Take the family on a treasure hunt.

In this beginner’s guide to metal detecting, you will learn you don't have to travel to the Caribbean to hunt for buried treasure; buried coins and other valuables are hidden all around you if you know where to look. It also doesn’t take much time for you or your kids to learn how to treasure hunt with a metal detector. All you need to hunt for them is a little spare time and the right tools. A metal detector treasure hunt allows your family to reconnect to the past and provides tangible rewards.


Guide to Metal DetectingCredit: D Sharon PruittOf most importance is the metal detector.  Good metal detectors can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. And most pro treasure hunters will tell you that the expense is worth it.  A good metal detector will pick up buried metal at greater depths than an inexpensive metal detector. But for a family treasure hunt for kids, you may want to consider buying a mid-price metal detector, one made for kids, or even a used one.

You may also wish to invest in a pair of headphones to use with your metal detector in order to better hear the high-pitched tones.  Other equipment that is helpful includes a sieve to separate your find from the dirt or beach sand, a bucket for carrying home your treasure, a trowel for digging and a pinpoint detector for locating metal in an open hole.

Depending on where you are going, you may also want to bring bug spray, sunscreen, water, sturdy shoes and a hat.


Have everyone who will be using the equipment spend some time familiarizing themselves with the equipment.  One good way to do this is to bury coins in your yard and then hunt for them with your detector.  Metal detectors indicate the presence of metal in the ground by generating a magnetic field.  When there are changes in that magnetic field that indicate the presence of metal, the detector alerts the operator though a series of high-pitched tones.

Operators of a metal detector can change the settings of the detector based on the type of metals that they wish to detect.  Many pro treasure hunters say that it takes about 10 hours of use before you can distinguish the various types of metal buried in the ground. So, the first couple of treasure hunts with the kids may be just for practice.

Where to Go Metal Detecting

Where to metal detect can be outside your front door or out in the wilderness. The best place to find buried treasure is to go somewhere that people have gathered.  This may include parks, parking lots, baseball fields, beaches and campsites.  For a more historical treasure hunt, you can use historical records including old maps and deeds to locate the foundations of long-vanished structures. Long before banks were insured by the government, people who lived in these homes secured their valuables by hiding them on their property.  Although the people who hid these valuables are gone, the things they secured remain behind. Another good place to look is around the foundation, in the cellars, fencerows, out buildings and trash piles.  

Before you hunt on property that is not your own, make sure you have permission or are following the rules of the land management.  You should also work out an agreement as to what will happen to any finds.  National parks, forests and other publically administered land may require a special permit.

Be respectful of the property where you hunt by doing as little damage as possible and packing out your trash.  

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Beginner’s Guide to Metal Detecting Tips

When your metal detector locates a find, use your trowel to cut a half- circle that is several inches deep in the soil. Fold the semicircle back and dig up the soil inside. Doing this preserves the grass.

Use your pinpoint detector to locate the find and place it in your bucket.  Return the soil to the hole and fold the grass back over the spot.

Do not clean your find in the field.  Older metal alloys may scratch more easily.  By brushing dirt from old coins or glass, you may lower their value.  Instead, take the find home and clean it in your sink using a mild dish detergent.

The most important thing to remember about metal detector treasure hunting is to treat it as a hobby and family adventure.  Don't invest in expensive metal detectors expecting to get rich.  This hunt for treasure is a great way to learn about the past and landscape.  Finding the occasional coin is simply a fringe benefit.