Relic Hunting: Tips for Detecting at Old Homesteads, Farms and Historical Homes

"The Marshall House" which was used by the British as a field hospital.

“The Marshall House” which was used by the British as a field hospital.

With warmer weather here (and better ground conditions), the thrill of treasure hunting beckons! If you’ve already hunted local parks, beaches and public venues in your neighborhood, it’s probably time for more advanced metal detecting. Over time, many detectorists start to realize that detecting on older private properties is where the REAL ACTION is! More old coins and excellent relics are found in private yards than anywhere else.  This is largely due to the fact that few people (if any) have ever swung a metal detector on this territory. It’s important to know the history of your area before deciding where to hunt and what you’re searching for. Do you live in a region where the Civil War was fought or where the first colonies once were? If so, you’re in ideal relic hunting territory.

Politely Ask Permission to Hunt Someone’s Private Property

There are some favorable tactics for gaining permission to hunt on private property. And in an upcoming article, we will fill you in on some of these “best practices.” But in a nutshell, it helps to explain to the home or landowner something on the order of: “I live here in town and I’m a  history buff. I appreciate older neighborhoods and properties such as this. My hobby is metal detecting, so I search for old relics in fields and old  properties. If something is interesting, I’ll be sure to show you; then offer it to a local historical society.” When you DO obtain permission to hunt, here are some tips for relic hunting success:  

  • Make sure you are good at plug cutting. You don’t want to tear up someone’s yard, field or farm!
  • Front yards were generally used a lot more than backyards. It’s best to detect the front before the backyard—specifically the  paths to and from the doors of the house.
  • Look for locations of the old out buildings. This includes sheds, barns, outhouses and wells. The paths to those areas where high traffic, with great old coin potential.
  • Get under the front porch, if possible. Lots of coins, old toys and other objects have likely slipped through the cracks. This was also a popular place for burying treasure.
  • If there are sidewalks, check along the grass edges. Coins and small objects land next to sidewalks and in the cracks.
  • Search under old trees on the property. People congregated in shady spots, also stashing items near roots.
  • Pay attention to clusters of trees, especially if they are in a row. These were usually intentionally planted years ago; it’s a good hint to check that area.
  • When you are done with the property, be sure to thank the landowner. If you had lots of luck there, consider giving the property owner a token of your appreciation.

Efficient relic hunting requires tools for careful digging and target retrieval. Many relic hunters swear by Lesche digging tools, as well as specialty shovels.

Related Articles:

What are the Best Digging Trowels and Shovels for Metal Detecting?

What are the Best Metal Detectors for Finding Relics?

Relic Hunting Abandoned Home Sites

Metal Detecting for Relics

When it comes to metal detecting for relics, you need to know where to look and also have the right metal detector.

There is no shortage of locations that are ripe for the picking of long forgotten remnants of the past (a.k.a ‘relics’). Just bring along your metal detector and let the excitement begin! Among the hot spots to locate relics are deserted or abandoned buildings. Anywhere people once lived will yield treasure that can be located by a metal detector. Many times you will find rooms in abandoned homes that were left just as they were when they were lived in decades ago.

Detecting for relics is different than searching for gold or coins. Old houses and buildings can present hobbyists with a tremendous amount of junk iron and nails. For these sites, using a small amount of discrimination will prove highly beneficial. You don’t want to use too much discrimination so as to reject valuable targets. Daniel Bernzweig of MetalDetector.com advises “If you’re using a detector that has a visual target display, rely heavily on it to identify your targets. Correlate the audio and visual signals before making a decision to dig a target.” Recommended reading for relic hunters is What are the Best Metal Detectors for Finding Relics?

 

Related: See the Metal Detecting Code of Ethics