
in the back yard for coins or jewellery that your great-grandparents may have lost. Or around
that old log cabin that used to be a trading post in days gone by.
My favorite sites are old schools, old churches, old cemeteries, parks, old racetracks,
old dance halls, ghost towns or anywhere else people used to gather in those great days before
television. A visit to the museum will dig up (pun intended) some great, forgotten locations.
The library often contains books about the roots of the town, and surrounding area. Or visit
the local nursing home or seniors' complex and chat with some of the residents there. They
are a magnificent source of information.
One such old-timer told me about a site that, when I went there, just looked like a small
field. It was in a small town nestled between a new arena and the new high school's ball field.
He told me that the field used to be the entrance to the racetrack that was the local attraction
from the mid-1850s until it was shut down in 1923. He said there were lots of booths and a
small carnival as well as the pay-booth to get into the racetrack. Well ... let me tell you ... I
started to retrieve coins and didn't quit for 4 hours. I came back again and again and STILL
the coins kept coming. I retrieved well over 500 coins from that empty field, most of them
silver. When I went back to the nursing home to thank the old gentleman, I was told that he
had passed away.
Modern metal detectors are able to discriminate against ferrous metal, so you won't waste
time retrieving bottle caps, tinfoil, rusty nails etc. It rings out on copper, silver and gold.
Isn't it a great co-incidence that most coins are made from those metals. Modern detectors
will, after you find the loudest part of the signal, which, of course, is under the center
of the coil that you skim the ground with, give you a readout of what the object is likely
to be, and how deep it is.
To retrieve an object that you have located, use a heavy-duty knife and a narrow trowel.
Put your finger on the spot under which the object lies, and cut a horseshoe in the turf around
it. Fold back the sod, and use the trowel to loosen the dirt until the object is retrieved,
being careful not to nick or scrape it with the tools.