Treasure hunting with a metal detector has come a long way in terms of public perception of this pastime.
In the beginning, the general public considered it a fairly silly pursuit, practised mainly by nerds, dorks, and dweebs.
After all, what are you going to find? A tin can? Ha! Ha! Ha!
To learn a broader history of metal detectors, read this great article by Dave Johnson.
But slowly, over time, those “ha ha ha’s” started turning into “Ha! Ha! Hey! Wait a second! What did you find???”
Yep! Your average person couldn’t help but hear about the things people started finding – extraordinary things. Things that were not only curious finds, but things that were actually worth something.
Sometimes these things were not just worth a little something. Sometimes these finds were worth a LOT of $$$!
Actual treasures were being found by metal detectors. Some of those people who laughed at the idea of using a metal detector on the beach, suddenly took up the hobby, and got hooked on treasure hunting themselves. Can’t say we blame them!
Watch this video, and get some idea of what is possible to find at the beach with a metal detector. You should find this quite amazing. Being a metal detector expert and working the beaches of the world, could become a full time job.
Wait! Maybe it already is!!
Ah, quite the haul as you can see! A wide assortment of valuables has been exposed in the sand.
But the above clip is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what are considered to be among the best metal detector finds of all time.
Now let’s dive in. Use this table of contents to navigate the article.
Table of Contents
The best metal detector finds
- Hand of Faith
- Mojave Nugget
- Mike DeMar’s Golden Chalice
- The Boot of Cortez
- Iron Age Necklaces
- Ringlemere Cup
- Milton Keynes Hoard
- Wickham Market Hoard
- Newark Torc
- Winchester Hoard
- Stirling Torcs
- Leekfrith Torcs
What Can Be Found With A Metal Detector?
In terms of what can be found? For starters – money, coins, historical artifacts such as torcs or neck rings, old safes containing mysterious contents, and a whole host of other objects, some of which will have you going WTF?? (see above)
Sometimes people even find other metal detectors (jeez louise!)
What is a Treasure Hoard?
Probably the best thing you can find is what’s called a hoard.
Hoard is a term used by archaeologists to describe a collection of valuables, all found in one place. It is also called a “wealth deposit” or a “cache”, and the idea here is that it was buried on purpose.
These hoards can be worth many millions, and they are definitely not easy to find. That said, people are aware of them and are looking for them. They are essentially the find of a lifetime when it comes to treasure hunting.
So, as you read this article, keep in mind that persistence and enthusiasm do pay off. Although it may happen, and some cases has happened, one may have enough luck to bump into something almost immediately. Chances are, if you are looking for the first time, you probably won’t find anything too exceptional…but you just never know.
Sometimes people even find items of great scientific value, by complete fluke.
That’s what happened to a 13-year-old-boy, Jansen Lyons, from New Mexico. While he was using a fairly cheap metal detector that his grandfather made, he found a meteor weighing 2 pounds, reported the Los Angeles Times.
He took the “space rock” to scientists, who revealed it was made of nickel-iron, and has existed on Earth for around 10,000 years. Well now!
Here’s a video showing a bit more of this story.
Aside from this amazing case, there have also been cases where people have found items of great historical, but also monetary, value.
For example, treasure hunters have been known to dig up huge, golden vases, sculptures, old royal jewelry, or other buried treasure, that is worth millions, but also important for historical reconstructions.
That’s what we’re going to talk about next. The finds that make you eat your own damn hat, you’ll be so envious of these lucky buggers.
Hand of Faith
The 960-ounce Hand of Faith is the biggest gold rock ever found using a metal detector. It was discovered in 1980, near Kingower, Australia.
The lucky finder was Kevin Hiller. The Hand of Faith was later sold for $1.1 million to a casino in Las Vegas called the Golden Nugget, where it resides on display to visitors.
Up next…the infamous Mojave Nugget.
The 156-ounce chunk of gold is the biggest one ever discovered in California. This gold nugget was found by Ty Paulsen in 1977 in the Mojave Desert.
The Mojave Nugget is now on display in the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. It’s worth is around $200,000.
Up next…an underwater find!
Mike DeMar’s Golden Chalice
While diving off Key West in 2008, Mike DeMar didn’t expect that he was going to discover a 385-year-old golden chalice.
This beautiful chalice was a drinking vessel from the Santa Margarita, a Spanish ship full of treasure, that sank in 1622. Mike DeMar got $1 million reward for his discovery.
Read more about this golden chalice find here.
The Boot of Cortez
Back in 1989, a treasure hunter from Senora, Mexico unearthed something very unusual.
Using a cheap metal detector in the desert, the man discovered a gold nugget. It weighed more than 389 ounces!
This was the biggest nugget found in the Western hemisphere, and it was named “Boot of Cortez” because of its shape and size.
It was displayed to the general public a few times during different exhibitions.
Finally, the Boot of Cortez was sold at an auction in 2008 for $1,553,500.
Up next…something not quite so hefty, but still extremely valuable.
Iron Age Necklaces
Another incredibly valuable find – back in 2009 a Scotsman found four golden necklaces from the Iron Age.
The necklaces were made of very thick golden wires and in perfect condition. The worth of these Iron-aged pieces of jewelry was said to be over $2 million.
Cliff Bradshaw had already found several artifacts from the seventh century, but he had an inkling he would find something more.
His intuition was right – in November 2001, in a field near Sandwich, England, his metal detector signalled that he had found something.
It was a crushed gold cup, which turned out to be a Bronze Age chalice made between 1700 B.C. and 1500 B.C. The artifact delighted historians.
The British Museum purchased the cup for $520,000, with the cash being split between Bradshaw and the landowner.
Up next…one of the hauls known as a “hoard” that we previously mentioned.
Milton Keynes Hoard
In September 2000, Michael Rutland and Gordon Heritage, amateur treasure hunters, found an ancient stash of gold torcs and bracelets in a field near Milton Keynes, England.
Like the Ringlemere Cup, the British Museum bought it for $381,000.
Up next…another famous hoard.
Wickham Market Hoard
In March 2008, another duo of metal detector enthusiasts, Michael Darke and Keith Lewis located this hoard of 840 Iron Age gold coins in a field near Wickham Market, England.
Ipswich Museum eventually bought the hoard, and each of the men received $104,000.
Up next…a “torc”, a.k.a. a neck ornament from ancient times made from twisted metal.
In February 2005, tree specialist Maurice Richardson was surprised when his metal detector beeped in a field in Newark-on-Trent, England.
He was astonished when he unearthed an impressive Iron Age gold alloy torc.
The Newark Museum bought the discovery in 2006 for $460,000, and the money from the sale was divided between Richardson and Cambridge University, the landowner.
Back to another hoard…
A retired florist, Kevan Halls wasn’t thinking that he would find something exceptional in a freshly cultivated field.
But that’s exactly what happened in December 2000, when he found this treasure of Iron Age gold jewelry near Winchester, England.
The hoard of beautiful gold pieces was purchased by the British Museum, with Halls receiving $230,000.
In September 2009, David Booth took his first treasure hunt with a metal detector in a Scottish field. It’s hard to believe how lucky he was – he found a hoard of Iron Age gold torcs!
The National Museum of Scotland bought the torcs, and Booth got 50% of their value. Obviously, it was a fortunate first try.
In December 2016, two friends and hobby metal detectorists, Mark Hambleton and Joe Kania, discovered four Iron Age gold torcs in a field in Leekfrith, England.
The torcs date about 400 – 250 B.C.and are believed to be the oldest pieces of Iron Age jewelry found in the UK. Their value is supposed to be hundreds of thousands of dollars.
5,000 Anglo-Saxon silver coins
In 2015, metal detector enthusiast Paul Coleman unearthed the largest discovery of coins in modern history. It was a hoard of over 5,000 Anglo Saxon coins, found near Lenborough, Buckinghamshire.
Experts believe this treasure was buried right after the Battle of Hastings, to hide it from the Norman enemies.
The coins were in perfect condition! The value of the whole collection is over £1.3million, which Paul shared with the landowner.
Up next… a whole lot of coins!
Iron Age ‘hedge fund’
More than 30 years ago, two metal detector enthusiasts, Reg Mead and Richard Miles Back heard rumors that a farmer in Jersey had found silver coins.
They spent decades patiently searching fields in Jersey, and finally, in 2012 struck gold. They found a massive hoard of ancient coins worth £10 MILLION.
They discovered between 30,000 and 50,000 Celtic gold and silver coins from the 1st Century B.C. The massive trove of coins had been buried in clay, under a hedge for more than 2,000 years!
It is thought to be the largest find of Iron Age coins in Europe!
Each of these coins is worth between £100 and £200. However, the ownership of them has not been decided yet.
Thought there weren’t any more hoards? Not so!
Wesley Carrington Hoard
One more case of beginner’s luck. In 2013 Wesley Carrington, a car salesman, had bought an entry-level metal detector.
He went right away to the woods near St Albans, Hertfordshire, England to try out his new gadget.
He was just 20 minutes into his new hobby when he unearthed one of the largest hoards of Roman gold coins estimated to be worth £100,000.
The 159 “solidi” coins were 1,600 years old, dating from the last days of Roman rule.
A Finger Bone and Ring
Although it’s always lucky to find some piece of gold, this one may be slightly disgusting.
At Little Bighorn, a volunteer archaeologist unearthed a finger bone which was still wearing a ring.
The bone and ring date from 1876 when Sioux Indians wiped out the troops of Lt. Col. George Custer.
5th Century European Royalty Ring
In 2015, In Esrick, Yorkshire, Michael Greenhorn discovered a ring, which is believed to have been owned by European royalty from the 5th century. It was made of gold, glass, and sapphire.
The experts suppose that the sapphire had been cut long before the ring was created to display it.
The Yorkshire museum purchased the ring for $44,132.
Sherwood Forest Medieval Ring
In 2016, after half an hour spent in Robin Hood’s Sherwood Forest, an amateur treasure hunter, Mark Thompson, discovered a ring from the Middle Ages worth £70,000.
Up next…a very special ring called a “tudor” ring.
In October 2016, Lee Rossiter, 43, found the” Tudor” ring in a muddy field using a basic metal detector from eBay. He almost threw it away after thinking it was worthless costume jewelry.
Experts confirmed that the ring was made of gold, emeralds, and rubies, and it sold for an estimated £20,000.
Now, on to some extremely unique finds!
Although almost all of these finds could be classified as ‘buried treasure’, what happened to Eric Lawes was even more spectacular.
While he was searching for his friend’s lost hammer, Eric found gold jewelry and a wealth of gold and silver coins.
He reported his find to the council, and the next day, archeologists unearthed 7.7 lbs of gold and 52.4 lbs of silver. The whole hoard (called the Hoxne Hoard) was worth $2.59 million.
Besides that, the friend’s missing hammer was also found.!
Of course, we couldn’t leave out the vikings now, could we?
Viking Treasure Trove
In 2000, in a North Yorkshire field, David and Andrew Whelan found a wealth of gold and silver Viking treasure.
The treasure was worth £750,000. The father and son split the sum with the farmer who was the field owner.
The hoard belonged to a Viking noble, and was probably buried for safe keeping. It is now displayed at the British Museum and consists of 617 coins, a decorated gilt and silver cup, brooch pins, a solid gold arm-ring, and other lumps of silver.
This next one is perhaps one of the most impressive treasure finds EVER.
In July 2009, Terry Herbert was trying his luck near his home in Staffordshire, England. His enthusiasm paid off – he found enough gold objects to fill 244 bags.
An archeological expedition came, and the completed “Staffordshire Hoard” was found to contain some 3,500 pieces – the cache of gold, silver and garnet objects from early Anglo-Saxon times.
This discovery has historical value because it represents one of the most important kingdoms of the era, and was valued at $5.3 million.
We’ve mentioned vikings…but what about pirates?
In 1952, nautical historian and pirate specialist Edward Rowe Snow came to a small island off the coast of Nova Scotia with an old map and a metal detector.
Not only did he find a stash of 18th-century Spanish and Portuguese gold coins, he also found a skeleton holding the doubloons.
Crosby Garret Helmet
One more exciting discovery from an English field, were dozens of pieces of a 1,800-year-old mask.
Obviously, English fields are the place to try out your luck with a metal detector.
The treasure hunter who found the fragments brought them to an auction house, where 200 hours were spent putting the pieces together.
The finished helmet features a Roman face mask attached to a bronze cap with a griffin crest.
The helmet became very popular at auction, eventually selling for over ten times its estimated value – $3.6 million.
And last but not least…
An Entire Model T Ford
In Detroit, a group of people playing around with a metal detector discovered what appeared to be a car. Actually, it was a 1913 Model T Ford completely buried underground in someone’s back yard.
Most likely, the owner had buried the now-iconic car in 1926, with the intention to preserve it for posterity.
These are just some treasures people have found using metal detectors. We hope this article was enough to tingle your imagination.
Word has it, that there is much more gold out there still waiting to be discovered.
So, if you have ever thought about it, maybe it’s time to have some fun with a metal detector, and try your luck.