Metal Detecting for Beginners: Getting Started Tips

You are all primed, cocked and ready to go. You have read, seen and heard all the tantalizing treasure tales. The glowing metal detector ads with promises of fabulous riches have you frothing at the mouth and you just can’t wait to jump out there and get your share of the wealth. Well, before you plunk down your hard-earned bucks for that shiny new detector – listen up!

Detectors are gathering dust in closets and attics all over this country, stashed there by disgruntled, wannabe TH’ers who found metal detecting somewhat less than what they expected. They all made the same mistakes. It’s like jumping into the water without knowing how deep it is or if you can even swim.

There are four reasons why most new comers hang it up before they even get started, high expectations – impatience – inexperience – unfamiliarity with their machine.

High Expectations

Metal detecting is a great, rewarding hobby and I emphasize hobby. It is not a get-rich-quick scheme, nor is there a fabulous treasure under every rock or tree.

Very few individuals make a living at treasure hunting. If they do, they are consummate professionals who have been at it for many years, much of that time devoted to extensive research.

True, individual TH’ers occasionally stumble upon an exciting find, but they are few and far between. So don’t expect a great deal when you first start out. In time, your finds will increase and you could stumble across that find of a lifetime.

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If you can’t conquer impatience then I suggest you try another hobby.

Serious detecting requires a great deal of patience if you hope to find anything. I find more things trailing impatient TH’ers who can’t take the time to do it right and expect the money to virtually jump out of the ground at them.

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We are all inexperienced when we first start out. We just have to contend with it. No one is born a professional.

As you go along you will find that you get better each time. It doesn’t hurt to watch, or go out with an experienced TH’er and pick up some tricks. Don’t be afraid to copy success.

With patience and practice you will soon turn into an old pro with bragging-size tales to tell.

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The last problem and the most important, is unfamiliarity with your metal detector or being outgunned by your machine. Many a novice jumps in over his head and buys more detector than he or she needs or can handle.

It’s nice to buy the Cadillac of detectors but that warm feeling soon fades when you discover that this new toy is more than you care to fool with.

You spend all your time fiddling with the machine and no time finding goodies. The detector winds up in the closet gathering dust and you are left with a sour taste in your mouth for TH’ing, plus a large dent in your wallet.


Let me if I may, attempt to lift you from this quagmire of confusion. Perhaps I can help you decide whether you want to jump into this great hobby or not.

It’s great fun and you will be missing a lot should you decide against it. It gets you outdoors, provides needed exercise and gives you a great chance to meet interesting people, especially if you join a treasure hunting club.

First, let’s consider the purchase of your meal detector.

All manufacturers produce excellent machines, but there is a difference in performance between brands. If you are short on bucks or still unsure, then pick up a good used detector. You can buy one from a dealer, through the mail, or from a private party.

The dealer is your best shot when acquiring your first detector. He can instruct you in the proper use of the detector, help you over the hurdles and be there to answer questions should you run into problems down the road.

Many dealers also have a supply of trade-ins and demonstrators that can save you bucks. If you think you can figure things out for yourself then purchase a detector through the mail and save. Shop around on mail-order as there is a big price spread between dealers. Watch for their sales.

Now for the actual decision, which kind should you get. I have only one bit of advice for beginners – keep it simple. Shy away from the machines with all the bells, whistles and gizmos. Stick to a middle of the line, turn on and go, silent search discriminator, for worry free, fiddle free operation. The lower-priced detectors made by any manufacturer are usually their top sellers.

In time, when you have been at the hobby for a spell , have become more experienced and plan to stick with it, then you can move up to one of the big whiz bang detectors. As I previously mentioned, I have been at this hobby for 30 years and writing about it for over 15 years – I have never owned a top of the line detector, nor do I need one.

Deep-seeking metal detectors

Don’t be misled by all the claims of deep-seeking detectors. They will all go deeper than most beginners care to dig. What you want is a good discriminator, or all you will be digging is a lot of junk. A notch detector is an excellent one to begin with. It may sound complex, but isn’t.

Most coins are not found at great depth anyway. Your main concern will be how well your particular machine discriminates between good and bad targets and how high you have to set it for it to do that.

If you buy from a dealer make sure he shows you the discriminating abilities of the detector, not just how deep it will go or how cute the gadgets are.

Find a machine that is light, well balanced, or convertible to a hip-mount. You will be surprised how weary your arm becomes after swinging a three or four pound detector for several hours. One extra advantage of a hip-mount detector is that it is handy for water hunting, works better in brush and much easier for many disabled people to use.

Last, but equally important, invest in a good set of headphones. They are worth their weight in gold for picking up those faint signals and will double or triple the life of your detector batteries.

As for digging tools, keep that simple also. The most important aspect of this hobby is preservation of the hobby – we have enough jerks out there now trying to ruin it for all of us. To do this, you must always leave the area you hunt – in just exactly the same condition that you found it in.

Shy away from the big trowels and plug cutters. If you must use a knife to cut plugs, use it carefully and only when the soil is moist.

When using a knife I try to cut slits rather than plugs. This works well in all but dry, hard-packed soils. To perform this, you push your probe down to the coin and leave it. Then you push the knife down right alongside the probe, being careful not to hit the coin.

Remove the probe and push the knife forward and backward cutting a slit in the soil. Then move the knife side to side, widening the slit. Now use the probe to flip the coin into the hole and fish it out with a spoon, or flip it out with the screw driver. When you are done, just step on the slit hard and it will close up.

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Now you have the detector and the tools, where will you start. The instruction manual is the first place to start. Become familiar with all phases of your machine and refer to the manual often. Your own yard is the best place to hone your skills. Bury some coins and junk at different depths and get used to how your machine works. Then detect your yard thoroughly.

With permission, move on to your neighbor’s yard. Search the parkways on your street, or in the whole neighborhood. Many coins and valuables are lost here.

When you move on to parks, school yards and other areas, stay away from high-trash areas until you have a little more practice and get to know your machine. Before you know it, you will be an old pro and can hunt with success anywhere. Then you will be a full-fledged TH’er.