How To Find Your First Silver Coin

How To Find Your First Silver Coin

I’ve worked with a lot of newbie detectorists, and feel that in each instance the time it takes for them to find their first silver coin typically involves 3 primary variables, which I believe apply in this order: luck, location, and learning. Learning is really “experience”, but I needed a third “L” so I could call these the three “L’s.”

For most people I have worked with, their first silver was an “easy one”, the type of find that experienced detectorists find while “cherry picking” a new hot site that hasn’t ever been detected. It is usually sitting by itself in clean ground at 3 or 4 inches.


So close to the surface you can almost see it!

Luck of course is the main factor. Silver is where you find it and there are really no rules. Though it is more likely to be at an old and/or non-hunted site, silver can be anywhere it was lost. If the first swing of your detector happens to be over a silver half dollar at two inches and you recover it, then there you go. Some people say you can’t control luck, but I am not one of them. Things like having a positive attitude and regularly envisioning yourself finding a specific silver coin increase your “luck” / “kharma” / “likelihood of finding a silver coin in the next hour”. Frustration, being tired, and thinking negatively conversely decrease “luck”.

Location is the next important factor in my opinion, and also is the easiest one to control. If you live in a new subdivision with nearby local parks that have not been hunted before and developed areas with lots of fill dirt, you are likely to hunt these areas first, so it is likely going to take you longer to find your first silver coin then the guy who walks out in the large front yard of his late 1800s home that has never been hunted before and starts swinging.

Note I say “likely” because location is always trumped by luck. It doesn’t matter if there are five shallow silver coins in the half acre in front of you if you are unlucky enough to miss them all with your swings. But if you really want to find your first silver coin on your next hunt, hunt a site that is extremely likely to have some silver coins waiting for you to find. Find an old site that has not been hunted, or only lightly hunted. Your best bet is to get permission to hunt some old private property. This will greatly improve your odds of finding a silver coin on your next hunt. Find these sites through research, or by asking around.

Learning: This is how fast the user learns how to detect. Not just learning the detector, which can be relatively easy if your first detector is simple to operate, but improving things like selecting which targets you are going to dig, and how fast you can recover a target, properly repair the plug, and move on. The more holes you dig, and the better targets you select, the faster you are going to find that first silver coin.

Let’s throw aside luck and location for a moment and look at the probability of finding a silver coin from a purely statistical view. Given a constant luck and location factor, finding a silver coin can be more easily viewed as purely a numbers game.

Let’s say you are new and capable of digging 25 holes during an average hunt. Let’s also assume that, due to your current target selection capability, each hole has a quarter of one (.25) percent chance of being a silver coin. Using statistical probability taking into account these two factors only, you are likely to find a silver coin once in every 400 holes. At 25 holes per average hunt, you are only likely to find a silver coin once in every 16 hunts.

As your experience increases, lets say you now can recover and repair 40 plugs per hunt. You also have improved how you interpret the detector sounds and data and can now select better targets, so now each hole has a one half of one (.50) percent chance to be a silver coin. Now one in every 200 holes is going to contain a silver coin, and at 40 holes per hunt, you should find a silver coin once in every 5 hunts.

Every experienced detectorist knows that statistics are BS. The example statistics above don’t take into account location, luck, capabilities of different detectors, other skill factors and things like “hot streaks” and “pocket spills” where you find several silver coins in one hour. But understanding the statistics helped me to understand directly how improving my skills, specifically number of holes per hunt and target selection, dramatically and directly affect my success.

Flkr Official US Navy Photo

Some of the extensive testing for this article.  Or not.

Some additional thoughts on number of holes dug per hunt: It is important that you use proper techniques as to properly cover your holes and not leave a mess. Increasing your number of holes dug per hunt involves practice. Here are some things i do to maximize the number of holes dug during a detecting session:

– If I am in a field or woods, I use a shovel (drain spade) instead of a Lesche. I am not as concerned with making a mess, and I can recover the target much faster, cover my hole and move on.

– I use a Pinpointer. This greatly decreases the time to extricate the target and move on:”

Click to see pricing and details on the Garret ProPointer, Our Favorite PinPointer

– I have learned to realize when I have been fooled by a deep big target, such as an oil can lid, masquerading as a shallow small target like a coin. Unless I am working something like a battlefield, I will often abandon the recovery, cover my hole and move on to save time.

– I work on my technique for opening the ground and removing targets constantly, and have many shortcuts that not only reduce recovery time, but result in a neater, cleaner recovery that leaves little or no trace I was there.

– I stay focused. Stopping to take an unnecessary call or send an unnecessary text, for example, costs me in holes that were not dug.

– I utilize and continually improve a digging routine. I try to do the exact same thing every single time I recover a target. I pinpoint the target with the detector, mark the spot with a marker to avoid losing the pinpoint spot, take off my headphones, lay the detector down oriented so I can easily pinpoint with my sunray probe, dig a U shape around the target to depth indicated on detector, fold over top of plug, locate the target with pinpointer, remove dirt from hole to towel only if I have to, remove the target, place it in my pouch, repair my plug, etc. I try to complete all of this in less than 1 minute 30 seconds. If I run into a problem, I start over by rescanning and reevaluating the target. The routine helps me stay disciplined and avoiding surprises such as digging in wrong area, stepping on my headphones, etc.

I do allow myself to waste as much time as I want celebrating a great find (ie doing The Robot or Running Man dance, fist pumping, whooping and hollering). I force myself to take a 10 minute break at least every two hours and limit most hunts to 4 hours to avoid getting sloppy. On a rare hunt where I have limited permission and want to hunt as much as possible, I can hunt 12 hours in a day by starting at daylight and do 3 four hour sessions with an hour break in between.

Flkr Marco Gomez

An appropriate celebration dance after finding “Big Silver”

Some additional thoughts on target selection: The simplest form of target selection is applying discrimination so that the detector does all of the target selection for you. When you start detecting, your target selection criteria will likely be pretty simple (i.e. “I dig everything that is not discriminated by the detector on the ‘Coins’ setting.” or “I dig everything that shows a 50 or more on my screen”). As you gain more experience and learn more from other users, you may apply different target selection criteria to different sites. “This site is really hunted out so I am going to dig everything.” “There isn’t much here so I am going to use no discrimination and dig everything over 25”. As you get very good, you start not paying as much attention to the visual feedback such as numbers and pay more attention to the specific types of sounds you are hearing.

Target selection is not purely a function of the brain either. The reason experienced detectories buy the more high end and latest detectors is that in addition to possibly providing better depth, they provide more detailed information in terms of audio and visual feedback to aid you in selecting good targets, and even help to do some of the target selection work for us, such as reducing “iron falsing”, providing more accurate data on deeper targets or better distinguishing multiple targets that are close together. This more detailed data can also make the detectors harder to learn and sometimes frustrating, which is why I recommend that newbies start with something like an ACE 350 or Fisher F4 and upgrade only after they master their basic detecting techniques and the max out the capabilities of the detector and even then only if they feel like they need to upgrade.

Its not going to make that much of a difference to a newbie , and many of us can’t afford a $1000 detector anyway. Just my two cents and I know many other disagree. I’ve just seen too many newbies buy an expensive monster detector like a Blisstool, e-Trac, F75 or 3030 (all great detectors), get frustrated, and sell it on eBay. You’re just not going to see a lot of newbies finding coins in heavy trash at ten inches just because their detector is capable of doing so.

Find articles on this forum and on other places online about your detector and success stories of those using them. Message knowledgeable users on this forum using similar detectors as you and ask questions, especially about things that are confusing to you. Apply these things as shortcuts to having to learn everything by trial and error.

If you are a new user struggling to find your first coin, or you are in a bad slump, then I would recommend you look at the three “L’s”: Luck, Location, Learning.

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