The Metal Detecting

Hi, today we are going to talk about a topic that everyone is familiar with when it comes to numismatics. It’s about The Metal Detecting. The activity of digging up ancient lost objects using a metal detector. We are therefore going to see in this article what this hobby consists of, the equipment to use, the precautions to take… Enjoy your reading.

Overview of The Metal Detecting

First, let’s get back to the basics. The Metal Detecting is a hobby which, as mentioned above, consists of looking for objects lost in the ground. And all this with the help of a metal detector. This hobby allows you to go for a walk, to have a good time … I’ll stop you right now if you think like everyone else, that the prospectors find gold on every outing and that you are going to do the same. This is a misconception here. It may have been true in the late 1840s in California, but it is no longer the case today. The reality is that you are going to find a lot of uninteresting things like nails, rusty boxes… but you can also find some great finds. Like coins of all types and from all eras or even old objects. Anyway, this hobby is not there to enrich you but to get you fresh air, go back in time, clean up the soil …

One more thing, the Metal Detecting is regulated, you can’t do whatever you want. Therefore, always educate yourself, it is very important. Not being a lawyer, nor any other representative of the law, I invite you to do some research on the internet, on the legislation concerning detection. In any case, never detect on a classified site (archaeological site among others) or dangerous (old battlefield for example). And always ask the owner for permission (don’t be afraid to do this, I have been doing this for several years and have never been refused).

Dos and don’ts in metal detecting

  • Find out where you are going, is it historically interesting? Here, I don’t mean to go and excavate an ancient Roman villa but for example, check if it is an ancient path for example. The old paths are good because many people have certainly been there in the past. Because of this, you are very lucky to find an interesting item. Before leaving, you must know the place. This applies as much to your safety as to possible finds.
  • Respect the place. It is important to leave the place as you found it. This means that you have to fill in your holes. If you find an item that doesn’t interest you like a tin can, don’t leave it there. Take it and you’ll throw it in trash later. Likewise, if you eat there, don’t leave your garbage.
  • Ask for permission. I have said this before, but it is very important, both legally and practically. In addition, it will allow you to bond with the owners and generally, they will give you permission for other land. This often happens with farmers. If you ask them to search a field, they will answer you positively in most cases and direct you to other fields to search.

The equipment to be used in detection

To make a detection output, you will need relatively little equipment that you do not already have (apart from the detector of course).

You will therefore need old shoes, or even boots, because you will surely be walking in mud, in brambles … so plan on shoes that you can damage and in which you feel comfortable.

Of course, take a tool for digging, it can be a shovel, a gardening tool, a pickaxe … Personally, I prefer to take a gardening tool because due to their small size, they are much easier to transport than a shovel.

Also, an important thing to take is water. It doesn’t look like it but the detection can get tiring quickly if it’s hot or if you’re on sloping ground. So plan ahead, it can be useful to you.

And the last thing, and of course the most important, the detector. If you are a beginner and you do not know what to choose as a detector, I invite you to read my article The 3 best metal detectors where I present the two detectors that I recommend to you following if you are a beginner or already experienced. Also important thing, always check before leaving the battery level of your device because it is always annoying to run out of battery in full output.

Also, one last tool that you may find useful, a pointer. Personally, I don’t use it and only recommend it if you do a lot of detection. However, I still wanted to talk about it briefly. A pointer is a tool that makes it easier for you to find objects. And therefore, to save you time especially when the object in question is deep or there are several sounds. This tool is therefore practical but unfortunately it costs from 40 to 150 € depending on the brand.

Where and how to search?

Now that you are ready for a detection trip, I will show you how to pick a potentially interesting location and how to detect.

To choose a location, I invite you to look at old maps or learn about the different places near you where a lot of people used to pass or work there. For example, the old paths are very good as a place. Indeed, they are generally easy to dig, although the earth is often packed there. And since it was a place of passage, it is very likely that there are many objects to be discovered. Another very interesting place is quite simply the vineyards. Indeed, the vines are places where people worked a lot. Consequently, it is common to make great discoveries there. Finally, the fields are also very interesting to do. Trash is often found there, but it has never happened to me to search a field without finding a single coin.

In the end, any type of place is enough. We do not realize it, but the earth is full of objects to discover. And that in any place. There are always interesting things to discover. So, I repeat myself but this is very important, find out about the law, the place and always ask for permission.

Now I will give you three tips to better make metal detecting

  • First, when doing the “sweep” with your detector, be careful. Because often when arriving at the ends, we tend to make a pendulum movement. And therefore to raise the detector. This makes the detector have a shorter range and you are less likely to find.
  • Then, when you go, be careful. This is because people tend to move too fast and leave spaces between each sweep. Therefore, if the head of your detector is 25 cm long and you make a space of 10 cm between each scan, you will have searched only 25 cm by 35. You will have searched only about 70% ground.
  • Finally, when you have found an interesting sound, in order to locate it better, you can perform a “cross” scan. Swipe left to right first, then when the detector sounds, up and down. Thus, you will have “drawn” a cross with the object to be unearthed in its center.

Findable items

Now, I’ll give you a short list of the objects that we often find in detection. Of course, this varies depending on your region, the place, its history …

In terms of numismatics, it happens very often to find old francs. But also, coins from Napoleon III and more rarely but it happens anyway: feudal coins. In some cases you can find gold coins but this is still rare.

In terms of objects, it often happens to find bells (especially in the fields), thimbles, bronze rings or even small objects such as watch keys, pious medals …

For the militaria, it often happens to find cartridge cases. Indeed, this is obviously explained by the war but not only. As a result, after the war, rifles were still used in particular for hunting.

In the case of uninteresting finds, it very often happens to find nails, hunting sockets … (If you detect, you know what I’m talking about). Of course, even if the object is uninteresting, you still have to pick it up.

Here are some pictures of possible finds.

My opinion

Practicing metal detecting, I find it an interesting hobby that allows you to get some fresh air and walk around. It also allows you to more or less go back in time and take an interest in history. You never know what you’re going to come across. So I think this is more of a hobby which is very interesting especially when you are interested in history.

(I wrote this article in 2018, I haven’t been detecting since.)

There you go, this article on detection is now complete. I hope you enjoyed it and let you know more about this unusual activity. Also, don’t hesitate to tell me in the comments if you are practicing detection. And tell me too, what subject you would like me to talk about in a future article. Moreover, the latter will be on “the equipment under detection”. See you next week !

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