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Can you make money through metal detecting?

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If you’re patient and have a sense of adventure, metal detecting can be an exciting way to make a little extra money on the side. At its best, it’s a hobby — not a way to earn a full-time living — but there is potential to find valuables you can cash in on. 

Keep reading to learn all about metal detecting for beginners:

  • If metal detecting is worth doing and how to cash in what you find
  • What items you can expect to find
  • The best places to metal detect (and where it’s illegal)
  • Which metal detecting equipment you should buy

Can I make a living metal detecting?

In most cases, metal detecting is not sustainable as a full-time job, but rather as a fun hobby or side gig to make some extra cash.

This is the case for a woman named Kay who goes by She Detector. The She Detector YouTube channel is dedicated to Kay's metal detecting adventures.

“I watched a video on YouTube showing some guy in another country using a handheld Vibra-Tector in a river finding coins and such,” she says “I thought it was super cool, so I was like, I wanna give that a try!”  

She launched her metal detecting journey in 2015, starting her YouTube channel alongside her newfound hobby, and she now has nearly 30,000 subscribers.

Kay bought a $1,500 underwater metal detector (a Garrett Sea Hunter Mark II) and started recording her adventures. She detects for about three hours each week but invests roughly 30 hours a month editing videos and engaging with her followers. Right now, she makes about $150 each month from her channel.

Her most valuable find was a men’s platinum wedding band worth $1,000 found on a Florida beach. However, Kay didn't cash it in but was able to get the ring back to its rightful owner. You can watch her discovery in this video:

“I've never cashed anything in,” she says. “I still have all the real jewelry that I've found and I still have all the coins that I've found.”

For Kay, the thrill is in finding hidden treasures — though she admits one day she may cash in on her haul.

Her advice to beginners:

  • Start with the basics: You don’t need the most expensive gear when you begin metal detecting because you can find most things with a cheap, entry-level machine
  • Research your area: If you will start metal detecting in your area find out what the laws are to make sure you are practicing the hobby legally
  • Have fun: Metal detecting is for everyone and can be a fulfilling activity for all ages

She says metal detecting is worth her time because it’s fun and exciting (you never know what you’ll find), she gets to interact with other enthusiasts, and she's willing to put in the time and effort into this side hustle to grow it into something bigger. 

Over on the r/metaldetecting subreddit, hobbyists share how much they have made from unearthing treasures. Some have profited a few hundred dollars to a few thousand over time:

Tools you’ll need for metal detecting treasure hunting

If you want to make legitimate money as a beginner metal detector, you’ll need professional-grade equipment and a daily plan to hunt for gold and other precious metals in strategic locations. Note that you can’t dig on most state, federal, and private property without permission — and some places are prohibited altogether.

It will likely take you a while to turn a profit from metal detecting, considering the cost of equipment and any money spent traveling to your detecting destinations. If you’re serious about metal detecting, you’ll need:

  • One or two metal detectors (one as a backup in case one detector stops working while you are out searching): $75-$500 each on Amazon, though some higher-end models like this OKM Fusion Light 3D Metal Detector cost several thousand dollars (keep reading to learn more about what you get with more expensive detectors)
  • Spot locator to pinpoint where metals are buried: $20-$120 on Amazon
  • Digging and collection tools like a hand shovel, a sand sifter, and a pouch for the valuables you find: $15-100 on Amazon

If you're looking for other ways to make money, check out these posts:

Is metal detecting profitable?

You can use a metal detector to find gold and other metals in the form of gold coins, silver coins, jewelry and sell them for cash to a top online gold buyer like CashforGoldUSA — which has an A+ Better Business Bureau rating and is our top recommendation for selling gold scrap online. 

You can use CashforGoldUSA’s gold calculator to get the melt value of any gold scrap you have right now:

CashforGoldUSA informational gold calculator
CashforGoldUSA informational gold calculator

CashforGoldUSA also accepts other metals like silver, platinum, and palladium. 

You might also find historically significant items like old Civil War bullets that can be sold to a pawn shop or antique dealer — as long as you can legally take them from the site where you found them. 

Note that most federal military parks and burial grounds prohibit metal detecting. Even having a metal detector in your vehicle within one of these parks could result in fines or arrest. Do your homework before metal detecting — whether it is on federal, state, or private property — and obtain any necessary permits or permissions.

What can you find with a metal detector?

If you’re searching on a public beach, for example, you're likely to find:

  • Gold and silver rings
  • Diamond rings
  • Coins
  • Gold necklaces
  • Metal hair clips
  • Metal-framed glasses/sunglasses

Coins are one of the fastest ways to earn money because people tend to lose them frequently, according to, a 40+ year metal detector business and pioneer online retailer of metal detectors.1 Rings are another frequently lost item.

Check out this video where a metal detector found nine wedding rings underwater:

The history of an area may also dictate what you can find. For example, if you have permission to metal detect at an old home site, you might find: 

In areas near an old Civil War battleground, you might find:

***Important note: The National Park Service prohibits metal detecting on most federal military parks and burial grounds. Even having a metal detector in your car in one of these areas could lead to fines or even arrest. 

However, as long as you seek permission from private property owners, obtain permits, and follow any metal detecting guidelines (like the types of tools you can and can’t use), private property that surrounds historic sites can be rich with artifacts. 

Also follow specific guidelines for what to do with any discovered artifacts. Some places may want you to leave them untouched, while others may ask that you turn them into local authorities/property owners for historical preservation.

If you have permission to take historic artifacts from your detecting site, you should have an antique dealer evaluate any items you find to ensure they aren’t worth more than their scrap metal value.

Coin machines and more: 9 ways to cash in coins in 2023

Can a metal detector find gold?

Yes, a metal detector can find gold. Even though gold is non-ferrous (not magnetic), most quality metal detectors have a setting to detect gold and other non-ferrous metals including aluminum, copper, tin, brass, or bronze. Before you buy a metal detector, verify that it can detect gold.

Tips for detecting gold

Your best chance of detecting metal is in well-traveled or highly populated areas. Here are our top tips for finding gold scrap:

  1. Research areas before you start. Know the laws that govern those areas, and get permission to search, including obtaining any necessary permits. Some state and federal lands are off limits to metal detecting. 
  2. Contact your local United States Geological Survey (USGS) office for a list of places where you can legally search for gold deposits in your state with a metal detector. Search “USGS office near me.” Some locations may be off limits, require permits, and prosecute violators.
  3. Research and buy the right metal detector for your needs and learn how to use it properly. You should get one that specifically detects gold.
  4. Test your metal detector with a gold ring or necklace. It’ll give you an idea of what it sounds like to detect gold. You can try this with other metals, too.
  5. Sweep the area, slowly keeping your coil near the ground. The coil is at the bottom of the metal detector. It’s usually circular, but can come in different shapes.
  6. Buy the right accessories and tools, such as a hand shovel, scoop, pick hammer, and pouch. These tools will help you dig, sort, and store your finds. 
  7. Consider using metal detecting headphones. They can make it easier to hear the sounds of your metal detector, especially if you are in a crowded area.
  8. Work with a partner when looking for gold so that you can cover more ground.
  9. Try not to wear metal on detecting days, and keep your cellphone off to avoid interference.
  10. Join an online or local metal detecting club or gold prospecting club to learn tips for searching and places to check out.
  11. Be patient. It will take time to learn how to use your equipment and find the right places.

Here are some metal detecting tips for beginners: 

Where is gold most commonly found?

People commonly find gold in or near bodies of water, like lakes, rivers, streams, and creeks. Check these areas after significant rainfall because soil erosion can shift gold or metal scrap.

Larger bodies of water like oceans and seas are also excellent places to look. Of course, you’ll need a waterproof detector or a waterproof coil (the part at the bottom of a metal detector).

Wherever large numbers of people spend time, you’re sure to find lost gold, silver, and even diamond items — just make sure you are legally allowed to metal detect wherever you go.

How deep can metal detectors detect gold?

The depth will be determined by the type of metal detector you use, where you are using it, and the size of the gold piece. For example, a 3D ground-scanning metal detector can find objects buried 30 feet or more underground. But such detectors can cost $5,000 or more.

A more affordable detector can detect gold that is anywhere from 6 inches to 2 feet under dirt or sand.

Where is the best place to metal detect?

That depends on where you live, but in general, any area where many people gather is best (and where you are legally allowed to go). 

Consider areas like:

  • Parks
  • School grounds
  • Sports fields
  • Fairgrounds
  • Beaches
  • Campgrounds
  • Ski lifts
  • Rest areas on highways
  • Old churches
  • Abandoned neighborhoods
  • Old drive-in movie spaces

Beaches are a good place to start metal detecting because they experience a fair amount of traffic. Kay says beach hunting involves using a metal detector anywhere on the beach, from the dry sandy shoreline to wet sand right at the water’s edge.

She says a waterproof detector isn’t necessary because the coils on most detectors (the part that touches the sand and detects the metals) can get wet with no issues. You just have to be careful to not drop the machine in the water.

“Some detectors might be a bit ‘chatty’ in the wet-ish sand due to salt water,” she says, referring to the sound a detector emits as it searches. “But for the most part, every machine will do fine at the beach.”

Kay says that the best spots are in what is called the “umbrella zone,” the area where people set up or rent an umbrella and chairs. 

“People normally take off their jewelry and empty their pockets on their towels,” she says. “At the end of the day, they forget they did that, and they go to shake off their towels, and everything goes flying into the sand.”

She says it’s best to go in the evening after most people leave the beach, since some beaches rake the sand in the morning to clean up garbage and may scoop up valuable finds.

Kay says even if you don't find anything cool and amazing, you're still helping to get trash off of the ground, off the beach, and out of the water. 

“That is worth it to me to keep some poor sea creature from ingesting it,” Kay says.

Her “She Detector” YouTube channel spends a lot of time detecting on Florida beaches:

You can use the USGS Mineral Resources Data System (MRDS) search to find gold claims by state. Research the area to find out if it is open to metal detecting and whether you need to obtain permits to search/dig on the land.

Can you metal detect in the woods?

Assuming you have permission to be there, the woods are a great place to look — especially high-traffic areas like hiking trails and campsites. But the rocky and uneven terrain can be challenging. Proper gear like hiking boots and poles may be necessary. 

Detecting around branches, stones, or roots will take more effort to dig up what you find, so make sure you bring along high-quality tools. 

Are you allowed to metal detect on beaches?

Most public beaches allow metal detecting. They may simply require you to refill any holes you dig. Some beaches may require a permit. Before you go, contact the recreation and parks office, beach authority, or tourism department of the area to ask about local rules and regulations.

Do I need a license for a metal detector?

You don't need a license to buy or use a metal detector in the United States. If you are traveling overseas, some countries may require a license or may not allow metal detecting at all.

Some specific locations, especially state parks and federal lands, do require a permit or may not allow metal detecting at all. Permit requirements vary by individual location, city, county, or state.

For example, Pennsylvania state parks allow metal detecting without a permit, but you must get permission from the on-site park manager and follow detecting rules (including following their list of approved digging tools). In Ohio state parks, you can only detect metal in certain areas, like sand-covered beaches. But each park has its own requirements — Ohio’s Geneva State Park requires a permit.

The good news is, if you need a permit, you’ll probably just need to fill out a form and pay a fee. For example, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation offers an online form to get a permit.

Here are some helpful resources to find local rules on metal detecting:

Best metal detector for beginners and FAQs about metal detectors

According to New York Magazine, the best metal detector for beginners is the Minelab Vanquish 440. Recommended by long-time detectorist George Streeter, the detector is lightweight, collapsible, waterproof, and offers technology that gives you accurate readings so you will know which metal you found before you dig:

What are the different types of metal detectors?

There are two main types of metal detectors: 

  1. Very low frequency (VLF) 
  2. Pulse induction (PI)

However, there are also specialty detectors that serve a specific purpose — like detecting gold or searching underwater. There are also multi-frequency or 3D detectors, which can cost thousands of dollars but detect metals deeper in the ground.

What is the most reliable metal detector?

Garrett Ace detectors frequently headline “best-of” and “top-rated” metal detector review lists. The Garrett Ace 250 is thought to be one of the most reliable metal detectors you can buy when it comes to finding gold:

How much does a really good metal detector cost?

A really good metal detector will cost you at least $250. Of course, pricing and features will vary by brand, and there are options with decent reviews for less than $150, like the Bounty Hunter TK4:

What is the most powerful metal detector?

The Fisher Gold Bug 2 metal detector is considered one of the most powerful metal detectors on the market. It debuted in 1995 and is still a top contender today. It operates at a frequency of 71 kHZ, which makes it powerful and sensitive enough to find gold of all sizes — even tiny bits and flakes:

What's the best metal detector for the money?

For the money, the Garrett Ace 300 is a solid metal detector. And, since it’s easy to operate, it’s a good beginner metal detector:

How to use a metal detector and 6 tips for beginners

Metal detectors are fairly simple to operate. Here are 6 tips to help you get started with metal detecting for beginners:

  1. Buy a metal detector with good reviews that you can afford.
  2. Make sure your detector can detect items you want, including gold.
  3. Always read the user manual for your metal detector first. It’s important to learn the different parts and features of your metal detector and how they work.
  4. Look up videos on YouTube for how to use your specific metal detector.
  5. Join a local metal detecting club. Ask about group or guided outings.
  6. Move slowly when you are detecting metal, and keep the coil close to the ground.

How do you use a metal detector successfully?

Use a slow, back and forth sweeping motion to cover your search area. Don’t touch the ground with the coil, but hover just above it for best results. Your metal detector will make sounds to alert you when it has located metals.

Over time, you’ll learn what different sounds mean. For example, gold and silver tend to make higher-pitched sounds than lower value metals like iron.

Also, learn how to read the display on your metal detector. Many models will show you a number that corresponds to a type of metal, as well as how far down you’ll need to dig.

Is it better to metal detect when the ground is wet?

A metal detector often performs best when the ground is wet, like after a soaking rain. The dampness of the soil seems to improve the communication between the buried metal and the metal detector.

What will throw off a metal detector?

Several things can throw off a metal detector reading, including:

  • Interference from cell phones or radios
  • Bumping the coil into the ground
  • Wearing steel-toed boots or shoes with metal accents
  • A sensitivity setting that is too high
  • Searching in highly mineralized soil

If you are searching for gold or other metals in areas with mineralized soil, it can be difficult for the metal detector to pinpoint what you’re looking for. Mineralized soils are hard to identify, but you can use a ground balance setting (if available) on your metal detector.

When you ground balance your detector, it will more accurately pick up buried metals and ignore the surrounding mineralized particles that can throw off your reading.

How do you use a metal detector to find gold?

First, make sure your detector is designed to find gold. As you slowly move across an area, pay attention to your metal detector’s readings and sounds. High-pitched sounds often indicate the presence of gold in the ground. Your detector’s digital display may also show you that the device detects gold.

If you find gold or any other fine metals while you’re metal detecting, we recommend selling them to CashforGoldUSA. Why?  

  • A+ BBB rating
  • Highest price guarantee
  • No minimum value
  • 100% free trackable shipping from FedEx or USPS
  • Free insurance from Jewelers’ Mutual up to $100,000 per shipment
  • Insured by Lloyds of London in CashforGold facility

Cash in on your metal-detecting finds with CashforGoldUSA >>


  1. “How to Make Money Metal Detecting” June 30, 2023.

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