Metal Detecting Permission Finds & Tips for Newer Detectorists Considering Permissions

1940's Air Force Coat Button found metal detecting.
1940s Air Force Coat Button found at permission.

Sometimes metal detecting permissions are good and fruitful, and sometimes they produce nothing and can be discouraging. This permission had fun finds, and I was grateful I had the chance to detect it. 

Being in Southern California, with many good detectorists, beaches and parks are pounded, particularly if you are looking for the old coins, relics, and jewelry. Those detectorists that are finding the old cool stuff like older coins generally have the skills to hear pretty deep obscure targets.

Getting older coins on the beach can happen, and it does; I have gotten a few because of the right storms, sand movement, and tides. However, you need a flexible work schedule or to be retired to chase tides and storms and be successful at it.

With Southern California being a competitive place to metal detect for older coins and relics, some resort to detecting abandoned lots, thinking it will be fruitful and older coins and relics will be abundant. Still, much like the parks and beaches, if there is an abandoned lot, it has often been detected by a good detectorist or a few good detectorists leaving for sparse finds. 

This doesn’t mean there aren’t older coins, relics, or vintage jewelry found at parks, beaches, and abandoned lots. It just takes some skills to find them and find them regularly. 

I believe the sweet spot for finding older items for Southern California detectorists is permissions. Not all permissions deliver finds, but when one does, it really makes your day, week, or month.

This was the case with this permission I got to detect. It was an old house lot in Hawthorne, California. The house was built in 1940 and has not been updated since then. The yard didn’t look updated as well. There was no sprinkler system and just hard-packed clay, dirt, and weeds. The lot size was 5,551 Sq Ft, and it had a one-story 1308 Sq Ft single-story home on it.

I obtained permission to metal detect the property after my friend, who flips homes for a living, posted on Facebook that she was buying the property to flip. The second I saw it, I knew I had to detect it and contacted her to see if I could. She gave me the OK but told me I needed to come to the property the second keys got exchanged, which I cleared my schedule and did. Time is money, and my friend doesn’t waste time with her flips. Things move quickly, and knew I would have only a couple of days to detect it before landscaping would start.

Tip 1: When looking for permissions for the first time, think of your friends and family list. Who do you know that is redoing their yard, and you can ask them to detect it before they do? Or who is selling their home, flipping homes, or simply has land, especially older land.

Tip 2: Make sure to be flexible when obtaining permissions to detect a property. Listen to the property owner’s needs and concerns and work with them. Ask when is the best time to come and what areas they do not want you to disturb.

Tip 3: Spend some time researching the property, looking at older aerials and maps to understand how old the property is and what was built on it or around it. If you are in the United States, use sites like TopView and Historical Aerials

The property was over an hour away from my home; therefore, I packed the car with two detectors (just in case one failed). For my main detector, the Minelab Equinox 800, I packed two coils, the stock one, and a small 6-inch sniper coil, a couple of different shovels and a pick. I also had the other essentials, a pinpointer, a second pinpointer that stays in the car as a backup if I ever forget mine, breaks, or a friend forgets theirs or theirs stops working, a find pouch, and gloves, as well snacks and fluids.

Getting permission to metal detect
The metal detecting permission.

When I got to the property, I assessed it. How is the yard layout now and how was it over the years? This was a smaller property, so I had time to detect it all, but I wanted to concentrate on key areas where people tend to lose things, such as pathways and laundry lines. When one worker saw I was looking around, he asked me what I was up to. I admitted I was trying to understand where they would have had the laundry lines. He right away told me where he saw and removed a laundry line hook. This information became important to where I found my quality finds.

Tip 4: Assessing the property is key, from the visuals, such as photographs, aerials but also walking the property. Look for where there could have been a clothing line, or where paths were from cars to the front door, or to the garage, sheds, or outhouse. Also, look for outdoor gathering places, such as where picnic tables or out chairs would have been. These are all key places to detect.

After I assessed the ground, 3 minutes into detecting, I found my first Wheat Penny but also noticed the ground was so hard no shovel would penetrate it. I went back to the car and got my pick. I was sure glad I packed my pick. It was pretty much essential to have.

Highlights First Day Metal Detecting Finds

Tip 5: If you are going to drive a distance to a property, make sure you overpack and bring more than you need. In this case, the pick was vital; otherwise, I would not have been able to break ground to get to the finds.

Tip 6: If you do not have a pick, they are pretty inexpensive. I definitely would get one, especially if you are considering detecting compact ground that tends to be any path or driveway, dry climates that have clay-based soils such as dry adobe clay, if you are detecting older properties that are not maintained, ghost towns, old mining camps, and so on. It is better to have one than wish you had one when you reach where ever you were planning to metal detect.

After I got my pick, the next find was less than two minutes after I found the first Wheat Penny, I found a Silver Dime / Rosie. Soon after, I found a Kennedy Half Dollar and a Mexican 1 Centavo. If I could find all of this in less than 10 minutes on the property, I knew it would be a good day. I spent most of my day in the front yard, which was small but abundant with targets. I found 19 Wheaties, along with the items I mentioned above, I also found a 1970 Mexican 5 Centavos, two rings, parts of a Tootsie Toy Car, and other fun finds. 

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As it was getting to dusk, I ventured into the backyard just to get a lay of the land, beyond my morning assessment, knowing I will hit that the next day. As I did, I swung the coil. Being in the backyard only three or four minutes, I found a 1930s California National Guard Collar Pin, 4th Regiment. What was interesting was some of the silvers and Wheaties I found were not even an inch down, same with the California National Guard collar pin, it wasn’t even an inch down. 

This was unique to me because unless something gets thrown up by a gopher in Southern California Parks, older coins and older buttons and jewelry are  6 to 12 inches down. My first day detecting 8 hours at this permission felt much like fishing in an overstocked fish hatchery. With the pick, they were easy to get. I didn’t have to make a perfect plug because the ground was going to be landscaped and finds were all depths, with most being pretty shallow.

Tip 7: Permission detecting is so much easier to do and get better finds than detecting in places that are frequented by good detectorists and detected out. The finds will not be deep and abundant. Make sure you dig all signals at permissions, not just deep ones. Take into consideration that the ground could have been turned over through the years with a rototiller or by hand. Or if the ground is super compacted that the finds could be shallow. With the right year of property, and if no one ever detected it, the finds can be fruitful.

With the 1930s California National Guard Collar Pin, as well the Rosie, 19 Wheaties and other finds. I was excited to get back to the property to see what else was there. 

On the second day, at first, I was getting discouraged by the backyard. I wasn’t getting decent finds, but then I put on a 6-inch sniper coil and started finding find after find. The smaller coil allowed me to get between the weeds and close to walls, fences, or rocks and hear between the trash. 

Tip 8: When detecting permissions, if you have a smaller coil, pack it just in case. For this permission, it was a must to get between weeded areas where the stock coil was struggling.

With the smaller coil, 7 hours yielded me more Rosies, Wheaties, a Silver Quarter, a War Nickell, a nice old Sterling Silver Ring with precious stones, a 1930s Silver Plated United Airlines Fork, an engraved LA Board of Education serving spoon, brass watering nozzle, and just before I left, not even an inch down a 1940s Air Force Coat Button. Without the 6-inch sniper coil, I would have left with fewer finds.

Highlights Second Day Metal Detecting Finds

I took two days off to focus on other obligations when my friend who owned the flip and her workers worked to clear the backyard of junk, cut weeds, and watered the yard extensively. With fewer weeds and watering soil, it would make a difference.

On the third and final day, I went to the permission; I also invited Jason Flicker, a detecting buddy who is excellent at getting older coins. If you haven’t had a chance to read where I interviewed him on cleaning older coins and tokens while metal detecting, you should, it is a good read.

I wanted Jason to come to see if he could find anything I would have missed. I knew if someone with his metal detecting skill level didn’t come with me, I would be forever haunted by what I might have missed. With the ground being fully watered, the detectors could go deeper, and we could use our shovels, then a pick. He found a Mercury Dime quickly where the weeds were long the day before, and I couldn’t get my coil in, and a Washington Tax Token that was pretty deep, 12 more Wheat Pennies, a 1980s Star Wars Chewbacca lead figurine, and a 1914 English Made Motorcycle with Sidecar. 

Items found metal detecting
Some of Jason Flicker’s finds at the permission. A Washington Tax Token, Mercury Dime, 12 Wheat Pennies and a marble.

I found another two Rosies, 4 Wheat Pennies, a Lead True Craft figurine, another watering nozzle, a larger Tootsie Car, and a bunch of other items. Jason felt I did a pretty good job at clearing out the property the two prior days, so mid-day we finished ‌and went and detected at another park.

Tips 9: Wet soil is more conductive, and detectors can get deeper. If you can go to a property,/ permission, park, or woods after it has rained or been watered, you will be able to hear deeper signals. 

The majority of the good items (5 of the 7 silver coins, the tax token, and both military buttons) were found under where the laundry line would have been and where a picnic table was. 

Tip 10: If your time is limited to detect, go right to where items are generally dropped and spend your time detecting those areas. Make sure your coil is as low as it can be along the ground. Drag it. They say if you are not wearing out one coil cover a year; you are not swinging your coil properly. 


A sample of what the permission yielded 

  • 1940s Air Force Coat Button
  • 1930s California National Guard Collar Button
  • 7 Silver Coins
  • 44 Wheat Pennies 
  • Kenndy Half Dollar
  • 2 Mexican Cevantos
  • Tax Token
  • 3 Rings, a bracelet, and other jewelry and buttons
  • 2 Metal Figurines, True Craft, and Star Wars Chewbacca
  • Various Toy Cars, a couple of Tootsie Models
  •  2 Interesting Utensils
  • 2 Brass Watering Nozzles
  • 1 Canine Tag
  • 1 Marble
  • $7.35 in Modern Change/Clad

Below are some ‌finds from the Hawthorne permission:

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