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Perhaps the most common activity in metal detecting is looking for old coins, called “coinshooting” by those in the hobby. Depending on where you live, you could even find old gold or silver coins that are hundreds of years old. This guide will give you some pointers on how to get started finding coins with a metal detector, and how to find the best places to look for old coins.
Where to Find Coins with a Metal Detector
You probably already have plenty of ideas of where to search for coins with your new metal detector, but before you head out, always check your local ordinances and laws about metal detecting. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, and could get you a ticket or even get your detector taken away.
On public lands, you can usually find whether parks, playgrounds, and beaches are open for coin hunting by checking the city or county Parks and Recreation website.
If you're lucky enough to live near an old park, you may be able to find old silver coins. Check around any benches or picnic tables, and around playground equipment. Also look into the history of the park, and check the location of old gazebos or band shells. If the park has sports fields, the bleachers can offer you a bonanza. Another place to check, if you're very careful, is the outfield at baseball or softball diamonds. Players who lunge to make a catch just might have left something behind.
Ponds, lakes, and swimming holes also make good sites for coinshooting. Check the shoreline near where most people lay out their towels and beach chairs.
Many fantastic coin hunting sites are on private property. Locations of old churches, schoolhouses, post offices, and general stores make for great hunting grounds, even if the buildings aren't there any more. Don't trespass at these locations – ask for permission! Explain who you are, and that you are looking for old coins. Promise that you will be careful, and that any holes you dig will be filled back in. Ask if they have lost a ring or jewelry, or even a key, and volunteer to help find it. Some people will refuse, but some will say yes! Remember that you are a guest on their property, and are representing all other metal detectorists. Please act accordingly.
When working a new site, think of where people may have lost coins, or buried them for safekeeping. Near large trees, fence posts, stone walls, walkways, or trails are good places to look for hoards. The dirt floors of old cellars are also good spots. Check the corners, and along old foundations. Someone may have stuck some coins in the walls, only for them to fall down to the foundation when the house decayed. Check where old porches used to be on houses.
Discriminate, or Not?
There's nothing wrong with discriminating out iron when coinshooting, but be aware when working old sites, that someone may have buried a mason jar full of silver back in the old days, and the lid might mask the coin signal. Another thing to keep in mind, especially around old sites, is that alloyed gold will often give off the same signal as foil or a pulltab. When starting out, dig ALL the signals! This is the best way to learn what your machine is telling you, and how to better discriminate with your ears if a target might be better than a pulltab. Don't rely only on your visual readout, if your machine has one.
Double Check Your Hole
Don't make the mistake of thinking you've found everything in the hole, just because you've dug something up. A special joy for coinshooters is finding a “coin spill,” where someone dropped multiple coins at once. This is not as rare as you might think. It's a great feeling to pull coin after coin out of the same hole.
Even if your target turned out to be trash, re-scan the hole. There may have been a coin deeper down that was being “masked” by the signal from the piece of trash.
Choosing a Metal Detector
Remember, it isn't the price of your machine that finds the coins for you, it's how you swing it. In October of 2012, a British man walked into his local hobby store and purchased a Garrett Ace 150, a popular entry level detector. Twenty minutes into his very first hunt in St. Albans, he stumbled onto a hoard of ancient Roman gold coins. More than 150 of the coins were eventually recovered from the site, making it one of the largest Roman gold hoards found in Britain. Not bad for his first hunt!
We surveyed metal detectorists from across the nation for their opinions of the best coinshooters at each price level, and this is what they told us:
Entry-Level Metal Detectors for Coin Shooting
These are some of the most popular metal detectors among coin shooters for less than $250, which are advanced enough to work in many different conditions. Each of these are good all-around metal detectors that can be found new for $200 or less.
Mid-Level Metal Detectors for Coin Shooting
This category includes some of most well-known metal detectors for coin shooting, as well as for working beaches. These detectors will have more features and better discrimination than the entry level machines, and can be found for around $500 new.
Best Overall Metal Detectors for Coin Shooting
If price is no object, and you know you're going to be hunting for years, here are some of the “top of the line” coinshooters that have dedicated followings.
One machine that falls between the mid-level and most expensive metal detectors is the White's MXT Pro, for under $1000.
Other Metal Detecting Gear
You've chosen a detector, read every page of the manual, and have practiced in your back yard. You may have even already found some coins! But before you head out to the woods, park, or nearby ghost town, you'll need a few more things.
One of the most popular accessories among coinshooters and relic hunters is a hand-held pinpointer. Nearly every metal detector has a pinpointing feature, but these flashlight-sized pinpointers are designed to search inside the hole. They drastically cut the time needed to retrieve your target. They start at around $100, but being able to double or triple the number of targets you can dig per trip is worth it!
Some of the most popular pinpointers are: Detectorpro Pistol Probe, Deteknix Xpointer, Garrett Pro-Pointer, Vulcan 360, Whites TRX
You need something besides your pocket to keep your finds in! Remember to take all the junk targets you dig, and throw them in the trash can. This isn't just a nice thing to do in general, but it means that you don't have to dig it again the next time you search that site! Many local metal detector shops will give away a canvas “apron” with pockets to customers. I use a heavy duty nylon pouch with two compartments that zip up. I use the large pouch for the junk, and the small one for my coins. I can quietly slip a good find in the smaller compartment, any anyone watching would think I'm just digging trash.
If you want to have the cops called on you, show up at your local park or ballfield with a full-sized shovel. You don't need a backhoe to plant a tulip, and you don't need a shovel to dig a coin. Many people when just starting out will stop by the home improvement store and get a gardening trowel. Others want something that will stand up to years of work and thousands of digs, and go for purpose-built “diggers.”
When choosing a hand shovel or trowel, look for a heavy duty one with a serrated edge, to easily cut through grass and small roots. Common garden implements that are popular include Fiskars Big Grip Garden Knife, Japanese gardening (hori-hori) knives, and the Wilcox 50S. Some of these can cost less than $10, but aren't as rugged as a purpose-built digger. Among “professional” digging tools, the Lesche digging tool, the Garrett Edge, and the Predator Raptor tools are popular.
We cover the proper way to use these tools in the “How To Dig A Proper Hole (Plug)” in the Beginner's Guide to Metal Detecting. If you haven't read it yet, be sure to. It's very important for the survival of metal detecting that people know how to recover targets without making a mess!
Many times you will be coinshooting in remote locations. Be sure to wear sturdy clothing and shoes, gloves to protect from rusty iron and broken glass, and have bottled water to keep from overheating. A small first aid kit for cuts, stings, and scrapes is also a good idea.
Another important accessory is headphones. Sometimes a deep signal may not be strong enough to register on a visual display, but you can hear a “whisper” of a tone. One of the big thrills of coinshooting is landing that target that “got away” from everyone else!
Coinshooting is the most popular activity in the sport of metal detecting, and there's little question why! Finding an old buried coin is like uncovering lost history, like Indiana Jones. Be safe, follow the sport's Code of Ethics, and go find some treasure!
Garret Metal Detectors