When it comes to metal detecting, not all parks produce old coins and targets. To find them, especially in newer urban areas, one must seek out older parks and, even more so, older ground in those parks. Learning where the older parks are isn’t enough, especially in areas with a larger population of good detectorists, where parks get detected often. Detectorists need to read the landscape and changes. Was the soil removed and newer soil added? Did paths and parking lots or perimeters of the park change? Did people congregate in different areas when silver coins were in circulation than where they congregate now in parks, and so on.
Often times older parks where old silver is buried and waiting for us detectorists to discover it with the right detector and swing also come with it being extremely trashy. To find that old silver, you need to train your ears and watch your machine for deep targets with high tones. Doing so, you will probably miss small gold pieces. That is the price to pay if you want to be an old coin hunter. There are parks with less trash, where a detectorist can be a superhero and dig everything and find gold, but with old coin hunting, especially old silver coin hunting, being selective about what you dig will yield you those wow finds. The older coins your friends will be jealous you found.
If your wanting to metal detect and find gold rings, chains, and other jewelry, your odds will be better metal detecting at beaches, sand volleyball courts, tot lots, play fields, parking lot islands, outdoor fitness machines, and curb strips.
To help you improve your old coin park detecting skills, I have turned to Jason Flicker, one of the best detectorists for old coin detecting in parks that I know. Jason detects with a Minelab E-Trac; even though his metal detector has older technology, he finds much more with it than many detectorists with newer and more expensive machines. His silver coin-detecting skills outshine the best of detectorists. It really shows that it comes down to knowing your metal detector and understanding the science of finding older coins and targets in urban trashy older parks.
A Small Sample of Older Coins, Tokens and Jewelry Found Metal Detecting by Jason in Parks Many Would See as Hunted Out.
Below I talk to Jason about park metal detecting and searching for older coins. We go beyond “find an old park using historical aerials and maps and go detect it” and dive into the details of how to detect it. See my questions and his answers.
Choosing Parks to Metal Detect for Older Coins & Targets
Besides using old aerials, old maps, talking to local old-timers, and visiting historical societies or the local history section of the local library, what visible surface signs do you use to gauge the age of the area, and whether it would be a better area in the park to detect than other areas?
Trees are a good way to tell if an area has the potential to hold old coins. Old trees typically will have old coins around them, but I like to look at the roots. If a tree’s roots are exposed on the surface, that is a good sign that there has never been fill dirt put on top. Sometimes trees just look buried, and I tend to stay away from those types of trees, or if I do detect around them, I see how deep modern coins are buried to gauge if fill dirt has been brought in. Also, years of detecting will teach you to tell if dirt is old once you start digging. It just smells and looks dark and compact.
How long do you stay at a park you have never metal detected before you determine it doesn’t have older targets and move on to another park?
It just depends on how big a park is. I usually have a game plan from looking at old aerials of spots I want to try at a new park. I jump around trying to find spots that hold old coins, but if I am finding deep clad, I move on right away.
What are signs of new fill dirt, also known as backfill? We know finding dark dirt is a sign it is older dirt. We also know seeing newer plastic green mesh is a bad sign, but what are other signs of new fill dirt versus old dirt?
I never detect a spot I find the green mesh, which is a bad sign if you are looking for old deep coins. Deep clad is the telltale sign of an area having fill dirt. Also, loose soil and trees that look buried with no roots exposed. Sometimes if I find fill dirt, I move to the perimeters of the park or look for areas that haven’t been filled. Normally, a park will have some areas of original dirt, but you just have to find it.
Metal Detecting Techniques to Find Older Targets
When you find a new park to detect, where do you start? Around trees, or the sidewalk, or picnic areas, or somewhere else?
First off, always assume a park has been detected, as I can’t imagine any parks that are totally virgin. When I try a new old park, I do a lot of moving. I usually have a plan of attack by looking at Google Street View and old aerials. There is not one area that I always start at. I usually have a handful of spots identified before arriving. Always be prepared with multiple game plans because if you only have one spot in mind to try, and it is being used for sports, picnics, etc, then you need to have a plan b or c, or d.
When you are on a slop and get a target, what is the best way to pinpoint the target that is deep with the coil? Because of the angle, what is the best way to do this?
If I am facing up the slope, I usually pinpoint a couple of inches above the center. If facing down, a couple of inches below the center.
You taught me to always metal detect over gopher mounds, due to gophers always spitting up items they see as garbage, even older coins. Because of that, I found my first few silver coins, Rosie’s and Merc’s, park detecting with you, I also found multiple Wheaties. I know from the relic hunters in the Midwest and the East Coast that groundhogs are the same. What other kinds of vermin holes or mounds should detectorists pay attention to and detect on top of and around, hoping for older coins getting brought to the service?
Anytime the ground gets moved from rain, flooding, vermin, or man, those things should be investigated.
Another thing you taught me is, if you are looking for old coins, make sure you dig all good-sounding targets, not just deep targets. For newbie metal detectorists, let’s discuss deep targets. For parks with no gophers or other vermin activity, and you are avoiding digging modern coins, how many inches of topsoil do you ignore, and how deep do you listen for?
Old coins, generally for me, are in the 6-10 inch range. That being said, you could probably not dig 1-5 inch targets in most parks if you are looking for older coins. Every park is different though, so you need to figure out where that older layer of coins has sunk to. This applies to turf areas with no ground movement or disruption. Every area is unique, and it’s up to you to figure out where the old coins are.
Newly planted trees and bushes also can be ideal for finding shallow older coins due to the dirt being turned over for planting. Are there any other man-made changes in the landscape that metal detectorists should be swinging the coil over that bring up older coins to the service?
Man-made piles of dirt. Whenever I see work being done at a park, I always investigate those spots. I have found things in the smallest piles of dirt to replace a broken sprinkler to larger projects and renovations. Never pass up running your coil over man-made piles. Again, any movement of dirt, large or small, should be investigated.
Which trash items get mistaken the most for older, deeper silver coins? I know some bottle caps can ring up pretty similarly, but what else?
When looking for deep coins, sometimes you have to take lots of chances digging targets that are not classic/perfect signals. If you pass on these weird iffy targets, you will be missing some good items and have to know trash will just be part of what you dig. Always recheck your hole if you find trash because that trash could have been hiding a good target.
When a park is a well-known place to find old coins and is frequented by multiple good metal detectorists, and seems to feel “Hunted Out”. Where do you detect and still find coins? I know one place is along the perimeters but do you have other spots?
For most of the old parks I detect, I would say 90% of detectorists don’t go to because they think they are hunted out or aren’t capable of finding some of the tough targets. Experience and confidence are key factors, and knowing that I can still find targets in heavily hunted areas. I find coins in the same areas others give up on and are deemed hunted out.
When targets are sparse, and a park is not worth detecting as frequently, and it is time to give the park a break, how long do you tend to wait before you go back to see if new items come unmasked and can be found by a metal detector?
Soil conditions are a key factor. Sometimes ground conditions can change with moisture or dryness. If I am hunting a park and not finding much in the spring months when the grass is high, I might wait until the end of summer when the grass is dryer and shorter. Sometimes in these instances, you can gain an inch or two with the grass not being as thick. Fall and early winter are good because the grass goes dormant, and the soil is wet.
Any other advice you can leave our readers?
If you want to find deep old coins, get a really good detector known for having the capability to find deep targets. Put a lot of hours into learning your detector. Don’t give up on targets that are deep. Don’t get suckered into buying every new detector that comes on the market, and become an expert with what you are using.
I hope my questions and Jason’s answers gave you some more tips for metal detecting parks and they help you dig older coins more frequently.
Joanna Jana Laznicka, a Czech-Canadian residing in Southern California, is passionate about all things associated with metal detecting. She mainly detects on the West Coast, from Southern California to Northern British Columbia. As the founder of Focus Speed, her goal is to bring quality content to metal detectorists.