Searching for “Coin Spreads”- How to Pinpoint and Dig Them

Whites Dig Master Digging Tool

Whites Dig Master Digging Tool for recovering your metal detecting treasure finds.

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

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

Makro Pointer Waterproof Pinpointer

Garrett Pro-Pointer II Pinpointing Metal Detector

Garrett Pro-Pointer AT Waterproof Pinpointer

Whites TRX Pinpointer

XP MI-6 Pinpointer

Metal Detecting Trowels and Digging Tools

Whites Dig Master Tool

Garrett Edge Digger with Sheath

Pro Digging Trowel

Saw Tooth Pro Digging Trowel

Fisher Teknetics Ultimate Recovery Tool

Digging Deep for Hidden Treasure- What are the Advantages?

Detech Chaser Metal Detector

The Detech Chaser Metal Detector, a great unit for deep coin hunting.

Using a metal detector is a science in itself—particularly, discerning  its individual beeps and tones. Once you have mastered your detector, you can focus on how deep you are finding targets. Some hobbyists only focus on targets that are buried 2-5″ deep. Others swear that their best targets are buried much deeper. Civil War relic hunters often talk about great finds buried 10″ and more underground. If you are looking to find better treasures, you may consider a detector that is built to find deeper targets, such as the Teknetics T2, Fisher F75. or Detech Chaser. One well-known treasure hunter who makes videos, “Aquachigger,” always digs deep holes while searching 1800’s homes- finding “Seated Liberty” quarters, Indianhead pennies, muskets, belt buckles and buttons.

Listening to Your Signals

The textbook coin signal is “round”. What this means is that for coins laying flat, the signal has the same characteristics no matter what angle you scan it. As you walk around the target while swinging the coil back and forth, a coin sound will be smooth and repeatable. If it beeps for half an inch one way, the “round” signal will beep for half an inch every other way. Oversized objects (like pop or beer cans), may give loud signals from one angle, but no signal from another.

Get the Most Depth Out of Your Detector

Here are expert tips to get the best depth out of your metal detector:

  1. Turn up the Sensitivity.  You can find the optimal setting for the particular conditions you’re using, but you’ll have to fine-tune it.
  2. Adjust the Ground Balance to be neutral or slightly negative. If your ground balance is positive, it’s easy to overlook a lot of stuff.

Related Articles:


Why Do Metal Detectors Sometimes Give False Signals?

After reading this article, you will easily be able to spot the issues that could cause your metal detector to give false signals.

After reading this article, you will easily be able to spot the issues that could cause your metal detector to give false signals.

Treasure hunting with a metal detector is almost always FUN and exciting—a positive experience. There are only a handful of things that can throw a wrench into your happy hunting. Among them: false  signals coming from your metal detector. Also known as “phantom signals,” this is when your detector beeps for no reason because no metal can be found. Why does this happen? There are several reasons, and once you become familiar with them, you can reduce erroneous alerts. When gold prospecting, false signals are often caused by iron oxides, such as magnetite and hematite. Magnetite is what “black sand” is made of; and hematite is also known as “natural ore.” Iron oxides are typically found in the company of gold.

If you are not prospecting, most other false signals can be addressed by learning how to minimize them. Below are the most common causes of false metal detector signals.

  • Footwear with metal accents. Steel-toed boots are a common culprit and even the metal eyelets in shoelaces can set off your detector.
  • Diggers and other metal objects. If you are swinging near digging tools, this can be a problem. Jewelry you are wearing (rings, watch) may cause a false signal.
  • Improper Swinging.  Bumping the ground can cause your detector to give a false signal.  Try to keep your coil as close to the ground as possible (an inch or less) without scraping it. Swinging your coil back and forth like a pendulum can also cause errors. The coil should be equidistant through your whole swing.
  • Moisture in the control box of your detector.
  • Loose cable connection. Make sure your cable is securely screwed in to the control box housing.
  • Electro Magnetic Interference. A common problem if you are detecting close to power lines. This includes buried power lines you can’t see. EMI disturbs a detector’s ability to distinguish a metal object.
  • Other metal detectors nearby. If you are hunting with a friend, your machines may be picking up each others signals.
  • Sensitivity. If your detector is acting erratic, make sure your sensitivity is not set too high.
You Have Detected Metal, But Haven’t Yet Found It!

If none of the above scenarios apply to your situation, guess what? You probably have detected an object underfoot. Treasure hunters are always talking about elusive targets that take a long time to uncover. Whether there’s a “halo effect” going on or something else, some targets are simply difficult to pinpoint! It’s quite possible that you knocked your target on its side while digging; or in soft soil, the target may be sinking . If your metal detector has a pinpoint mode, try that before giving up. Next order of business: use a hand-held pinpointer. Many veteran treasure hunters consider these a lifesaver and carry pinpointers in their bags for this reason. The Garrett Pro Pinpointer II fits easily into any size hole and features side-scanning capabilities. The Garrett Pinpointers alerts you to your target with an audio indicator and handle vibration. Learn more about pinpointers:  What are the Best Metal Detector Pinpointers?