what to do with your metal detecting finds

What Should You Do With Metal Detecting Finds? (SOLVED)

what to do with metal detecting finds

Metal Detecting is not only about coming across metallic finds! Indeed, you also need to have a clear idea on what you should do with those finds depending on their type, nature and value.

This is exactly what you need to do with your metal detecting finds:

  • Identify them as accurately as possible.
  • Preserve them properly so they won’t lose their value.
  • Have an approximate valuation of their value.
  • Understand whether it is worth selling them or not.
  • If so, sell them to the right buyer at the right time.
  • Recognize some finds that should be returned to the owner.

In this article, I go quite deep in each and every of those steps. By the end, you will have a clear idea and approach on how to deal with your metal detection finds.

Identify Metal detecting finds first …

You should know how to identify the finds first. In most situations, it is possible to identify the discovery and metal from which the object is made by looking at the type of corrosion present on the surface.

Here are some tips on how to correctly identify your metal detecting finds.

Gold: Gold is one such metal that retains its shine forever and does not corrode. However, remember that not all shiny yellow metal objects will be gold. Objects made from copper alloys also appear similar to gold, especially when they are new.

Silver: Silver corrodes very quickly. Any object made from silver that has oxidized badly will be covered in a type of black patina. It is difficult to identify the object being made from silver without washing it properly first.

Iron: It is easy to identify iron objects due to the rusting. Sometimes, though, iron oxide coating can cause two or more things to join together, appearing to be one object. If you suspect such a scenario, the only way to identify the find will be by taking an X-ray to see what lies beneath the corrosion.

Copper: Copper corrosion is usually powdery and green in color.

Lead: Lead forms a white crust on the surface. A lead object is also much heavier than what you might expect when you pick it up.

Here’s a guide on how to identify different objects:

Silver coin: A silver coin typically hails from the medieval period. Since silver corrodes quickly, the coin would appear to be black or purple when in the ground. Be careful while recovering such a coin as it may also be very brittle.

Iron artifacts: Iron artifacts, especially hammers, can be from various periods in history. Such an artifact is likely to get damaged from rust and may appear distorted when initially in the ground.

Lead allow artifacts: A typical lead alloy spindle whorl will have traces of corrosion on the surface. Whorls can be dated back to the Roman period up to after the Industrial Revolution and can also be manufactured from ceramic and stone. Ceramic or stone whorls would not have any corrosion on the surface.

Jewelry: Jewelry is a common find when you are out metal detecting. Jewelry is not that difficult to identify as it is pretty easy to see it is an item of jewelry simply by looking at it. The challenge arises on how to determine its value and what metal the jewelry is made up of. First, try to identify what type of jewelry it is, and then look for any potential hallmark signs. Finding a hallmark makes it easy to date the jewelry and also find out the manufacturer. This can give you an idea of how valuable the item is.

Horseshoes: Dating horseshoes can be complex as they have been widely used throughout history. These finds are usually heavily rusted, making dating challenging. One way to identify the time period is by looking at the nail holes. In medieval times, horseshoes were punched instead of drilled. This led to a thickening of the area around the nail hole.

Helpful Tip: There are some capable metal detectors in the market that will help you identify your finds right off the bat. For example this Model Right Here has a wide range of target ids that will allow you to figure out pretty accurately what you’ve just found.

Preserving metal detecting finds is important …

When you find something valuable, it is essential to take care of the item and preserve it properly. There are many tools and techniques that are used to thoroughly clean and protect different types of metal detector finds.

The first step is to clean the item. Some commonly found metals while metal detecting includes iron, copper, bronze, brass, silver, gold, and aluminum. You may even find some items made from pewter. Some items may even be plated. You need to take extra care while cleaning any plated objects as these tend to get ruined easily. Relic items like old watches may be made up of several different metals, due to which you need to be careful while cleaning these as well.

Most of the items you dig up are not going to be in the best of condition. Apart from silver and gold coins, most metals will have corrosion.

Remember to be gentle when digging up your find because scratches get made on valuable treasures with your digging tools. You also have to be gentle while rubbing off the dirt from your object, as this may also lead to scratches.

For relics made of iron, it is important to know that rust will corrode iron objects. This is why to preserve iron objects, you must protect them immediately after they are dug up. Keep them safe from moisture and oxygen.

If you know that the item you have found is not very valuable, you can use a wire brush or wire wheel to remove surface rust.

After this, a protective coating must be applied to preserve the find. This can include light wax coating, clear lacquer, oil-resin varnish, or clear plastic spray. These coatings preserve the discovery and prevent any further rust from damaging the find.

If your recovered iron relic is valuable, you should consider having a professional clean and preserve the item.

For copper and brass finds, a simple oxidation treatment with a homemade mixture will help clean the object. This usually consists of:

  • Two parts distilled water
  • Two parts denatured alcohol
  • And precipitate chalk

After the cleaning is done, you can rinse the object in a water solution and 5% baking soda. Never use any substances that contain sulfur or chlorides on copper and brass.

Coins made of silver and gold usually need little preservation since these elements are stable from any environmental deterioration.

However, it is vital to avoid any physical damage to these finds. Clean them carefully with only soap and water.

Use a polishing cloth afterward to remove any leftover dirt particles. The best way to store these finds is to use a foam-padded gem jar or any other treasure display box you might be having.

Helpful Tip: For spendable coins, one of the most effective ways to clean them is by using a Rock Tumbler. There are some high quality ones in the market that you can use like this Model for Example.

Old relics like lead bullets and figurines also need little cleaning and preservation. The white patina that is typically seen on lead items indicates that it is ancient and desirable for these relics.

The green patina found on old Indian pennies is also a much-desired trait for collectors, so it’s best to leave them like that.

Here are some tips on how to preserve your metal detecting finds:

  • Ensure that the object is completely dry before you apply any preservation technique. Otherwise, you may mistake sealing in moisture, which will render any preservative coating useless.
  • You can put a thin coat of oil to preserve iron finds. This slows down the deterioration process but does not provide 100% protection.
  • Using preservation substances like renaissance Wax is desirable as it can preserve almost any type of metal.

The most important thing to remember while preserving your finds is to think about your preservation plan beforehand. Do not apply oil onto your object, only to preserve it in a different way afterward. It will be challenging to remove the oil to use another preservation technique. So have a well-thought-out plan before you begin.

When should you sell your finds?

There is always the possibility of selling your finds, mainly if you have found some valuable objects. However, it is generally observed that metal detectorists are attached to their finds and do not prefer to sell the things they have good memories of.

So when is a good time to sell your finds? Here are some examples.

Boost of motivation for beginners: Selling your valuable finds from metal detecting can be a good motivation for beginners. In the beginning, most detectorists have a hard time finding something valuable unless you turn out to be really lucky. However, when you start discovering valuable items, it might be a good idea to sell them and earn some money. Not only does this motivate you further to keep digging, but you can also use the money to upgrade your equipment.

Return on Investment (ROI): A good time to sell your finds would be when you want to upgrade your equipment and invest in more accessories like a scoop, pinpointer, glasses, reliable boots, GPS, etc. It is well-known that metal detecting needs considerable investment, and selling your valuable finds will give you the money to cover these expenses.

Making a living: Of course, if metal detecting is your primary way of making a living, you will be selling valuable finds to make money. However, it is wise to keep in mind that making a living only from metal detecting can be challenging.

How should you sell your finds?

There are many options to sell your finds. Here is a list of options, but some may or may not apply to you:

Specific shops: Certain shops in many countries mention that they buy gold and silver from walk-in customers. So if you have a valuable find made from either of these metals, you can try to sell your object at such a shop. However, while you will find that these shops are quick to buy your gold/silver object, they are unlikely to give you an excellent price.

Jeweler: Many jewelers give a good compensation for gold/silver objects, especially jewelry finds. It is a good idea to try your luck at various jewelry stores to get the best offer.

Friends and family: Some of your finds might be of interest to your family, especially jewelry. Selling a ring or necklace to a family member or a friend could prove a profitable option.

Online marketplaces like e-Bay or Amazon: You will find that people sell all sorts of things online, including finds from metal detecting. You can sell finds like coins, relics, and even antique glass bottles online. Remember that trading on online portals means you will have to include courier charges since you will need to send the item to the buyer.

Scrap: If you have gathered many objects that are not much valuable but high in quantity, you can sell them to a scrapyard. Selling items made from copper can fetch you a good deal of money at scrap yards.

Craig’s List: Craig’s List or a similar website accepts buying and selling detecting finds, even odd items.

When should you return you detecting finds?

Many local museums and historical societies are also interested in acquiring items of historical importance!

Things from a particular era, from the local region, or showcase a particular incident in time are of great interest to museums and historical societies.

If you have found a relic that you know is of historical value, it might be a good idea to turn over your find to such organizations.

For example, suppose you find relics, military and eagle buttons, soldier dog tags, and other war-related memorabilia.

In that case, it is a good idea to approach your local museum to turn over your finds. They might not be of much value, but they will be of importance to the museum.

Remember that though you may be attached to your finds, such objects would be of more value to the local government’s historical society or museums that help showcase the local history and educate visitors about such relics.

Final Thoughts …

There are many articles on the web that would probably answer your questions on what you should do with your finds. But, none of them goes to depth I’ve chosen to go to through this article …

Indeed, I’ve chosen to do so, because I know you are probably a beginner and it is always a Great idea to help not only provide a specific answer to a specific question, but also to give all sorts of info that could be related to the original question so I would help you learn even more about the hobby.

Hopefully, I was able to make this article helpful for you 🙂



About the Author

Carissa Harmer

Carissa is the huge metal detecting enthusiast that loves collecting coins. She is also highly interested in other treasure hunting activities like magnet fishing and gold prospecting/panning.