Can you really make money with a metal detector?

Buried treasures often have more sentimental or historical value than monetary value. Hobbyists, as they like to be called, have found treasures of gold and silver, Civil War relics and other valuables hidden underground for years. Your finds may have sentimental value – they are little pieces of history – or actual monetary value, in the case of coins or jewelry.

A hobby that is increasingly popular

Metal detecting is a popular pastime in Britain, thanks in part to Detectorists, a television series about eccentric metal detecting enthusiasts.

Metal detectors are also growing in popularity in the United States. McCullough found coins, buckles, buttons and other common items from the Colonial era, as well as relics from the Civil War. “These are unforgettable discoveries because they are part of our history,” he says.

Appropriate equipment

Most metal detectors look like a frying pan placed on the end of a long stick. To find items, scan the circular search coil located at the end of the handle above the ground. The coil radiates an electromagnetic field. If the magnetic field encounters an underground anomaly, it sends a signal to the control box near the top of the stick and emits a tone. Typically, the higher the tone, the greater the chance that something is under the detector. The ringing of the tone can indicate what type of metal is underground. When you receive a strong enough tone, start drilling.

The cost of metal detectors can range from $100 to $5,000 or more. (Bill Wyman’s model is about $160.) Some current models can distinguish between gold and iron, and ignore aluminum can lids, which is a source of nuisance to amateur detectives. Most metal detectors can find objects about 10 inches underground; Others can detect up to 18 inches deep, depending on soil type.

This hobby takes practice: different types of soil can produce different tones, and more sophisticated detectors have several modes for finding gold, silver or iron. Electric dog fences or underground power lines can easily interfere with the detector.

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