From the Blog
Coin Shooting – A Treasure Finder's Hobby (Part 3)
In this the concluding article of a three part series, we will discuss techniques and equipment that will enhance the hobbyist's success in finding coins from the ground. Remember that this article is not about treasure hunting, but treasure finding. Having the right mindset with the right equipment and techniques will cause a detector user to outperform his counterparts having equal or even superior equipment. You may wonder why other detector users seem to have all the "luck". Having the best equipment and a hunting site where good targets can be found is very important, but does not guarantee success.
Soil conditions play a most significant, but often never realized, role in coin-shooting success. There are two methods of reading the detecting site's soil conditions. First is visually and second is electronically. Both can contribute to your success. The first method is truly an art. The infinite possibilities of soil conditions will determine how deep agreed-targets will be found. If the site has exposed rock croppings, granite, hard clay, coral or other very hard material, it is illegally that coins and other valuables will be very deep and the recovery techniques will require patience and skill to prevent damage. Heavy carpeted like grass areas have a tendency for targets to be found somewhat deeper, bringing in to consideration the concept of sinking rate of targets. I personally will not throw this concept away, but am not a believer that items have sinking rates in any kind of soil. I have found large cents and Seated Half dollars in near perfect condition in soft soil types at less than an inch deep. In those same sites I have dug up wheat cents and modern silver coinage at 6 to 10 inches deep. The actions of man over time probably play a more important role than nature, on the depth of most coin items.
Electronic analysis of soil conditions is the best method for a detector user. Take a sample of the deer targets at a site. If the defect items are fairly new, there is a high probability that this site consists of fill dirt or was bulldozed. Go to another site where the deer targets show more age. This is not just on the coins dug but all targets, as the trash (including iron nails) will identify the age of the property being searched. Here is a very important tip I learned many years ago. Pull tabs from soda cans were injected in 1962. If the area or site you are hunting predates this time frame and has had little or no known human activity, then dig up all pull tab readings and foil readings because gold rings, other gold jewelry and bullets will also read as foil or pull tabs.
It is essential that we all face the reality that never hunted sites are fewer to be found than 40 to 50 years ago when this hobby of electronic location was in its infancy. Hunting is now more of a challenge and three factors are essential to success. If you enter a site with the mindset and education of knowing this site has already been hunted by many others, and have the attitude (the third ingredient) that there are still good goals to be found here, your probability for success is greatly increased. In 1971, I found my oldest US regularly minted coin, a rough looking 1812 large cent. I found this one at a natural spring watering hole used by stagecoaches and military troops during the early and mid 1800's, in what is now Palm Harbor. I hunted that site with my best equipment, time and time again, and over the years found only modern era and clad coins because many teens still used it for swimming. Nothing else from pre 1900, trash or treasure was retrieved from here until last Fall when I came back one more time before the area was closed off completely to metal detecting by developers. Using no discrimination and a mini coil, I recovered my best half dollar find ever, a near uncirculated 1861 Seated Liberty Half Dollar.
When a serious hobbyist enters into a challenging area he / she can perform many things differently, some very simple, that will lead to great success in coin shooting. You can electronically "connect" your detector to the soil conditions by scrubbing the coil lightly over the soil or ground. This will enhance your detector performance as it will be electronically more in tune with the soil. So simple, but most detectorist have never been instructed to do this performance trick that can add up to two inches in depth. Always keep your coil as close to the ground as mineral conditions of the soil will permit. If the detector manufacturer says a unit will detect a penny at eight inches and you hold detector at two inches above the soil, your detection range at best will only be six inches. The two inch air space can even affect depth more and the detector might not even be able to pick it up at four inches. The deeper and possibly more valuable finds will be missed. It is difficult to assess how many coins are below the ten to twelve inch range, as the limit on detector capabilities is real. Most of the best do not go that deep, even in perfect conditions. But many times school grounds, ball fields, yards and park areas will either have sod replacement or renovation processes that will require removal surface soil. I found 200 coins in one day on a sod replacement of a ball field and found 36 mercury dimes in a four hour period in a sod replacement of my favorite school for coin shooting. 243 coins predating 1940 came on a school after much more than six inches of dirt and school yard trash were removed from where the school had been destroyed in 1964. These examples are but a few that let me know that there are probably thousands of coins in some sites just below the one foot level that the best metal detectors are capable of reaching, even in ideal / perfect conditions.
Here are a few tips that I will pass on to assist successful coin shooting in challenged site areas.
1. Slow down your coil sweep speed in direct relation to the size of the coil and always even slower in trashy areas. This means to never cover the ground faster than two times the diameter of the coil. Three inch coils then should not move more than six inches per second, a five not more than ten inches, an eight inch not more than 16 inches and so forth. This will also allow your detector time to read more than one target in a given area. Too fast a sweep and the coil can not reset electronically and the second target will be completely missed.
2. Overlap your coil sweep by 50% in trash areas and near that much in cleaner areas. The coils detection pattern is for most detectors today, conical. Overlapping will do wonders in finding deeper targets.
3. Hunt your site in three or four different patterns or directions. If your coil sweep is about five or six feet, mark off a 10 to 12 foot square area and cover it east to west, then north to south, then at a diagonal pattern and if time allows stand in the middle and cover it in a circular pattern. I have hunted areas with friends who randomly searched and covered a lot of territory and in a short time came back saying let's leave as there are no goodies here and I opened my hand to show them several older coins retrieved by covering this small area more thoroughly .
4. Make sure your detector is optimized for hunting. Fresh batteries and proper tuning for ground conditions are essential to success. Use as little discrimination as possible.
These three tips will make a hunted-out area frequently become a new site with many good coin finds. The final part of this article is on retrieval methods.
There are many methods for coin retrieval out there today. However, most are variations of either plugging or probe & driver techniques. It is important to remember that this hobby depends on all of us being responsible for leaving the soil and vegetation undamaged in our coin shooting and other treasure finding ventures.
Probe & Driver is used in less moist lawns where coins are not deep and plugging would be destructive. This method requires practice to master, but because it is less damaging, will get permission to return more often than not. After pinpointing the target, using a non-metallic probe made of fiberglass or a metallic but blunted ice pick, find the target. Next insert an eight inch screwdriver on center just above the target and rotate slowly to open the ground. Now insert the screwdriver just under the target at an angle and lever the target to the surface. Brush all loose dirt back into the hole and close by putting pressure all around the opening.
Plugging is only used in moist lawns and natural wooded areas (plugging dry hard soil will damage the grass leaving yellow and even bare / dead spots). After pinpointing a target, using a sturdy six inch hunting knife, cut three sides of a four inch cube. This leaves one side as a hinge. Place knife blade in cut directly opposite the hinge and fold back the plug. If you have an electronic coin probe locate the coin, or using your coil, scan over the plug and hole to isolate the target location. If the target is in the plug, carefully probe until it is located. If the target is still in the hole and not visible, probe the sides and bottom until it is located and then remove. Make another sweep over the area just to make sure there are not any other targets. Put all loose dirt back into hole and close plug and seat it firmly with your foot. It does not hurt to also carry a small bottle of water and wet the cut area to insure even less chance of damage. Make sure you pick up all found trash, fill all your holes and educate those who do not. Keep on "diggin"! You are a treasure finder