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Tips for Metal Detecting Coins

Updated April 17, 2017

Hunting for coins with a metal detector, called coin shooting, is fun and can be profitable. Finding just one valuable coin can pay for the metal detector and may even lead to a hobby of coin collecting. Many coin collectors began with pennies found in the park or on a beach. Metal detectors are constantly evolving and aren't difficult to use. Following a few basic tips will guide hobbyists to coins and metal artefacts.

Learn How To Use Detector

Metal detectors are handheld devices that give off an alternating current that pulses through search coils, producing an alternating magnetic field. The electric current pulses downward, penetrating the ground and, when it nears an electrically-conductive metal, produces its own magnetic field. This pulses up, signalling the detector's control box, producing a beeping signal. Backyard practice increases understanding of the detector's audio discrimination, tone IDs, and the user's skill in reading the small monitor screen.

Get Basic Supplies

Headphones usually come with detectors to filter out extraneous noise. Most detectors are accurate to 12 inches below the ground surface. Nickels and dimes can be detected at 4 to 8 inches while quarters are found as deep as 6 to 12 inches. A digging trowel should have at least a 12-inch blade. A good pair of gloves provides a better grip on the detector and protects from dirt or sharp surfaces in the ground. A sharp, pointed knife makes smaller holes. Get a ground cloth to contain dirt, making hole refilling easier.

Become Familiar With Coins

Read coin catalogues and articles on coin collecting to learn values. Coins issued before 1965 contain more silver, while certain Indian pennies, Buffalo nickels and Walking Liberty half-dollars can be quite valuable.

Know Where To Look

Research prospective detecting vicinities, especially historical areas, battlefields and ghost towns. Look around old houses, cabin foundations and near chimneys. Battlefields yield bullets, uniform insignia, buttons and old coins. Secluded beaches, old ball fields, fairgrounds, campsites and picnic areas are good metal detecting spots. Old schools and churches may yield trinkets, coins and die-cast toy cars sought by collectors. Woodland trails and campsites may hide rare coins. Don't overlook lake shores, river banks or old ponds.

Get Permission Before Detecting

Check your local laws because metal detecting may be prohibited in state and county parks, and other public places. Trespassing on private property is an offence, so request permission from owners to metal detect. Respect property and repair areas if you dig any holes. Keep your vehicle on the road.

Use Your Detector Correctly

Sweep your detector slowly, close to the ground as you walk forward. Don't miss spots and learn to pinpoint areas quickly. Metal detectors beep loudest at the centre of the object. Don't dig recklessly.

Retrieve Coins Carefully

Careless digging can scratch coins, so after the target is pinpointed, use your knife to cut a small, semicircular plug. Fold it over to keep the grass roots intact. Use the detector to search the plug and hole for the object. Put additional soil on a dust sheet. After retrieving the coin, replace the dirt and plug.

Identify Coins Before Cleaning

Use a catalogue or reference to identify finds and don't clean coins unless you're an expert, as you can damage or devalue them. Don't use abrasive cleaners.

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About the Author

Nancy Williams has been writing about health-related topics since 1979. Her work has been published in "Prevention," "Nurseweek" and "Senior Life." Williams is a registered nurse with more than 35 years of experience and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in health-care administration. She is working on a book about historic sites in the West.