Metal Detecting Old Farm Land for Lost Treasure

Bruce Lilienthal, hit the jackpot. He found a large, unusual rock on his Minnesota farmland.

Bruce Lilienthal, hit the jackpot. He found a large, unusual rock on his Minnesota farmland.

Metal detecting at pre-existing homesteads and old farmhouses is a GREAT tactic because old relics and coins lie here. What can you expect to find when you detect and dig an old farmland? Arrowheads, pottery shards, buttons, porcelain and metal thimbles, bits of colored glass and old ammunition or bullets. In 2013, amateur detectorist and producer, Bruce Lilienthal, hit the jackpot when he found a large, unusual rock on his Minnesota farmland. After testing and researching, he and his wife learned that it was a meteorite. They sold the rock for a modest $10.5 million!  It pays to search farmland, for MANY different reasons.

Scout Out Large Trees around a Homestead’s Foundation

Farm “markers” are indicators that a farm pre-existed; they often include large trees. These trees have grown very large because nobody has cut them  down. Always watch out for these markers because a favorable hunt site exists nearby. When you do find a “marker tree,” detect the area that immediately surrounds it. There are likely buried coins and relics hidden in the dirt! It was a common practice for people of past centuries to bury hoards of coins and valuables near marker trees. People intended to reclaim their possessions, but it often never happened. Now’s your chance to recover these precious items with your metal detector!

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

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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