Thursday, July 20, 2017

7/20/17 Report - What Might You Be Missing: Trade-offs and Strategic Metal Detecting Strategies.

Written by the treasureguide for the exclusive use of

Three Shipwreck Spikes and Some Modern Coins
What kind of items would you most likely miss?  Different people miss different things.  Everybody misses some types of items.   Your detector and settings and hunting style will be more tuned for some types of items, but that will mean that there will be other things you will miss.

There are always some trade-offs.  Your hunting style might be near optimal.  You might be finding the types of things you want to find while not missing much that you don't care about.  But do you know?  Do you know what you might be missing?  When you decide to discriminate or skip one type of item, are you aware of what else you might also be skipping?

You may never know what you left in the ground.  There might have been a few surprises.  I bet there were.

The number of watches I find has always been surprising to me.  I was surprised, first of all, by how many are lost, and secondly, how long they seem to remain on heavily detected beaches.  The thing is that they aren't identified by detector meters and they can sound like junk.  If you leave a watch in the ground, you might be leaving the most valuable thing you passed over all day.  That is just one example of the kind of thing I'm talking about.

There are some things that I'm sure I would have found years sooner, except they were in my "blind zone."  I didn't realize it for a long time, but it was the result of the characteristics of my metal detector and the items that I was targeting at the time.  I was focusing on gold jewelry, and as a result, there were other things that I was missing.

You can not avoid making some trade-offs when you focus your hunting on certain types of finds.  It is wise to focus your time and efforts.   Your decisions can save you time and optimize results.  You might be perfectly fine with deciding to accept one type of error in order to save time and optimize your overall results, but you need to be aware of the effect of your decisions so you know you aren't missing things that you'd really rather find.

Here is a little quiz.  Which of the items in the photo at the top of the post do you think a detectorist would most likely fail to find if it was in the metal detector's range and the coil was right over it?  

I'm going to talk about this in generalities today.  Assume all of those items were all at the same shallow depth. And I'm not going to go by any particular metal detector or the particular settings you might use.

You might think that size is the primary determinant, but in this case it probably wouldn't be the smallest of these items that most detectorists would miss.

I'd say that probably fifty percent or more of the detectorists that hunt the Treasure Coast would not detect the second item from the left.  It is a broken iron spike.

If I'm talking about another area of the country where other types of detectors predominate and where there are more relic hunters, for example, the results would not be the same.

You'd think that most detectors would detect a shipwreck spike, but many will not, even one of the ones that is very commonly used on the Treasure Coast shipwreck beaches will miss them.  You might run full sensitivity and no discrimination and it will still not respond to iron targets like this.

Years ago I wondered why I hadn't found iron shipwreck spikes even though I found all kinds of other shipwreck finds, including small cobs.  The simple reason is that I wasn't digging iron at the time, and the particular detector I was using at the time would null out on iron.  If you aren't digging iron, you won't find iron, and there might actually be a few iron items that you'd prefer to have. Again, it is good to be aware of the effect of the decisions you make.

The first spike in the photo is an interesting one to me.  It was bent over then clenched in, but then the head pulled through the wood.

The iron spike in the photo, is broken, as you can see.  The smaller spike to the right of the iron spike is copper, like the first one shown in the photo, and I think more Treasure Coast detectorists would dig the copper spike than the iron spike.

Of course, some metal detectors are very hot to iron and would easily detect the iron spike.  Most people do not like to detect with a lot of iron sensitivity and so either choose another type of detector or use some type of discrimination.

I'm talking about this to encourage you to get to know your detector and the possible results of different detecting strategies.  You might want to test your detector and the way you detect to see if what I am saying is true for you.  You should know if your detector is hot to iron or not.  Don't just complain about the iron junk.  Make a calculated decision.

Another Selection of Finds.
Here is a second grouping.  Which item in this photo do you think the most people would miss?

Again, you have to know what they are made of.   The first is copper; the second bronze; the third is lead, and the fourth object is lead.

The copper, bronze and lead will usually give a good strong signal on many metal detectors.  The one that many people might miss would be the third item: the lead stylus.  ( It has been identified as a stylus, although other people think otherwise.  I've recently talked about the difficulty of identifying artifacts.)

The lead stylus is surprisingly stealthy to a lot of detectors, while the crumpled lead sheathing gives a huge signal. 

What I said today might or might not be true for your detector and how you detect. My primary purpose with this is to make you think about different types of targets, and your detector and how you hunt.  I'm convinced that trade-offs are unavoidable, but can be good.  You just have to make informed decisions.

It is easy to miss certain types of items and never know it.  That might include a few of the types of items that you might prefer to find.  That is why it is important to know your detector and experiment with a variety of types of objects.

If I figure out how to get my detector sound recordings into blogger, I might give you some examples for two or three specific detectors.


Tropical storm Don has disappeared and there is now no tropical activity in the Atlantic or Gulf.

Expect a one to two foot surf for several days.  We are having some decent negative tides.  Every tidal cycle, some sand in the very shallow water and at the water's edge gets shifted.

Happy hunting,