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 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.
Read on For Some Additional Thoughts on number of holes dug per hunt…