The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Metal Detecting & Collection

Metal Detecting for Beginners | Metal Detector | Favourite Hobbies | Big Metal Detector Finds | Collecting

While you may have seen the hit BBC series The Detectorists, you probably have some preconceptions about metal detecting. But, don’t worry it’s a lot more popular in a modern world than you might expect. There are even competitions

There are people that roam up and down the beaches of the UK or scavenge the fields after a festival to see if there’s any cash to be made. Or, there’s the people that have made a living as hunters for missing or lost valuables.

But, then there’s also the good folk who detect with a love and admiration for history and what once was. Finding old coins to add to a collection or discovering 2,500-year-old jewellery to tell a tale is the sole mission for these hunters. Which one are you?

But, whether you’re in it for the money, fame, collection or good deeds, there’s always a metal detecting for beginner’s guide to help you. 

In this particular guide, we’ll be touching on the following 6 topics:

  1. Let’s Lay Down the Law 
  2. Finding the Best Metal Detector for your Favourite Hobbies
  3. Striking Rich with Underwater Metal Detecting and Collecting
  4. Some Other Important Tools You Might Need
  5. What you Can Expect to Find
  6. Learning to Dig and Unearth Responsibly

Looking back, the most valuable British hoard to have ever been found was a 2009 find dubbed ‘The Staffordshire Hoard’. It comprised of over 3,500 Anglo Saxon military items and was valued at approximately £3,285million. Now displayed at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, the hoard remains the most valuable find a single metal detectorist has found under UK soil. And, you could be next.

So, without further ado, let’s get started!

Let’s Lay Down the Law

It wouldn’t be very responsible for us to send you out into the big wide world with a metal detector and a wish for good luck. So, we’ve decided to get the boring stuff out of the way, first. 

In 1996, the Treasure Act was brought into play. The act was created to avoid individuals harbouring treasure troves or selling valued items onto third parties without historical appreciation. 

Therefore, the act outlines 4 specific areas:

The Meaning of Treasure

According to the act, to be sure you have found something that can be considered treasure, there’s some key qualities it must possess. 

For example, it must be at least 300 years old at the time of excavation, be one of at least ten coins, include a percentage of precious metals or have historical importance. 

In order to know for sure if a metal detector find through your favourite hobbies are a treasure, you must take them to a coroner. The coroner will provide an estimate on the cultural, historical and archaeological treasure value. 

Otherwise, finds definitely not be considered treasure are natural objects such as rocks or minerals

The Ownership of Treasure

Unfortunately for us, the ownership of anything deemed as treasure found within British soil goes to the crown. Or, in some circumstances to the ‘franchisee’, meaning a successor to the original owner of the treasure.

However, after valuation, the Secretary of State has the power to transfer, disclaim or dispose of the treasure accordingly. Suggesting the treasure can be awarded back to the metal detectorist who used their metal detecting for beginner’s knowledge to find the treasure.

On the other side of the coin, we must also consider the ownership of findings that are not considered treasures such as minerals. These can include gemstones, diamonds, fossils and even gold when the stars align in the UK. 

As all land is owned on the small British islands, any metal detecting takes place on someone’s land. Often it is in the fields of farmers meaning valued findings must be taken to the landowner. As the owner of the land and everything on it (including the findings) they may decide to split, keep or give the find. After all, this is metal detecting etiquette. 

The Coroner’s Jurisdiction

This section has seen a recent change in 2020 to ensure all sections remain relevant with fines reflecting the current economy. So, the best tip for metal detecting for beginners would be to always check for changes in legislation so you’re always on track with your favourite hobbies.

If you do find treasure, it is very important to take it to your local coroner for a valuation. Not only this, but it must be done in the district the treasure was found and within a 14-day notice period from the date the treasure was excavated.

The punishment can result in a hefty fine or – surprisingly – up to 51 weeks imprisonment. 

The Coroner of Treasure will take steps to make an inquest to the British museums surrounding the area where the treasure was found. This way they will be able to provide a historical valuation of the treasure. 

The Rewards Report

Luckily, it’s not all doom and gloom for collecting big metal detector finds. In fact, once treasure is valued, the Secretary of State determines the reward that is provided to the metal detecting finder and/or landowner.

As mentioned earlier, this could amount to millions. And, the money will come from grants provided to the museum or historians who bid for the treasure. 

However, one extra bump in the road notes the Secretary of State must deem the finder worthy. And, while it is not specified how a person is worthy, we’re picturing a no-shoes-no-shirt-no-service situation.

Next on the line is the Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales (2017). Though the title might be a mouthful, the code is a simple contribution to make sure that every metal detectorist practicing their favourite hobbies is doing so with care to those around them. 

For example, don’t trespass, obey the law, make sure you’re familiar with your local Finds Liaison Officer, purchase public liability insurance, call the police when finding dangerous goods, etc. 

So, as soon as you’re up to date with the laws and regulations you’ll be metal detecting in no time. And, it means you’re all set with what knowing what to do after you have excavated something valuable. 

Finding the Best Metal Detector for your Favourite Hobbies

Now the legal aspects for metal detecting for beginners and big metal detector finds have been taken care of, we can move on to the fun part: shopping!

Everyone’s favourite hobbies include a tool to get them on track: for horse riders it might be their helmet, for rock climbers it could be their shoes. For the metal detectorist, in order to start collecting big metal detector finds, you’ll need to have the right metal detector.

The first thing to consider is what you’re trying to detect. Standard metal detectors are available for those looking for metals, coins, cans and jewellery. However, there’s also metal detectors with enhanced abilities to find gold. 

Three types of metal detectors

For now, we’ll explain the the main three decor types available

Beat Frequency Oscillation, Very Low-Frequency and Pulse Induction.

Beat Frequency Oscillation

This is the most basic of metal detectors any detectorist will come across. Most commonly seen on shelves in a general electronics shop, the best frequency oscillation works with simple, yet effective functions.

Copper coils up the iron detector and is attached to a large ring at the base. There is also a smaller ring slightly above. Both rings are connected to oscillators to generate a separate frequency. This can be heard through a connected headset in the form of a hum.

When the base ring comes into contact with a metal up to two feet in the ground, the electromagnetic force will interfere with the frequency. This causes a change in the pitch of the hum and is the synonymous indicator of a metal’s presence.

Very Low-Frequency

This is the most popular choice on a modern metal detecting market. Mainly because it uses advanced technology with two coils to create a looping frequency into the ground.

This effect allows every small piece of metal to be found by indication with own pitch and frequency through the detector. Not only this, but the sensitivity and manual controls for ground balancing makes for great gold detecting. 

It works by having two coils where one emits a frequency and the other transmits/amplifies this frequency to increase sensitivity. However, just like the beat frequency oscillation, the metal detector will only be collecting up to two feet down.

Pulse Induction

The last type of metal detector to gather big metal detector finds is the pulse induction. It is commonly used with smaller handheld metal detectors simply because of the way it can indicate the presence of metal.

The pulse induction detector uses echolocation-type frequency waves driven by one coil. It sends short and powerful bursts of energy through the ground. The useful part to having a pulse induction pointer metal detector is being able to ground balance closer to the find and pinpoint its exact location.

There are some pin-pointer metal detectors that will make frequency noises just like the standard metal detector, but there’s also vibrating detectors, too.

Striking Rich with Underwater Metal Detecting and Collecting

So, now you know the three types of detector, there’s another point you should consider when on the market: water resistance. This is where we begin to combine two favourite hobbies for many. 

It appears that many scuba divers have found themselves with a metal detector in-hand looking for one thing or another. Be it; trying to find something they have lost, trying to find something someone else has lost or simply looking to make a profit from the deep blue treasure chest. 

But, in order to do this, you’ll need to have the right equipment with water resistance. Luckily, both founding giants in the metal detecting ring (Fisher and Garret) have underwater metal detectors made for getting you the rare relic nobody has access to.

When thinking about which metal detector would be best for the job, consider your hunting ground and the mineralisation in the water. For example, if detecting in the sea, you’ll want to head for the more pricey pulse induction-type metal detectors as they are more sensitive to metals in the great depth than the very low-frequency detectors.

So, be sure to factor these in when looking for the best metal detector for collecting in your favourite hobbies.

  • Some Other Important Tools You Might Need

As this is the ultimate beginner’s guide to metal detecting and collection, we wanted to share with you all the other essentials and EDC (everyday carry) items of the metal detectorist. This way you can increase your odds for big metal detector finds while reducing injury or miss-hap.

It turns out, there’s more to metal detecting than arriving at a promising section of Earth with a metal detector. In total, we’ve actually rounded up 13 necessary extras for land-detecting. 

Handy Tools For A Detectorist

If you’re the scuba who will only detect in the water wonderlands and coastal regions, you could probably forget about a couple of items such as knee pads. Otherwise, these will be pretty useful for every beginner detectorist to know.

Hand Digger

As a detectorist, you’ll be collecting and scavenging all over the country and possibly abroad. So, you’ll want to ensure your access to finds regardless of the ground condition.

Therefore, it’s always best to equip a hand digger or trowel to get passed unwanted roots or rocks in your path. 

Recovery tools like the Garrett Edge Digger has toothed edges and a stainless steel body to ensure you can sink your teeth into whatever is singing through the frequency waves.

Pin-Pointer

While not necessarily an essential for the metal detecting for beginner’s guide, it certainly deserves an honourable mention. Especially, when you’ll need clarification tools down the line after becoming hooked in the hunting game.

The pin-pointer is pretty much the pulse induction metal detector we mentioned earlier. It is a handheld metal detector used for collecting smaller finds and treasures in need of closer attention. 

Tools like the Nokta Pointer may spark memories of airport security guards. They usually prod specific areas on the body to make sure you’re not stowing any unwanted belt buckles onto the flight.

Many detectorists enlist the help of pin-pointers after their normal metal detector has generalised an area. When this area has been found, often a spiralling technique will be used to localise the potential find. This way, it is quicker, easier and much less messy to be collecting your finds.

Collection Pouch

The last thing any detectorist wants is to locate big metal detector finds only to realise they have no way of carrying, transporting or storing their treasure. 

Finding a good bag that has a large pouch, a small pouch and straps to be attached will offer the best chances of finding and keeping your metal detecting treasures.

The Whites Electronic Signature Series Utility Pouch, for instance, is made for the test of time with durable materials stretching from the pouches fabric to the zippers, themselves.

Top tip: sometimes, brands will do one-time offers or seasonal freebies. For example, if you buy a Garrett metal detector, you may even receive a collection pouch for free! So, keep your eyes peeled to save on some pennies.

Metal Detector Carrying Bag

Often, you’ll find yourself taking a short hike from your vehicle to your pre-arranged and allocated digging site. In these events, you’ll want a carry bag for your metal detector. This way you can have a more comfortable walk to the hunting grounds.

Not only this, but your metal detector doesn’t come cheap. It’s an investment you’ll want to take care of so it can bring you all the big metal detector finds for your collection. 

There are various brands you can choose from for your metal detector carry case, but the best option would be to check if your metal detector comes with an accompanying bag. These will often be more form fitting!

Otherwise, if you’re in the market for a carry case that will hold everything including your metal detector (without having to remove the coil), there’s the Garrett Soft Case Universal Detector. 

Gloves

Gloves are very often overlooked in the metal detectorist community and we’re not entirely sure why. When hunting and collecting, you’ll come across hard metals, sharp rocks, hidden sticks, rusty nails and the occasional angry bug. 

This is why it’s so important to take care of your hands and make sure they can continue to contribute to your favourite hobbies as a metal detectorist. Aside from avoiding sharp objects, think about cold Winter’s days where the feel and dexterity in your fingers mysteriously disappear.

The best part about this accessory is that you don’t have to empty your wallet. Simply find some workman’s gloves at your local DIY store and you’re golden. For example, there’s the Screwfix Grey Site Cut Resistant Gloves that are breathable and can be easily handwashed.

Extra Coils and Coil Covers

You’ll certainly need extra coils and a coil cover for your metal detector. A coil cover is placed on top of your coil while in use to protect it from damage or wear and tear.

Making use of extra coils can allow you to increase your detecting surface area and depth. This is because, the larger the coil you have, the more ground you can cover. 

However, they can be less sensitive to smaller targets and finds. This is why it can be useful to have a range of coils in your arsenal depending on your location. Not to mention being prepared if something happens to the coil your using. 

As you can see below, there’s three shapes and four coil configurations you can choose from. Each offers their own detecting pattern and benefits. But these are best discovered when you understand your metal detector. Metal detecting for beginners doesn’t typically utilise extra coils, but rather the covers to ensure durability. 

Shapes:

  • Round Coil
  • Elliptical Coil
  • Open Web Coil

Coil Configuration:

  • Concentric Coil
  • Double-D Coil
  • Monoloop Coil
  • Smart Coil

Classifying Pan

Also known as the gold pan, it is a sifting pan used with or without water or to look through soil, rocks and dirt for your treasure. 

As notable YouTube gold hunters like Pioneer Pauly will let you know, sometimes the gold nuggets and other treasures can be very small and difficult to see. Meaning it’s best to sift through soil with a classifying pan (after using your pin-pointer to make sure you treasure is definitely in the pen) to unearth your find. 

Headphones

While this one may be self-explanatory, you’ll want headphones to listen to frequency waves and changes. Of course, when using very low-frequency and pulse induction metal detectors, there is no requirement to wear headphones, but it allows you to hear small finds and differences in frequency pitch.

This is especially useful in loud places where there is a crowd of people, other metal detectorists, nearby road traffic and large bodies of moving water. 

In fact, there’s plenty of reasons you should be making use of some headphones like the new Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones.

  • It promotes ethical metal detecting and good etiquette 
  • It allows you to hear clear tonal changes
  • It will save your metal detector’s battery life
  • It increases your ability to detect underwater treasures
  • It will help you focus and deter distractions
  • It is better for those with hard-of-hearing
  • It will increase the accuracy of your ground balancing

Tool Belt

At this point, we’ve already mentioned a few accessories and there’s more to come. So, the question is; when metal detecting for beginners, what is the best way to lug all these accessories around? The answer is a tool belt.

A tool belt can be purchased from any DIY tools store alongside your cut-resistant gloves. It provided the option to place your pin-pointers, collection pouch, hand diggers and more in it.

Have a look at what’s out there and what would fit your new metal detecting EDC. You may even find branded belts such as the Stanley Leather Tool Apron which provides durability and style at a small price.

Spare Batteries

Although many modern metal detectors require charging at home or in your car, lots of them continue to rely on batteries. Especially the pin-pointers.

To avoid shutting down a day of metal detecting due to power faults, find out which batteries are needed and stock up. Even if you leave them in your vehicle, you’ll be glad you took them for the ride!

As a metal detector community, we can probably all agree to love and save our environment. In fact, it’s part of the conduct in section one for us to all take care of the searching ground, especially when it is not our land or property. So, to make an effort, use rechargeable batteries where possible. This way there is less waste, and we can slowly increase our chances of moving into a circular economy. 

Cleaning Brush

Many treasure troves can be found within hard and compacted soil. Often, this soil can enter cracks and crevices in items like jewellery and raw gold nuggets. 

That’s why having a cleaning brush kit can come in handy on the go. While many people use old toothbrushes, a small kit of three brushes can be found on eBay and Amazon for a small price. Just be sure to find soft-bristle brushes in case you’re collecting delicate and small findings.

Kneepads

Metal detecting for beginners is all about understanding about the future and what metal detecting can yield: the good the bad and the painful.

Many people experience knee complications after years on the knees digging through rough terrain. This is why it’s important to use knee pads as a preventative measure. 

These days, there’s gel kneepads that offer a slim and comfortable solution to the traditional knee pads would offer. For example; the Tuffsafe Gel knee Pads made with silicone gel and durable material to make sure your knees will be going until you get your letter from the Queen.

A Friend

This one is a small tip from us to you. As the ultimate guide to metal detecting and collection, we need to let you know that metal detecting can take you off into the wilderness. So, it’s always important to make sure you are digging with a friend or family member. This way they know where you are, can help carry your hoard and aid when lost or stuck. 

In fact, it is the only factor of metal detecting etiquette that the Treasure Act and  Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales (2017) miss out: self-care.

What you Can Expect to Find

Knowing what you’re looking for and what you’re going to find is important for metal detecting and keeping your favourite hobbies. Of course, you’ll need to know why you’re metal detecting first. 

For example; hunting for trinkets to sell will often take place on a festival field after the music has dieddown in order to collect lost goods. Or, if you’re collecting historical relics, you’ll choose your location based on research and hunt for specific goods. 

To find out more about making money from metal detecting, check out our other article; “Can I profit From Metal Detecting Findings?”.

Otherwise, your big metal detector finds are endless, especially if you’re in an English field. With such a rich history stretching from Vikings and Romans to Tudors and Victorians, there’s always bountiful treasures being unearthed. And, you could be next. 

One unknowing detectorist was scavenging in a Cumbrian field (after seeking permission from the landowner, of course) and his persistence resulted in the discovery of the famous Crosby Garrett Helmet. At the time of discovery, it was scattered in dozens of pieces. An intense 200-hour jigsaw puzzle later, and an auction house had brought the historical helmet back to life. While it currently resides in a Cumbrian museum, it was originally sold for $3.6million.

Here’s some more examples of common treasures and finds that are within your reach:

  • Jewellery of all ages
  • Luxury watches
  • Gold
  • Diamonds
  • Minerals
  • Coins
  • Trinkets
  • Bullets
  • Bottle caps
  • Women’s hair pins
  • Buttons
  • Buckles
  • Metal Toys
  • Pottery
  • Helmets
  • Phones

Learning to Dig and Unearth Responsibly

So, it wouldn’t really be the ultimate beginner’s guide to metal detecting and collection if we didn’t give you a play-by-play of your typical metal detecting day.

We’ll begin with the assumption that you have already gained access and permission to metal detect for big metal detector finds in advance.

And, then, it starts with you out in the field:

Begin by Understanding How Your Metal Detector Works

Every metal detector is different, and every metal detectorist has their own unique way of using them to suit the purpose. So it’ll be pretty difficult for us to walk you through the processes of learning your detector. 

But, we will advise that all metal detectors have instructions, with a large majority also having online instructional videos that can be played while you learn. 

It is important to understand your metal detector before heading out into the field as it will determine how you use and manually adjust the metal detector for ground balance.

Choose Your Starting Location

As you’ve got this far, it should be safe for us to assume you’ve already read the above. And, you know the UK appears to be ‘the place’ to unearth magnificent historical, cultural and archaeological artefacts. 

With that in mind, we’ve gathered some British places that are best when metal detecting for beginners. Norfolk, for example has been deemed the richest location for findings year upon year. 

Other than this, the most popular metal detecting locations are public parks, beaches, woodlands and private farmlands.

Let’s take Devon’s coast as an affluent example of collecting metal detector finds. Not only is it famous as the Jurassic Coast for fossils, the Westward Ho coastline has been known to bring shipwrecked treasures in with the tide.

Don’t forget, your garden could also harbour its own historical significance, so try having a look here first. It is the perfect place to practice your new metal detecting for beginner’s skills while learning more about your home.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Walk slowly in order to catch and track the frequency changes in your metal detector. Often small coins can be missed as they only slightly change a frequency pitch. This is especially an issue when headphones are not used.

As well as this, you’ll need to keep a slow pace to make sure your metal detector remains close to the floor without bumping it as this can cause unwanted wear to your coil. Luckily, you took our advice and invested in the coil cover, right?

Listen for the Signal

As mentioned, some signals can be quite faint. So, if you’re unsure, go over the areas a few times and try to listen for any changes in pitch. If you’re hunting with friends, get them to have a listen, too.

When you’re sure you’ve struck something, it’s time to cut a plug. Do this with your hand digger to allow for ease and localised precision. 

Simply open the area in a semi-circle pattern and lift the ground to one side. This way it will remain neat and will be easy to replace when you’ve found your treasure. That’s right, don’t forget the metal detectorist’s etiquette just because you’re having fun in the field. 

Begin Collecting with your Pointer

Now you have your plug, it’s time to turn on your pin pointer and locate the exact source of the metal. 

When you have ground balanced close to the object, you’ll be able to pinpoint its location with more precision. That is, of course, if it is not already in plain sight. 

Safely Store your Findings 

Take your collection pouch we mentioned earlier and pocket your findings. While they are currently in your possession, remember the law states the find belongs to the landowner unless deemed a treasure. In this case the object belongs to the crown. 

From this point on, you’ll have 14 days to declare and value the object. So, don’t lose it!

If you’re wanting to give your find a quick brush-off before placing it in your bag, go ahead but make sure that the object is stable otherwise it can reduce the value. 

Again, as a community of detectorists who value our Earth and its history, it’s our duty to ensure miscellaneous goods and rubbish is retained and disposed of correctly. You’ll come across many cans and bottle caps in your travels as a metal detectorist: but, you’ll be saving the planet one find at a time. 

Make it Look Like you were Never There

You’ve heard a beep, you’ve cut a plug, you’ve identified the cause of the beep and collected the find. Now it’s time to hide the evidence. 

As you’ll likely be collecting and metal detecting on private land, you should always make sure the land is as close to how you found it as possible. Otherwise the landowner could restrict hunting permission in the future due to misuse. 

Just Keep Walking

Finally, keep on walking. Use your time to relax, breathe fresh air and focus on the screams of metal underneath the ground you walk on. The longer you spend metal detecting, the higher your chances of a big metal detector find. 

While you may want to switch up your location or instrument, simply make sure you’re having fun while you’re at it. Maybe even take a video and upload your finds for the world to see!

And, there you have it. The ultimate beginner’s guide to metal detecting and collection where you can begin the collecting adventures with fingers crossed for the big metal detector finds. 

You should have a firm grasp on your goals, which metal detector is best for you, the laws and regulations of metal detecting in the UK, detecting etiquette, what you can expect to find and what your metal detecting journey will entail. Get out there and give it a go but don’t forget to comment below to let us know how helpful this guide was and how we can improve!

Keep checking in for more tips, tricks and reviews about metal detecting and rocks along the great British landscapes. 

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