Let’s start with the big question: What is a VDI, and how does it relate to metal detectors? In simple terms, your metal detector is sending a wave of energy into the ground and when that wave hits a metal object, it will, in turn bounce the wave back to your detector, providing it’s own energy, which your detector can then receive and interpret into a number. A VDI, or Visual Discrimination Indicator, is a number your metal detector translates different types of metal to in numerical values. These values are produced by the target’s properties and size. Non-ferrous, or items that do not contain iron, usually register as a higher VDI value than a Ferrous iron item. Targets composed of metal alloy will register differently depending on which metals were combined in order to create the item.
Right now, I use either a Garrett ACE Apex or a Nokta The Legend metal detector when I’m out metal detecting. Both are incredible detectors and seeing as how I own them I figured why not do some field tests with both to see how their VDI values ring up. So, I went outside on a cool spring day here in Ohio and started burying some different items I’ve either found metal detecting or have collected over the years.
Each item in these VDI value charts was buried approximately 4-5 inches in the ground. I swung over each target from different directions in order to find a repeatable value for each item. The values of items can differ in different ground conditions and based on whether there are other targets in the same area which can alter the VDI value your metal detector indicates significantly at times. The charts below are strictly ranges of the listed targets and are by no means the only numbers those targets may produce on your metal detector.
- Nokta The Legend VDI Value Chart
- Garrett ACE Apex VDI Value Chart
- VDI Values: Conclusion
Nokta The Legend VDI Value Chart
I am fairly new to Nokta’s The Legend metal detector. I have maybe fifty hours on my machine at this point. After years of using solely Garrett metal detectors, it has been fun to learn a different brand of metal detector. Trying to reprogram my brain from Garrett’s 0-99 target ID numbers to The Legend’s 66 target ID numbers has been tricky, but it definitely gets easier with practice.
I ground balanced The Legend and set my machine up with six tones, with iron being a low tone and the non-ferrous a high tone and mid tones in between, my swing speed at five, sensitivity at 27, the LG28 11” coil, and in multi-frequency Mode 1 for this VDI cheat sheet. As I mentioned earlier, each target was buried approximately 4-5 inches in the ground and I swung over each target from different directions in order to find the range that was consistent.
The values in the chart below will differ due to different detecting conditions, and this should only be used as a guide to interpret the VDI values. Joanna, the founder of Focus Speed, has also written a great article with VDI charts for different metal detectors with useful jewelry and other VDI comparisons; Learning a New Metal Detector, VDI Numbers for Various Rings and Collectible Coins – The Legend, Equinox, Apex & AT Pro
Make sure to bookmark or print these off for easy reference.
|1866 Three-Cent Nickel||16-18|
|1866 Two-cent Piece||41-43|
|Shield, V, Buffalo and Jefferson Nickles||24-27|
|Mercury, Seated Dime, Modern Dime, |
|Indian Head Cent, Wheat Cent, Lincoln,|
Braided Hair Large Cent
|Standing Liberty Quarter, Silver Quarter-Clad Quarter||50-54|
|1974 Kennedy Half Dollar||53-54|
|Eisenhower $1 Coin||55-56|
|Sacagawea $1 Coin||50-51|
|Tombac Flat Button||33-34|
|Lead Toy Soldier||23-26|
|Pewter Utensil Handle||27-29|
Garrett ACE Apex VDI Value Chart
I love my ACE Apex detector with the Viper coil. That coil can pick through the trashiest sites to find relics and coins. I have hundreds of hours logged with my Apex. So, it only made sense to create a VDI cheat sheet for the Apex as well.
I kept the 6”x11” Viper coil on my Apex, set it to multi-frequency, zero discrimination, sensitivity at seven notches, ground balanced, and set it to channel 1 for these tests. Remember, ground conditions and other factors can alter the VDI number.
|1866 Three-Cent Nickel||40-43|
|1866 Two-cent Piece||76-78|
|Shield, V, Buffalo and Jefferson Nickles||49-52|
|Mercury, Seated Dime, Modern Dime |
|Indian Head Cent, Wheat Cent, Lincoln |
Braided Hair Large Cent
|Standing Liberty Quarter, |
Silver Quarter-Clad Quarter
|1974 Kennedy Half Dollar||89-92|
|Eisenhower $1 Coin||93-95|
|Sacagawea $1 Coin||86-87|
|Tombac Flat Button||64-66|
|Lead Toy Soldier||52-53|
|Pewter Utensil Handle||59-60|
VDI Values Conclusion
VDI values should not be the main factor for deciding if you should retrieve a target. I tested both metal detectors’ abilities to register coins that were placed in the hole on their side or on edge. Both machines struggled to register a solid VDI, but the Apex was a bit better and gave values more consistently than The Legend. The numbers your metal detector will produce are just a variable to help you determine whether or not to dig certain targets. Tone pitch, length of the tone produced, and VDI consistency from different angles are each a tool to help decide whether or not a target in the ground is worth the time digging. However, the only surefire way to determine exactly what your metal detector is swinging over is to just go ahead and dig it up. You don’t want to assume you’re swinging over an aluminum can and pass up a coin or historic relic.
If you have other VDI numbers than what are shown in the charts, I’d love to see how they compare by region. Comment below with those VDI’s and differences you are getting. Happy hunting!
Nicole Bauer resides in western Ohio. She is passionate about local history and works to preserve it for future generations as a member of multiple historical societies in her area. She has written for local newspapers as a lifestyle columnist and photojournalist. Nicole has been a lifelong relic hunter and has enjoyed metal detecting for over five years. She is a mom to two sons ages twenty and eighteen and has been married to her husband, Chad, for over twenty years. Metal detecting is a daily part of her life and she can usually be found out walking creeks, woods, and fields searching for items from the past. You can follow her explorations of Ohio on social media and YouTube at Ohio Metal Maven.