Searching for old coins is exciting, but searching for “coin spreads” is even MORE exciting! What is a “coin spread?” Well, back in the day, it was very common for people to bury small caches of coins and other valuables in the ground. Burying coins was easier than trying to keep them safe inside a home, so former farmland is a hot commodity for cache hunting. People often forgot where to dig and/or forgot to retrieve their treasures.
“As real treasure finds go, a coin spread is one of the most realistic for anyone with a metal detector to make.” – Daniel Bernzweig of MetalDetector.com
In the 1800’s and early 1900’s, farmers and homestead owners buried their valuables inconspicuously in socks, Mason type glass jars or small wooden boxes. These containers decay over time, leaving metal valuables intact and in the ground. During plowing season, coin sacks are brought closer to the surface. And over time, coin sacks break and the coins are spread across a small area of land. Sometimes, handfuls of coins are found altogether. If you stumble upon a coin spread, adjust your metal detector’s sensitivity to easily pick up coins.
Pinpointing and Digging a Coin Spread
Once you’ve pinpointed a small area where a coin spread is present, it’s time to dig up your treasure! The depth of your digging area should be no less than ten inches. Each few inches of soil should be carefully removed from your target area and examined for the presence of coins. Move slowly and carefully! If your metal detector has multiple search coils, use the smaller search coil. Adjust the sensitivity of the metal detector and scan every scoop of dirt. When you’ve dug deeply enough, stop for a few minutes to examine the “walls” that you’ve created by digging. A large piece of tarp comes in handy; you can spread your dirt on the tarp to better spot coins.
Methods for Digging up Coins
Every detectorist has their favorite method of digging. Just remember: it’s important to maintain the integrity of coins when digging (no scratching) all the while doing your best at leaving the ground as you first found it. That’s why there are tried and true methods for digging up coins.
- The Plug Method: Use a small search coil to determine the approximate location of your target. After locating the target, take note of the depth and cut a square block of soil. Lift under your target so you can recover it. A tool with a serrated edge, like the Lesche digging tool makes this work easy. After you’ve located it, replace your block of soil so it’s restored to its former appearance.
- Alternate Plug: Dig up a half-circle, a “v”-shape, or cone-shaped hole.
- Use a Handheld Pinpointer Probe: Experienced detectorists often use a pinpointer to locate their target. After determining your best search location, use a handheld probe to search the hole or continue digging until you find the target. You can also search the flap area for the coin if it is not visible.
Necessary Tools for Coin Retrieval
Here are a few of our favorite tools for pinpointing and digging up coin spreads:
Metal Detector Pinpointers and Probes
Metal Detecting Trowels and Digging Tools