How Metal Detecting for Modern Coins Helped Me Find My First 1800s Coin

How Metal Detecting for Modern Coins Helped Me Find My First 1800s Coin

Ask just about any experienced detectorist if he enjoys digging modern coins aka “clad” and most will tell you that finding clad coins is more of an annoyance than anything.

That’s understandable, but I see finding clad differently.  I am primarily a woods hunter, but when the ticks are so bad that it’s just not worth the risks, I tend to metal detect at local parks.  The parks in my town aren’t very old, maybe the 1970’s, so finding old silver coins or any old coin for that matter is more than rare in my parks.  I don’t think I’ve ever pulled a silver coin out of a city park here but I have found silver and gold jewelry.

Even though finding old coins in my parks is a rare occurrence, there is no shortage of modern coins! As stated above, most guys don’t care to detect for modern coins, but I see it differently.

When I am detecting in parks I tend to find countless numbers of coins each outing.  I have detected parks where I had a choice of what coins to dig just because there was so many coin tones, everywhere! When I got tired of digging pennies, I only dug nickels, dimes, and quarters.  When I got tired of diggin nickels, I only dug dimes and quarters and so on.  Some say that I miss good targets in those instances, but c’mon let’s be real here, there’s no way a guy can feasibly “dig it all” or he would never make it out of a 20 foot square! So, there are times that I am selective, and many times that is when I am clad hunting.

That’s all fine and dandy, but why do I love metal detecting for modern coins?  Simple, a cool thing happened to me one day while metal detecting with a friend up in Kansas.

We were detecting at a home site where a Victorian house had once stood, and the area was littered with a 100 years worth of metal targets.  My friend was new to detecting so he didn’t know his machine very well and wasn’t very experienced in discriminating the tones in his head.  He was detecting near a couple of large trees with not much luck so he decided to try a different area.

I decided to work my way over where he had been detecting since he was finished detecting in that area.  I was swinging my AT Pro metal detector when I heard a somewhat familiar tone.  I say somewhat because the tone sounded like a coin to me, but there was also something down there interfering with me getting a good solid tone. Knowing that there was a coin tone mixed in I decided to dig the target.  About 5 inches down I saw it, a coin, and I first thought that it was a wheat penny due to the patina.

After a couple of minutes of excitement I realized that this coin was different than any coin I had ever dug.


It turned out to be a Shield nickel and I was super excited to find it.  My buddy Jerry that I was detecting with said “You dawg, I was just detecting there and here you come and pull out an old coin right where I was standing!”  I just said “There was something to the tone that told me there was a coin down there.”  He smiled and said “I probably wouldn’t have dug that target if it wasn’t a solid coin tone.” That’s when I replied “I wouldn’t have either a year ago, but my experience finding coins helped me decide if I should dig or not.”

At that time it didn’t dawn on me what chain of events had led me to find my oldest coin ever, and my first 1800’s coin.

I credit that old coin find to the hours and hours I had spent in parks metal detecting for modern coins.

Finding those modern coins in the park taught me what the various coins sound like. Unknown to me at the time, detecting those modern coins had prepared me for that day when I was detecting in an area full of all types of metal targets.  That experience was the difference in me finding that shield nickel and my buddy finding it.  We were using the exact same metal detector, but the difference maker came down to experience in the field where I had trained my ears to coin tones.

Those thousands of modern coin finds had prepared me for that type of environment where coins were few and far between the junk targets. When I swung my coil over a coin, I was able to recognize the coin tone or at least have a very good idea that a coin was down there before I dug it.

I didn’t know it at the time, but all of those frustrating modern coins I had found on my searches for silver coins was preparing me for harsher detecting environments! It reminds me of a NFL Football team.  We watch them play, and one team wins as we are watching, but you know what?  That game was won before that team ever took the field! Why? Because games are won on the practice field the week before, sure luck plays a role, but more often than not it is the team that prepared the most, worked the hardest on the practice field, and then took that experience out onto the field ultimately winning the game for them.  The same goes for just about any sport where the athlete wins due to prior preparation.

Metal detecting is no different. If you put in the time practicing and learning your metal detector your chances of success in the field are greatly increased!


Practice makes us better at everything we do, especially metal detecting.  If you haven’t read our article “Why You are Sabotaging Your Detecting by Not Practicing?” then you probably should if you want to take your metal detecting to the next level.

Hopefully after reading this article you too will have a different outlook on detecting for modern coins because any amount of practice is going to better prepare you for success on your future hunts.


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