Metal Detecting: How to Find Buried Treasure

By Scott Beckstead
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In June of 2009, Mary Hannaby, a homemaker from Hemel Hempstead, England, discovered a 15th century gold treasure estimated to be worth over $328,000 during one of her routine Sunday morning walks.

The buried treasure was unearthed four inches below the ground and is thought to be part of a high-quality pendant detailing the holy trinity. How did this seemingly ordinary homemaker stumble onto something so valuable? She used a metal detector.

After seven years of combing through fields and beaches, the only thing this former pub kitchen worker had to show for her efforts was a dental plate – until that lucky day back in 2009.

Only those with extraordinary luck can strike it rich while treasure hunting, right?

While Mary Hannaby may have indeed been "lucky," with a little preparation, she may have found something of value well before discovering the pendant. Unfortunately, it took Mary seven years of fruitless searching before finding anything of worth.

The notion of striking it rich with a metal detector may seem perhaps a bit far-fetched and beyond the capabilities of the average person, but there are a number of strategies you can apply to your treasure-hunting efforts to increase your chances of finding valuable coins, unearthing old relics, or even uncovering pieces of buried gold. Here are a few tips that will increase your odds of finding valuable treasure:

Become familiar with your detector's capabilities – Familiarizing yourself with your detector's features, such as the audio and video signals produced by various objects, will allow you to identify objects within a matter of seconds. Less wasted time digging for trash means more time searching for items of value.

Research your location – What kind of treasure are you looking for? What is the best way to retrieve it? What are the mineral and soil conditions like? The best hunting sites are the ones visited infrequently by detectorists. Thorough metal detecting research includes map analysis and field research, two skills anyone can employ. All of these factors will go into deciding what kind of metal detector to use, what adjustments you need to make to certain settings and where to begin your search.

Learn correct search and recovery methods – Contrary to popular belief, it is better to scan in a straight line as opposed to a wide arcing curve. This technique prevents the search coil from lifting after each sweep and allows for more uniform sweeping. Successfully recovering an object requires pinpointing it with your detector. It also bears mentioning that some locations, such as manicured lawns and parks, require precise recovery methods. Leaving your search area with huge holes reflects poorly on the treasure-hunting community and can result in metal detecting bans.

Join a metal detecting club – Joining a metal detecting club is one of the most instrumental steps you can take in developing your metal detecting skills. Seasoned detectorists are usually more than happy to impart their wisdom and accumulated knowledge with someone new to the hobby. Most importantly, the encouragement they provide will leave you with a feverish desire to find long lost treasure.

Along with a little patience and persistence, these methods will greatly increase your odds of unearthing something of value. The next time you hear someone say, "You are so lucky, how did you find that piece of gold?!" you can take pride in knowing that preparation and not luck (ok, perhaps just a little luck) was responsible for your triumphant find.

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