Brian Mayer has been metal detecting for 48 years. It all started in 1975 when a friend of his, in high school, showed civil war relics they found detecting with his dad. Seeing the relics sparked Brian’s interest in metal detecting. The friend would lend him an extra Whites metal detector, and he started detecting. At the time, he lived in a New Jersey suburb that was an hour from the beach. But he always had the desire to detect the beaches, but at first, being in high school with no car, he would detect parks and schoolyards. When he got a bit older and mobile, Brian detected the beaches and has pretty much exclusively ever since. As Brian stated, he loves finding jewelry and loves the bling showing up in his scoop. As an adult living right across from the beach, he detects often and has impressive skills reading the beach.
I personally came to know Brian because he runs an educational beach metal detecting group on Facebook called Jersey Shore Beach and Surf Hunters. He makes the group informative, sharing his insights and encouraging others to share their insights. His beach metal detecting tips help not only local Jersey detectorists but also beach detectorists around the world. His group is frequented by other exceptional detectorists I have interviewed in the past, such as Gerard Gannon, John Favano, Alison Walker, and more. As well recently, Merrill Kazanjian, who runs the popular YouTube Channel Metal Detecting NYC with 30.1K subscribers, mentioned in one of his recent beach detecting videos that Brian’s group Jersey Shore Beach and Surf Hunters is one of his favorite Metal Detecting Groups, pointing out how good it is.
A Small Sample of Brian Mayer’s Beach Finds
Brian’s philosophy for the group is that it is about sharing knowledge. Followers are told, don’t just post a find photo but share some insight with your find photo. This doesn’t mean you have to give away your metal detecting spots but share items such as conditions, settings, or terrain it was found.
This interview was conducted over the phone, and I admit I could have talked to Brian all day. He is so pleasant to talk to and has a wealth of knowledge. See my questions and his answers below.
Which metal detector do you use currently?
Minelab Equinox 800 and two Minelab Excaliburs. Media has shaped what metal detectors people buy. To be a good detectorist, you don’t have to buy the latest and greatest machine. I know detectorists who use 10-year-old metal detectors and doing great. Knowing your detector even if it is an older machine, and knowing how to read a beach, as well as knowing where to go and when to go, can be just as important and ultimately lucrative as buying a new machine, but the bottom line is knowing your metal detector and what it is telling you.
Where do you concentrate on the beach, dry, wet, or both?
Both. Wet and dry. Many detectorists think they need to stay in the water or at the water line to find targets like gold and silver jewelry, but those targets can be up on the slope and higher such as high above the berm, what I call the flip zone. To understand why targets are above the berm, one has to know the distribution of sand and how it gets there, which comes from learning the beach and prospecting the right areas to metal detect.
I walk a zig-zag pattern, looking for the coin line or coin patch. This could be in wet or dry sand. A number of beach detectorists’ mindset is everything is in wet sand and water, arguing they must stick to it. No, you don’t. Targets are everywhere. If you are not finding any targets in wet or dry, then learning to read the beach is vital. Start with looking for places such as distribution points, the current, and tides and waves pulled to the beach. For example, this time of year, spring, I am looking for obvious sand movement or places that have seen obvious sand movement recently, contours, looking for areas the water moves sand out. Not just fresh areas of sand movement but sand movement that even happened weeks ago. Look for areas of black sand exposed.
I also am very big on wind erosion and wind-blown sand, where wind moves the sand and can get you a couple of inches deeper, I keep an eye for it.
We are walking over countless targets, and every beach we hunt is a treasure trove of targets, while hunting, we are standing on treasure it’s just a matter of knowing how far below your search coil it is, but we can get closer to it if we look for sand that has been moved.
What are your tips for metal detecting after a storm?
You can run out and hunt right after a storm, but I find a beach needs to set up after a storm. You don’t know how much that topography has changed, and the next tide will residually cut out that beach. Beach erosion doesn’t happen completely after a storm, but you need to go in and see where it is cut and come two tides later and see where ripple tides form. After the actual storm, you get more beach erosion. You need to find where it is still cutting out.
What are your tips for metal detecting sanded in beaches?
If one beach is getting filled in, another one is losing sand, don’t limit yourself to one area. Carry binoculars, utilize the beach cams, and look at the different beaches. What directions do they face? Seek corners where a beach will come up and a section will face southeast, and the beach will turn and face more south, and one block filling in while the other block is losing sand.
Besides detecting the towel lines, and high-trafficked areas (such as volleyball courts, picnic areas, playground areas, paths, and walkway entrances), what other tips can you give us about dry beach hunting regarding finding jewelry?
First and foremost, you want to hunt the beaches that get the people, and if you are hunting dry sand and get the traffic. Second, look for trash. If I am on a beach digging, pull tabs and foil the trash tells me the gold hasn’t been found. Why? Because if there is trash, it has not been metal detected much, and the trash targets are masking the good targets, the gold. When other detectorists say a beach is too trashy, this is where I go.
Also, remember when metal detecting in dry sand, zinc pennies, dig them. A large amount of metal detectorists depend to much on VDI displays, and some gold rings can be the same VDI as zinc pennies. Detectorists should focus on tones and listen to what it is telling you, depend less on what it is showing you on the screen.
What do you do if the dry beach is not producing targets?
During the busy summer season, If the obvious areas are not producing targets, I will walk to the outskirts, from where the lifeguard stands are. It is always important to watch where people sit on the beach when crowded and less crowded. From where the people are gathering in large groups. For example, large groups will sit far away from the crowds. Take note of all these places.
If you are metal detecting a beach and keep on digging up light metal, do you move on to locate areas of heavy metal, hoping it would produce gold? Or do you see the value of detecting a beach where it produces light metals and why?
Dry sand, especially during fresh drop season, can hold light metal trash, and that means gold rings and coins can and are being masked in a lot of scenarios.
Wet sand, especially in the winter time, looking for areas holding heavy targets is key. Unfortunately, if you dig light targets on a beach in wet sand, that means fresh sand came in, and you want to move down the beach where you find iron grunts. That is the perfect formula to find gold.
When I hear iron grunts I try and dig a few to determine the weight of the iron present in the area, if it is heavy pieces of iron, such as construction trash from old beach replenishment projects, like heavy iron bolts and of course lead fishing sinkers, I spiral out and most often find coins, this can be the sweet spot for other targets like gold and many times it pays off.
Do you feel that detecting beaches where expensive hotels and condos are is better for jewelry drops than public beaches?
Yes, but it depends. It is geographic. For example, the Jersey Shore is not full of resort hotels like Florida and California. The Jersey Shore is basically a day-tripper beach. For day-tripper beaches, you are looking for parking lots and looking for boardwalks where the crowds come down. Atlantic City has casinos. Any beach in front of a casino is really good. High rises privately owned condos that a concentration of people and come to the beach and sit on that beach exclusively are great as well. In the one area I hunt, a three-block area, there are 6 high rises, and I know they get huge crowds on the weekend. Finding a place concentration of people improves your odds of good targets, especially gold.
Besides fishing weights, are there any other man-made items one should pay attention to that signify a good place to detect and find jewelry?
Yes, fishing weights, but remember, not all beaches are fishing beaches, so I like to say iron, heavy iron. If not fishing weights or heavy iron, I am going to look for heavy coins, quarters, and nickels. If i am finding a lot of pennies, not so much will find gold because pennies are light, especially zinc pennies. The weight of nickels and quarters is a good sign. When hunting in black sand, you want to shut off the iron discrimination and listen for mixed signals, but don’t avoid it that is a good area also to find gold.
Some see sanded-in beaches as “don’t bother detecting it,” but some see a sanded-in beach as a new opportunity with finds brought in from the ocean. What do you feel?
Yes – When I was hunting in the wet sand on a sanded-in beach, there are targets that are going to come in that are tiny and lightweight such as small charms, earrings, and thin chains. Areas like sanded-in beach hump of sand should not be ignored. I go perpendicular to the surf, look for the humps, and for surf taking the sand away and starting the process of secondary erosion. This is where I am going to hunt and bring my sensitivity up and listen for subtle signals going slow. That is where you are getting earrings, chains, small charms, and small gold crumbs.
Do you have any final thoughts you would like to tell our readers to help them improve their beach metal detecting skills?
Yes. Know your metal detector and educate yourself on reading a beach. Look at your surroundings wherever you are going to metal detect. Don’t go on the beach and just walk and swing your detector; that is how you don’t find anything or find much. The bottom line is that you want to find treasure. Therefore do your due diligence know the beach, and know what you are looking for on the beach.
I would like to thank Brian for his informative answers. If you want to learn more about beach metal detecting and detecting in dry sand or surf, I strongly recommend joining Brian’s FB group.
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.