Expert Tip: Under-Searched Sites Will Yield Relics

Silver Navajo Indian Bracelet with Coral Inlay found in New Mexico with a metal detector.

Silver Navajo Indian Bracelet with Coral Inlay found in New Mexico with a metal detector.

The BEST places to find relics and old coins are at pre-existing homesteads, old farmhouses and former soldiers’ camps or battle sites. Obviously, there are many more locations that will yield valuables and artifacts, but these are a few good examples. Metal detectorists always face the challenge of choosing sites that are already picked over. Don’t shy away from these locations, because it’s impossible that every relic and coin has already been recovered. However, if you really want to increase your chances of treasure hunting success, it’s a great idea to find virgin sites or those that are under-searched!

How to Scout Out an Untouched Metal Detecting Site

Detecting enthusiast and relic hunter, Brian Palmer, has a clever tip for interested hobbyists. Investigate for signs of old home sites. In colder months (in some states), it’s almost impossible to treasure hunt. But you can do online research and scan old maps. It’s much easier to scout out sites when the grass isn’t high—and you can also see further into the woods. Palmer and his wife scouted around in the winter and found a fallen tree along a stone wall where there were stones in the outline of a home’s foundation. When they came back to search the area, their detectors hit on a jackpot of treasure!

Popular Relic Finds with a Metal Detector

The Palmers’ finds at this former homestead in New York included five Civil War “Eagle buttons,” flat buttons, a knapsack hook and two 1863 Civil War tokens. These tokens were issued because coins were scarce during the Civil War, but they only circulated for one year. They are great pieces of history! On another hunt they scouted ahead of time, the Palmers’ uncovered a World War I German buckle from 1839, an 1840’s Federal Navy cuff button and an Indian Wars 1874 Pattern belt plate. These are all examples of items you can find when relic hunting. Keep looking for new places to search and/or ask for permission if necessary. You, too, will come across some amazing relics!

Recommended Relic Hunting Metal Detectors:

Entry Level Relic Metal Detectors:

Mid Level Relic Metal Detectors:

Premium Relic Metal Detectors:

Resource:   “Western & Eastern Treasures” Magazine

Learn How to Read the Soil for Treasures Below

Learn to read the soil and find more treasures with deep seeking detectors such as the Garrett GTI 2500 with Depth Multiplier.

Learn to read the soil and find more treasures with deep seeking detectors such as the Garrett GTI 2500 with Depth Multiplier.

Did you know that you can learn how to “read the soil” you’re digging in to determine if there is treasure below? Treasure hunter Bill Gallagher explains in Lost Treasure Magazine that there are many clues to guide you. By reading the soil, Gallagher discovered that all of his treasure is often contained in one layer. So, getting to know the earth’s layers will definitely help with your success!

Soil Indicators of Buried Treasure

Pure colored sand and dirt usually means an area is undisturbed. However, variations in the soil like circles, dots and layers of multicolored soil indicate the opposite—people may have buried treasure here. Detectorists who are on the hunt for old dump sites and privy pits read the land and soil in search of old trash. An old piece of glass can signal a dump site below. The top layer of trash usually contains nails, tin cans, and old household items—which a metal detector will quickly locate.

Where is the Treasure Layer?

Gallagher suggests digging a few test holes in the area you’re getting a signal. “Get a good look at a cross section of topsoil, and try to find the treasure layer. In a fort site nearby, I found a thin black line below many layers of soil. It was chock full of buttons, coins and musket balls. Concentrate on finding the “Pay” dirt layer to maximize your finds.” Instead of spending hours sifting through all of the layers, find the good layer where most of the treasures have settled. Another tip is to treasure hunt where industrial digging is going on. Ditches and trenches are great places to search because the treasure layer may now be uncovered.

It’s all about detecting in the most productive way possible. If you develop your ability to read the soil, you will find the MOST amount of treasure in the least time possible!


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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 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

Don’t Ignore all “Junk” Targets (It Might be Gold!)

Find more gold treasures while metal detecting.

Find more gold treasures while metal detecting.

Discrimination and Target Identification are valuable, time-saving features on metal detectors. But experts advise against overlooking all targets that indicate aluminum or other “junk.” Your target may look or sound like a pull tab, foil, bottle cap, nail or tin; however, this can be deceiving. The fact is—old aluminum pull tabs have a similar ring tone as gold. It would be very unfortunate to pass up a gold or silver ring because you’re discriminating out potential junk.

“Dig Up Everything” is the Mantra of Many Detectorists

Discrimination blocks your detector’s response from targets you choose to eliminate. This is helpful for coin hunters, but not so much for relic hunters. Relic hunters usually err on the safe side by digging up anything that’s made of metal. Detectorist and author Dick Stout says, “Gold and aluminum are so close in conductivity, it’s virtually impossible to reject one target without rejecting the other.” So, consider what treasure you’re after. For relics and jewelry, your discrimination setting should be very LOW.

Target Identification – Audio is Just as Important as Visual

Target Identification has gotten sophisticated on all of the latest metal detectors. And many models claim they can precisely identify what you’ve found. Further, there are some advanced detectors that actually show you a visual of what’s underfoot! Target ID will show you whether your target is a copper penny (minted before 1982) or a zinc penny. It will distinguish between clad coins, silver, gold and other metals. Sophisticated detectors like the Whites Spectra VX3 will tell you the target you’ve found (nickel, quarter, gold, silver), but there is still overlap between pull tabs and gold. Get to know your detector’s audio tones, because this will help tremendously in distinguishing treasure from trash!

Exciting Civil War Relic Hunt: with Men, Women and Kids!

One of the artifacts recovered from the Confederate Gen. John Hunt Morgan’s raid site.

One of the artifacts recovered from the Confederate Gen. John Hunt Morgan’s raid site in Ohio.

In Carroll County, Ohio, a group of 80 hopeful treasure hunters gathered to unearth Civil War relics. Well-known Ohio detectorist Sam Waters organized the hunt after she learned of a Confederate raid in Carroll County. Waters, a passionate relic hunter, has been detecting since the age of 12. She researched the event and learned: in the summer of 1863, Confederate Gen. John Hunt Morgan led his cavalry on a 1,000-mile raid through Indiana and Ohio. The cavalry stole 2,500 horses and raided 4,375 homes. Morgan’s men fought with pursuing Union cavalry throughout Carroll County. Waters got permission from property owners to search the area.

Waters’ group scoured 500 acres with metal detectors; and in just three days, uncovered more than 200 items! Some of the treasure hunters were kids (joined by their parents). The group ranged in age from 8 to 75. Also joining the team was Josh Silva, one of the stars of the TV show “Dig Wars!”  Waters estimated that approximately half of the recovered items may be Civil War related. One intriguing find was a Confederate stirrup. She added, “The stuff we found was all over—scattered around the woods, fields and valley.” The metal detectorists worked with and gained permission from the Carroll County Historical Society. The society also owns an acre of land tied to the raid.

Want to Detect for Historical Artifacts?

Are you intrigued by history and finding artifacts from the past? If so, dig in with a relic-hunting metal detector! These units are specifically designed for unearthing relics which are usually made of iron, steel or brass and sometimes sometimes gold or silver. Relic hunting detectors are different than all-purpose and coin-hunting models. They specialize in ground balance control and ground adjust so you can filter out interference from other minerals. They also use lower frequencies and offer high sensitivity and pinpointing abilities. Many of these units have target identification, which will display the type of metal you have located.

Quality is key when hunting for relics. Here are some great detector choices for all budgets:

Entry Level Relic Metal Detectors:

Mid Level Relic Metal Detectors:

Higher-End Relic Metal Detectors:


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“Is This an Important Relic or Coin?” How to Identify Treasures Found

Learn more about this metal detecting find and your own found treasures in this helpful article.

Learn more about this metal detecting find and your own found treasures in this helpful article.

It’s exciting when you actually dig up a metal treasure, but frequently you don’t even know what it is – especially if you’ve found a relic! It probably looks ancient and valuable, but what is it? Experts advise not to tamper with your target too much before you know what it is. For instance, don’t scrub dirt off abrasively or use soap and water right off the bat. There are hundreds of metal detecting experts and communities who can help you identify items.

The Art of Identifying Treasures

When you find your first artifacts, you obviously want to know what they are! Before you know how to clean your find, you need to identify it. Ask a fellow detectorist for help. There are other resources, as well. Many museums have identification facilities. Check to see if any museums in your area offer this service. Another great reason to visit a museum is you will see tons of artifacts and be able to relate items when you make your own discoveries. Antique stores and coin dealers are also very useful to detectorists. They can help you identify finds; dealers often publish coin lists which you will likely reference often. Metal detecting books and magazines are beneficial to most detecting hobbyists. For example, experts recommend the book, “Whitman’s Official Red Book: A Guide Book of United States Coins” for identifying coins. offers a huge selection of metal detecting books, magazines and videos. You can find a book specifically geared towards Civil War relics, if that is your niche. Treasure Hunting magazines typically publish a monthly “Question & Answer” section in which readers’ finds are identified by experts. By the way, if you do buy metal detecting magazine, save them for your archive. It’s a great way to build up your own reference library.

Ask Mark Parker- Magazine Q & A Example

The metal detecting magazine Western & Eastern Treasures features a monthly column called “Ask Mark Parker.” Relic and coin expert Mark Parker selects photos from hobbyists interested in identifying their finds. He researches each find and provides detailed insight as to what it is, as well as its estimated value. One reader dug up an old brass lock in Colorado engraved “St. Louis” on both sides. He was interested in any information about his find.

Mark Parker’s response, “Your warded padlock dates from the early 1900s, and although there are no maker’s marks, the style is very similar to that of locks made by the E. T. Fraim Co. of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. As for the “St. Louis” name, it’s been suggested that this is one of a number of locks issued to cash in on the enormous interest and enthusiasm surrounding the St. Louis World’s Fair, or Louisiana Purchase Exposition, held in 1904. It’s a fairly common but collectable little item, usually retailing around $20.”

Identifying your treasure is among the most exciting aspects of metal detecting. For more information, check out’s Learning Library. Read about these related topics:

Relic Hunting TV Series’ Inspire New Metal Detectorists

Cast members of the new TV show "Rebel Gold" from the Discovery Channel sporting their metal detectors.

Cast members of the new TV show “Rebel Gold” from the Discovery Channel sporting their metal detectors.

A recent surge in TV series’ featuring the real-life hobby of treasure hunting is creating intrigue about this pastime. The fact that there are literally millions of dollars in gold coins, treasure caches and artifacts buried in U.S. soil in enough to pique anyone’s interest. Discovery Channel premiered a new series in September called “Rebel Gold.” The show followed an experienced group of treasure hunters who joined forces to retrace Jefferson Davis’ trail—searching for clues that would lead them to the legendary lost Confederate gold. An estimated $20 million in gold and silver disappeared at the end of the Civil War while Jefferson Davis and Confederate troops fled from Richmond, Virginia.

Diggers TV show co-hosts KG & Ringy metal detecting. Click photo & see Garrett metal detector models, just like they use on the show.

Diggers TV show co-hosts KG & Ringy metal detecting. Click photo & see Garrett metal detector models, just like they use on the show.

National Geographic Channel  brings their own brand of excitement with “Diggers,” which has already aired four seasons of reality metal detecting. The “Diggers” TV duo—Tim Saylor and George Wyant—are Montana natives and extreme detectorists. Viewers get to follow these two detectorists throughout the countryside while they hunt for artifacts from infamous outlaws (such as Bonnie & Clyde), war battles, Wild West gunfights and historical  American events. These are ethically conscious hobbyists who request permission to hunt on private property and donate historically relevant relics to towns and museums. What’s really interesting about both of these TV series is that the shows’ treasure hunters do this as a hobby…they all have other jobs and careers. There’s no misguided beliefs that you can quit your job and become a treasure hunter. Nevertheless, a treasure hunter can get lucky and unearth a treasure cache worth millions. We’ve seen it in the headlines!

Why are Relic Hunters Passionate about this Hobby?

When people talk about relics, they are referring to “traces of the past.” Battlefield relics are one popular category, with relic hunters searching for artifacts from the Revolutionary War and Civil War. Many Civil War battles and skirmishes took places in the southern United States, so these are common search sites. You’ll notice these well-known battlegrounds being scoured by the “Diggers” and the “Rebel Gold” team. But war relics aren’t the only relics to be found. Old coins, tokens, jewelry and medallions are highly sought after, as well as antique toys and bottles. “Diggers’” Tim Saylor says, “We usually  look for old coins because that’s our favorite thing to find, but it’s always the other weird items that come out of the ground—guns, rings, unique jewelry, tools, and so on—that are the most interesting and surprising.” And sometimes, a relic hunter will find “The Big One!” Just a few years back in England, a metal-detecting buff was exploring a field near his home when he unearthed a lead container filled with silver coins and jewelry. The coins dated back to Viking rulers of the region, more than 1,000 years ago!

Equipment to Get Started Relic Hunting with a Metal Detector

It’s important to use the right type of metal detector if you’re searching specifically for relics. This is because most relics are made of iron, steel or brass. Also, a lot of valuable relics are found in highly mineralized soil. If you were using a detector for coins, it would discriminate most of these metals out. Relic-hunting metal detectors are designed to use lower frequencies that respond well to iron, steel and brass; and they’re deep-seeking. Many relic metal detectors feature ground mineral displays, ground cancellation and target identification. Here are a few high-quality detectors suggested for relic hunting:

Entry Level Relic Metal Detectors:
Mid Level Relic Metal Detectors:
Top Relic Metal Detectors:

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What are the Best Metal Detectors for Finding Relics?

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

5 Types of Antiques Commonly Found By Metal Detectors

We all enjoy things that remind us of our past; and this is one of the many reasons so many different people like to collect antiques. Going antiquing is a favorite hobby for many as well, and, of course, adds to those antique collections! Another way to build an antique collection is to go metal detecting.

While you never know what you’ll find when you’re out metal detecting, it’s almost always something old. You’ll also find that since many objects were made of metal in the past there are a variety of types of antiques you might unearth with a metal detector. The following are five of the most common types of antiques found while metal detecting.


Hair pins, earrings, necklaces, ankle bracelets, you name it, that type of jewelry has been found with a metal detector. Most jewelry has at least one metal part, usually more making it an easy find for a metal detector. Often the gems and stones are still intact as well to make an even more exciting treasure.


Coins area a very popular metal detecting find.  Many aren’t antiques, but quite a few others are!  And, when you find that Indian Head, or Flying Eagle, “farm fresh”, right out of the ground, it’s so much better than buying it at the antique store there’s no comparison.

Glass Bottles

Believe it or not many types of antique glass bottles have been found by metal detectors. This is possible because although the bottle itself is glass, there is often a metal cap, or closure that the machine will hit on. Antique glass bottles are also often found as part of a treasure cache in which the metal detector located the other metal objects in the cache, or the container itself as opposed to the glass bottles; which ended up to be an unexpected bonus!

Buttons and Buckles

Buttons and buckles were common metal items worn in the past. They’re not common anymore though and when these treasures are found by a metal detector, most antique collectors get very excited!

Toys, Heirlooms and Home Decor

Family heirlooms, precious metal toys and home decor items of the past like picture frames, ornaments, tableware, mirrors, and other objects like these were usually made at least in part from metals and are quite frequently found when out metal detecting. Many individuals enjoy searching for toys with a metal detector. These are exciting finds because they give a unique glimpse into the owner’s life at the time, and life at that period of history in general as well.

These are just five of the many types of antiques that can be found with a metal detector! So, if you enjoy collecting antiques, a metal detector may be just the thing you need to enhance your collection with all kinds of different types of antiques while having fun with a brand new hobby as well.

Related Articles:

Relic Hunting: What are the Best Metal Detectors for Finding Relics?

Coin Hunting: What are the Best Metal Detectors for Finding Coins?

National Geographic’s Diggers Season 4 Premiers on Monday July 20, 2015

Daniel Bernzweig of shares details on National Geographics Diggers Show

The Diggers TV show allows viewers to see what it is like to search for buried relics and treasures with a metal detector and the history that goes along with it.

TV reality show Diggers on the National Geographic Channel is striking a chord with both metal detector hobbyists and interested onlookers alike. The show aired for the first time in February 2012, and has learned that the fourth season of Diggers will premier with two new episodes on Monday July 20, 2015. Viewers get to follow two metal detectorists across the U.S. who use familiar metal detectors and equipment to unearth buried coins, tokens, relics and other artifacts. The show’s two metal detecting enthusiasts, “King George” (George Wyant) and “The Ringmaster” (Tim Saylor) call themselves ‘metal detectives’ and are just as animated about the hunt as their finds. Diggers opening scene states that “history sits just under our feet,” which could be the mantra for the growing hobby of metal detecting. With millions of lost coins and endless valuables buried beneath the earth, it’s no wonder that this exciting pastime is spreading like wildfire.

Get a “Diggers” Season 4 episode preview each week throughout the season here on our blog. … “Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid” and “Madison’s Montpelier”, … will be shown on Monday July 20, 2015.

George and Tim’s nicknames were shortened for the show to “KG” and “Ringy.” The pair is as eager as kids in a candy store as they set out to find what they call ‘nectar’ and ‘juice’ at various historical hot spots across the country. Along with historians and the local land owners, KG and Ringy have be seen searching for Civil War relics at campsites in Virginia, stolen gold in the mines of Nevada and battlefield relics dating back to 1863 in Gettysburg, PA—just to name a few. As soon as their feet touch ground, viewers will see KG and Ringy totally geared up for metal detecting. They immediately get to work equipped with metal detectors such as the Garrett AT Pro and Garrett AT Gold which you can review for yourself in our Garrett AT Pro & AT Gold comparison article. They also use headphones to make sure they hear all signals their detectors emit and digging tools such as the Lesche Digging Tool and the Garrett Edge Digger.

Past Season Episodes – Gettysburg Battlefield: Finding Artifacts & Lincoln Pennies

In a past season episode when Ringy and KG travel to the land of Gettysburg, they are hunting for artifacts that date back to 1863. At the Tate Farm, Ringy found half of a horseshoe and a Minie` ball (Civil War bullet) with his Garrett AT Pro Metal Detector.

Also at the Tate Farm, KG got a ‘slammin’ hit’—heard crystal clear with headphones similar to our DepthMaster Audiophone II Metal Detector Headphones. It turned out to be a flat button from a Civil War soldier’s coat. KG makes easy work of target recovery with a pinpointing probe. His probe of choice? Garrett’s Pro-Pointer Pinpointing Metal Detector. This unit, and the new waterproof Pro-Pointer AT, features easy one-button operation that alerts you to the target with both vibrations and audio. The pinpointer helped him isolate a Lincoln penny and a King George colonial coin with ease.

Diggers Season 4 Weekly Episode Guides – Get the Facts

Get a “Diggers” Season 4 episode preview each week throughout the season here on our blog. In fact, you will want to check back here soon as we will have the scoop on the two new Diggers episodes, “Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid” and “Madison’s Montpelier”, that will be shown on Monday July 20, 2015. Until then, stay cool as the summer heats up along with the hot new Diggers TV season. As always, feel free to contact us with selection help on any of the metal detectors or accessories you have questions on.

Just like the Diggers, You Can be a Relic Hunter!

Relic hunting is the search for historical artifacts, including military items from the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil War. For detecting hobbyists who enjoy learning about history, this can quickly become a favorite pastime. On one hunting trip, a detectorist might find a hundred-year-old musket ball and on the next—a cannon ball or an officer’s Medal of Honor. Treasure hunters who live near heavily wooded areas of old home sites should try their hand at relic hunting, because this is prime hunting territory. Many protected U.S. battlefields are off-limits to detectorists, but if you live in parts of the country where Civil War battles took place, you may be able to build a military relic collection!

So which type of metal detector is designed for finding relics? Most multi-purpose units work just fine when adjusted with a small amount of discrimination. Too much discrimination will reject valuable targets, which is why gold and beach-hunting detectors aren’t ideal. Relics are typically made of iron, steel or brass. A visual target display is an extremely valuable feature for relic hunting, so that should be on your list of ‘must haves’ when shopping for a new detector. To learn which types of detectors professional and serious relic hunters use, check out: What are the Best Metal Detectors for Finding Relics? One last consideration after your metal detector, is a heavy duty shovel, so you can dig all those great relics you are in search of with ease. The Lesche shovels and digging tools are highly regarded by relic hunters and are affordable, yet built to last for many years of use.