Metal Detecting FAQ

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Metal Detecting Frequently Asked Questions

I love the TV shows about metal detecting. They seem to find a lot of treasure. If I buy a metal detector, will I find a lot of treasure?

You would be very lucky if you did. Metal detecting is a learned skill and not very glamorous.

The put-on “reality” TV shows depict a detectorist finding lots of good targets - but keep in mind that the hundreds of trash targets they dig up are not aired.

Most people who buy or get a metal detector are faced with a confusing manual full of new terms and ideas. Ground balance? Sensitivity? VDI? Pinpointing? It’s really not so bad if you take the detector outside and play with it while going through the manual.

Once you figure it out you need the equipment necessary to become a successful detectorist: a manual pinpointer; a really good digging tool and a shovel made specifically for metal detecting (the only shovels permitted in city and county parks); knee pads; a good utility belt; pouch or nail apron to hold trash and treasure; and knowledge to know how to use all of it.

Too often we find open and abandoned holes and dug up trash in parks because of improper training or equipment. Proper training will save a detectorist time and leave clean extraction holes. The rule is to leave the ground as you found it after digging down to a target.

To find any amount of “keepers” one has to dig a lot of holes and repair them properly. It’s a lot of work and 90% of the stuff you dig will be trash. Trash signals often sound the same as valuable items, especially in the silver or coin range. Gold is hard to find because it is in the iron or pull-tab range of signals. The best road to success is to dig all of the signals until you become familiar with the machine.

Once hobbyists get beyond the learning curve and the frustration, they dig less trash and more treasure but will never be able to avoid finding junk.

Do I have to pay for the monthly outing?

No. It’s included in membership.

How can I sign up for monthly outings?

Dates of monthly outings are announced at our meetings, and sometimes via email. A limited number of members, which can vary, may sign up. The location and details are then e-mailed to those who have signed up. The location of our outings is kept secret except to those members who sign up.

When can I get certified for Baltimore City Metal Detecting Permits?

We offer the certification at our meetings. We will take you outside on the grass to watch you dig a proper search hole and repair it properly. Then we will stamp and sign your city permit application.

Help! I’ve lost a valuable item. Can someone from the Maryland Free-State Treasure Club find it?

Yes, as long as you know the general vicinity of where it was lost. One or two of our members will arrive within a day or two to interview the customer and start searching. If the item is not found, the detectorist will widen the search area. If the item it still not found, it simply is not there and we advise people to look more carefully in their cars or home.

An interesting fact is that lost valuables are not always where people think they lost it: just when they first noticed. But, rest assured, valuables are usually found.

How much does it cost to have someone come out and search for lost valuables?

That’s up to you. We do not charge customers to find their lost valuables. We do, however, appreciate a donation to the club treasury: especially if we have to drive a long distance or conditions are unfavorable.

I have a chlld interested in joining your club. Do I have to pay full dues?

Full dues start at age eighteen. Seventeen-years-of-age and under have only to pay $10.00 as long as a guardian signs the application and accompanies the young member at the meetings. Full dues for an adult includes family membership.

How much does a metal detector cost?

Metal detectors for kids cost around $80. Serious detectors jump to about $250 and up. Most of the master detectorist use detectors ranging from $750 to $2500(and up) because of the advanced circuitry. If you are new to the hobby, do some internet research and check out some forums. The type of metal detecting you want to do; coin shooting, beach hunting, relic hunting, etc., will affect your decision.

You’ll also need some gear: gloves, digging tool such as a strong trowel (all-metal shovels made specifically for metal detecting are now allowed in city parks), manual pinpointer (good ones cost around $125+), recovery pouch and/or tool pouch, knee pads, etc.

Where can I get one?

Our website lists dealers in and around Baltimore and surrounding states. If you live outside this area, an Internet search will find your query. You might also buy a used detector as your first machine.

How do they work?

The transmit coil produces a radio signal (electromagnetic radiation). This signal remains fairly constant and is responsible for the “All metal” or “Pinpoint” mode which responds to any piece of metal. The receiver coil produces its own radio signal and as long as the search coil is in motion, electronic circuitry compares the amplitude and phase shift of the receiver signal to the static transmit signal. Sophisticated circuitry uses a discrimination algorithm to determine the alloy content of a metal target and returns the results by means of visual readout or audible signals of varying pitch.

What’s the advantage of joining a club?

Metal detecting clubs offer a fast-track to learning the hobby. Without education, inexperienced hobbyists tend to leave the junk they dig on the ground and leave the hole they dug and repaired. At monthly club meetings and monthly outings, training is offered in proper target recovery, members share advice and tips on setting up detectors, new friendships are forged and detecting techniques are discussed. Most monthly meetings have educational programs as well as occasional dealer demonstrations of new detectors and gear.

Do I really need a permit to metal detect in public areas?

Metal detecting permits are analogous to fishing licenses; it’s really up to you. There are, however, stories circulating of hobbyists of both interests losing their finds and, in some cases, their equipment to the police for auction. Most counties don’t have a permit system in place but local authorities can give you a good measure of the restrictions. The Baltimore City and County permit system is in place as a means to inform each applicant of the rules. Private land is up to the discretion of the land owner.

Where do I get a city or county permit?

Our Website has a link to [Permits] which clearly lists each step.

Do I really need a manual pinpointer if my detector already has a pinpoint function?

Not really if you’re looking for large objects such as underground pipes. But small valuables, old coins and artifacts are almost impossible to spot in the soil even if your detector pinpoints a target underground.

The pinpoint function on a metal detector, otherwise known as all-metal mode,it relays an approximate location and depth of suspected target. It is calibrated to a coin sized object with a search coil of predetermined size. Centering and depth readings are affected by target size and, to some extent, the content of the alloy. A hand-held pinpointer speeds up target recovery. Most targets acquire the color of the surrounding soil making them well-camouflaged. The manual pinpointer will find the target even if it is still buried or in the side of the hole. The range on manual pinpointer is about an inch for coin sized objects. The range is greater for large objects, especially aluminum.

Given the same area, why do some detectorist recover lots of worthy items and others find nothing but junk?

They are simply more experienced. The experience comes in three forms; knowing the detector, speed of recovery, and target decision: Familiarity: Reading the manual to gain familiarity with a detector is where to start. Understanding the principles behind the operation is essential. But practice is the most valuable resource - years of practice.

Speed: An experienced detectorist can make quicker and more accurate decisions of what to dig, properly recover a target and move on fast enough to increase the chances of finding more worthy finds over a beginner. Some detectorist will accomplish these steps as much as four times faster than a serious novice. Decisions: While all brands of detectors have audio and visual indicators that supposedly tell us what a target is, the concept is only perfect if the target is on the surface of the ground or held in the air. Targets in the ground, especially deep targets, might emit varyingly unstable signals, depending on the iron content of the soil or the eddy current of the target. These targets are often ignored by the beginner. Conversely, most metallic trash targets give strong signals in the range of good targets and are disappointingly recovered. Experience is key to knowing the difference.

What’s the difference between hunts and outings?

The word “hunt” evolved as detectorist went “hunting” for treasure in the earth, sand or water. The term “hunting” also means shooting at things and is sometimes confused by novice club members when they hear that members are going “hunting.”

The word “hunt” is also used in reference to metal detecting “competition hunts” where the prizes are buried to a shallow depth in land or sand, or tossed into grass. These competition hunts often have an entry fee and the prizes can be very valuable.

“Outings” refer to gatherings of metal detectorist at parks or private property. These get-togethers may be either impromptu or a club outing. Outings are a great way to learn the hobby and get valuable tips from the experts.

We have pre-meeting “mini hunts” in the grass outside during the spring, summer and early fall months. The mini hunts are free to our members. Coins and tokens are found with only a detector and pinpointer and the tokens are worth silver coins.

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