Saturday, April 25, 2020


If you've camped with children of any age, you've probably been faced with the dilemma of finding outdoor activities that are fun, easy, entertaining, and inexpensive.  What makes a family trip attractive, adventurous, or potentially memorable for one, doesn't hold true for the next; especially when you are battling age gaps.  Bikes are great if you have the packing space and a safe place to ride.  Board games and puzzles usually don't survive the great outdoors. Getting everyone to put down their phones is a chore in itself! Stop fighting the fight!  The solution has been found...and its called a metal detector. Who wants to sit around the campfire and tell their own real life tale of discovering treasure? I DO!

Based on my own experience, you are probably thinking to yourself, "How much are those things anyways? Expensive right?"  Wrong! You can find plenty of detectors that work just fine for $40-$100. The first detectors my own children owned were about $15 each. They were so basic, emitting the same beep whether the treasure was a quarter or a soda can.  But they really worked, and my kids were ecstatic. Many hours were spent beach combing for coins and jewelry left behind in the easy to dig sand. They were compact enough to travel with and even accompanied us to the Dominican Republic. The locals watched in amazement as my then 7 year old found more money in an hour, then many of them regularly earned for a day of manual labor. Whether it was a gesture of compassion, or the opportunity for financial gain, my son actually sold his "toy" detector to one very old gentleman on our last day of vacation. Valued by one, but invaluable to another. If I remember right, he used his profit on an upgraded detector.

1805 draped large cent found within 5 minutes in a corn field
Again, speaking from experience... never discount the appeal of treasure hunting to any age. In fact, do yourself the favor and acquire multiple affordable units from the get go.  After a person experiences their "first find", sharing ceases to exist. Don't subject yourself to watching a 5 year old and a 50 year old throwing similar hissy fits after treasure is found when it was supposed to be their turn five minutes ago.

Searching independently, but within earshot of each other promotes a sort of friendly competition.... and eliminates pushing/shoving.... I immediately want to retract this knowing that by the 20th time I've dropped everything and ran over to the area of someone wailing "GOT SOMETHING" only to discover they've unearthed another old bottle cap; well, someone may need a swift kick in the rear.

Young children delight in finding absolutely anything, so whether you secretly pre-plant some pennies or a matchbox car, its all as good to them. Preteens/teens know the value of money, so cold hard coin is always cool to find. Watches, sunglasses and jewelry can convince them quickly to continue. Before they know it, they are hooked... and then they get their friends hooked. And they are outside!! I do recommend finding a trusted pawn/jewelry shop that will provide fair trades/sales. Adults? I've found more jewelry that I could wear on ten hands, but I never can bring myself to get rid of it.  I have returned many items to owners and given a few as gifts once cleaned up, but usually I just spend the usable change and hoard the rest to show it off to interested parties.

The good news is that hobbyist metal detectors are now pretty affordable, built lightweight, with easy features and factory settings which target items like coins and jewelry. National Geographic has a very popular junior model and This Bounty Hunter model is one of the most popular on Amazon.

After some experience, you may want to experiment with other features which discriminate against junk. Normally, detectors give off different tones for different metals like gold, iron, tin etc. and you learn what is what quickly.  I'm too paranoid, so I still dig 99% of tones up if it sounds even remotely like a good hit. What is worth noting is that I've compared finds that I've made with a $75 metal detector against a $500 detector, and they were very much the same. I don't really want to dig 5 feet down, or wear a scuba suit to detect. So, despite the fact I could at any time use my own treasures to invest in a bigger/better unit, there's no need.  I find plenty with what I have. Don't waste money on features you won't use.

Purchase a set of headphones (especially for use at beach), an apron (for treasures AND garbage), and a digging apparatus or two (depending on soil type).  I prefer some DIY tools to store bought. When I first started, I used a small planting shovel and a colander both from the Dollar Store...and it worked fine. Later, I made a hand held sand scoop (pictured, or look here to purchase similar) by drilling holes into a grain scoop. Some people glue a magnet to the bottom inside as well.  Many people invest in a pinpoint locator, but I don't own one. If you enjoy the hobby, invest in what makes it easier for you to enjoy. Search tag sales and Facebook marketplace for your items. You can get some unbelievable deals.

There's really no limit to where you can detect. Respect private properties and prohibited lands.  It only takes a minute to ask permission if you are unsure. Start at your campsites and the areas around them (Unfortunately, you'll find trash irresponsible campers have left behind). State parks, recreation fields, forests, beaches, fields, ski areas, golf courses, farmland are all great spaces. Starting young children off in areas that is easier to detect/dig items (like a beach) will give you a far better chance that they will like/continue the hobby.  Trudging through the woods to an old abandoned property should be left to adults. **TIP** When treasure hunting in the woods, move your detector along the base of stone walls and around the very large trees that surround the property.  Early settlers often hid valuables in these places.

I hope you find metal detecting as enjoyable as I have through the years.  It gets the family outdoors and you really never know what you may find.  Its the perfect compliment to camping and honestly, I've spent much more money on items that I use far less.  I have been fortunate to find enough treasures that my machines have paid for themselves many times over.  Wouldn't you like to sit around a campfire showing each other the treasures you've each unearthed that day?  ...And actually have the proof of your adventure!

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Great metal detecting finds:

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