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Metal Detectors and Treasure Hunting

Updated on September 26, 2016

Metal Detectors and Treasure Hunting

There are hours of fun to be had with metal detectors, in your own garden, your local area - on local fields or even on beaches. Treasure hunting is always a fabulous hobby, full of the anticipation of finding some ancient golden artefacts worth millions - and it does happen!

One lucky chap in the UK recently unearthed an ancient Roman mask, which was then auctioned off for nearly $3million. In the UK, he'd have had to have had the landowner's permission to use metal detectors on the land - and, having found some treasure, the proceeds are then split 50:50. So everybody wins!

There are a lot of keen hobbyists who spend all their spare time with their metal detectors, treasure hunting and making money from it.  Most of the time you'll find old buttons and tin cans - but it's the dream of The Big Find that strives you forward. 

For some it's the discovery, for some it's the notoreity of having discovered the items.  Others are really only doing it to make money metal detecting.  Some simply want to unearth the country's hidden treasures and get them into safe keeping at a museum, for everybody to enjoy. 

For those lucky metal detectors who are out treasure hunting and find The Big One, they're financially sorted for life, with huge payouts possible.

So, what do you need to go treasure hunting with metal detectors?

Metal Detectors and Treasure Hunting

Metal detecting.   Photo by: dmartini_girl
Metal detecting. Photo by: dmartini_girl

Metal Detectors

Obviously, the most important piece of equipment you'll need is a metal detector.  Without a doubt this is something you can't do without! 

Metal detectors can be bought brand new, second hand, or you can even attempt to make your own if you're interested in basic electronics and soldering.

Expect to spend about $100/£75 on a basic metal detector.  You can invest more once you really know you're going to enjoy your new hobby.

  • You should think about the size and weight of the metal detector you want.  These days there are a lot of lightweight options.  The lighter the better as it means you can be treasure hunting longer without your arms aching!
  • Look at how metal detectors are powered.  How many batteries does it take?  Does it take rechargeable batteries?  How long will the batteries last from fully powered? 
  • For the size, think about how you're going to carry it.  If you have a car with a large trunk then you can always have it handy, but if you're on a bicycle then how cumbersome will it be when you're cycling to your treasure hunting area with your metal detector strapped to you or the bike.

Digging Tools and Clean Up

Once your metal detector beeps at you, you know you've got a find to dig out. So you'll need some tools for this.

Make sure you're careful with your digging. Even though the last 1000 beeps were old cans and 4 buttons, this one might be "the one" - and if it's damaged it'll be worth less and be a loss to your country's heirlooms and culture.

A small trowel will be a good enough tool in most instances. You need to dig carefully, in case you damage the item - but, for some, you might be digging up your father's prized lawn and he'd go mad if you made a hole larger than necessary!

You might also like a probe, so you can poke around and see how far down the probe can go.

Once you've got something out of the ground, you'll need to clean it up. You might like to think about getting a couple of old paintbrushes to brush it down gently - and a plastic bowl with some water for washing your finds.

Then you'll need to bag it up and mark precisely where you found it - a GPS system would be perfect for noting exactly where you found it.

Call an Expert ASAP

If at any point you think you're "onto something big", STOP! Step back and take a deep breath - then call an expert. When real finds are discovered there's something called archaeological integrity which basically means that it needs to be dug out by qualified professionals who know what they're doing and who can record the precise location and depth and orientation of the object.

All finds should be reported to the Portable Antiquities Team which simply records everything found by amateurs.

Metal Detector Pinpointers

There are some new hi-tech gadgets for the keen treasure hunter and metal detector owner - a pinpointer - this is a lightweight metal detector you can use at close range to really pinpoint where the find is hidden.

Some metal detectors can be bought that include a pinpoint kit - but if yours doesn't have one then you can buy these separately for about $50-60 or so.

Too Cool for Metal Detecting? Here's the Answer....

If you'd rather not look so obvious while out on the beach metal detecting, then there are some great high-tech gadgets now.... metal detector shoes and metal detector flip flops!  Also, more sensible footwear in the form of metal detecting boots.

Yes, you can go metal detecting wearing flip flops that do the detecting for you. Be discrete :)

Do You Need a Metal Detecting License?

Metal Detecting License

You will need to check if you need a metal detecting license in some areas. In the UK this is at county level, so check with the local Council or local metal detecting groups.

e.g. in Cornwall, Prince Charles controls the Duchy of Cornwall and looked into introducing a license in 2011, figures quoted at the time were £60-120. Their website currently (2016) states:

Metal detecting .... may be permitted subject to a licence.. Applicants should be members of an organisation ... All licence enquiries should be made direct to the Restormel office... Metal detecting on all other Duchy owned land is not permitted.

All land belongs to somebody - even beaches belong to The Crown (the Queen) - and so you need to check with the owner of any land if it's OK for you to metal detect there.

In England, the beaches belong to the Crown at, at the moment, there is no license fee required, but you do have to stick to some rules and apply for an actual permit, even though the permit is free.

Making Money With Metal Detectors

Once you've got beyond the fun part of owning a metal detector as a hobby, you might like to think about its potential for earning you money. Most people only associate metal detectors and treasure hunting with going out looking for buried treasure, but there is real money to be made in your local area, if you are interested in making a second income, or even a full-time income.

Here are some ideas for you:

Finding Lost Jewellery

Although you can actually help to find any lost metal item for people, it's mostly lost jewellery that people need finding. Typically it's a ring or necklace lost while gardening, or in the park or at the beach.

Run Metal Detecting Groups/Classes

Lots of people will be interested to learn how to use a metal detector, with a little bit of experience and knowledge behind you you could run simple classes for others to learn.

Children's Birthday Parties

There's always been good money to be made as an entertainer at a children's birthday party. You could organise metal detecting events and hunts for kids for their birthdays. Area depending, you'd need to identify a couple of good places to go - and organise transport. Then advertise your services to local schools and playgroups. It'd certainly be something different!

Organise Treasure Hunting Trips

You could organise regular trips to many different places, for treasure hunting. All you'd need to do is get a group of people interested in joining a Club and then put together programmes that include transport, accommodation and a venue for treasure hunting. You can negotiate group discounts with accommodation providers and you'd have to put together a list of land owners that you can ask for permission to detect on their land.

Organise Beach Metal Detecting Holidays

This is a niche market that's just waiting to be exploited! Beaches have hidden treasure under them from all the shipwrecks that slowly yield up their treasures over decades and centuries - although you're more likely to find simple gold bracelets, rings, necklaces and money from holidaymakers.

If you really don't have the time for these, how about starting a website about metal detecting? You could focus only on your local area, or think further afield. You could organise local hunts - and charge a fee for attendance - and use your website to make you money.

So, there's a more serious side to metal detecting and treasure hunting, if you want to pursue these extra interests. Making money from metal detecting and treasure hunting could really become a full-time lifestyle choice for you!

The Detectorists

With new interest in metal detecting, due to The Detectorists, now's a great time to start that niche business! Roughly one in 50 holes you dig will contain something akin to "treasure", so go get it!

Photography By:

dmartini_girl: Metal Detecting, man on beach.


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    • Jonathan Grimes profile image

      Jonathan Grimes 

      7 years ago from Devon

      Great hub and as a metal detectorist, I know its a great hobby. I have had a little success to and seeing that slice of history or gold / silver staring back at you is great.

    • realtreasurehunts profile image


      7 years ago

      Great hub! Just got a metal detector and I'm super excited to get out there hunting!

    • Mark Ewbie profile image

      Mark Ewbie 

      8 years ago from UK

      I like this. It's a perfect example of what I need to be doing, in terms of article writing, not necessarily metal detecting!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you for a wonderful hub and if I had the time I would dearly love doing it.

    • earner profile imageAUTHOR

      Dedicated Content Curator 

      8 years ago from United Kingdom

      There's a woman on my local beach, every morning at about 8am she's out there. I spoke to her once about her metal detecting and if she ever found anything - it appears that just random coins found on the beach add up to enough money every day for her to keep doing it!

      And it's tax free money.

      Family members of mine have found lots of items on beaches without a metal detector, including a gold watch which was just under the sand. Imagine what can be found with a metal detector!

      Real treasure hunting :)

    • leni sands profile image

      Leni Sands 

      8 years ago from UK

      My better half loves metal detecting. He has a metal detector that he takes on holiday - he's found a few old coins with it but nothing very spectacular - yet! Good hub.

    • kimballtrombone profile image


      8 years ago

      I remember seeing people do these on beaches when I was a kid. I especially like the metal detector flip flops!


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