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To Treasure

Reprinted with permission by Charles Garrett




There’s wealth to be found near the water!

Over two thirds of the earth’s total surface-nearly 200 million miles-is water. Since the dawn of mankind, man has lived on or near water. Commerce, recreation, exploration, warfare and the search for food have compelled men and women to return to water everytime they have strayed. And, whenever man made contact with water, he generally brought with him wealth, some of which was inevitably lost.

These possessions and other things of value have taken many forms. Perhaps it was a simple keepsake or talisman, a single coin or barter item, a trinket or crude jewel; then again, the wealth was sometimes a cache of doubloons hidden away by pirates or conquistadors centuries ago or the cargo of a ship that foundered in a storm. The contents of Davy Jones’ locker, which includes all lakes and streams as well as the ocean, are beyond belief. I feel confident that if all this wealth were somehow to be evenly distributed, every man, woman and child on earth could live comfortably for the rest of their lives.

The world’s oceans, lakes and streams, therefore, offer vast storehouses of lost wealth that await the treasure hunter with a modern-day metal detector. Beaches at the entrance to Davy Jones’ locker present the most accessible areas for hobbyists to begin searching. Beaches are attractive to the metal detector hobbyist for still another reason. As rules and regulations for using detectors increase in complexity, public beaches and the waters they touch grow even more appealing as a recreational location, as a site for pursuing our hobby.

This Garrett Guide tells how and where to search for and find lost wealth on the beach. Much of the "how to" material relates to the modern metal detector. Since most wealth that can be recovered is metal, a detector is the perfect tool for finding it. These questions will be answered by this Guide:

-What treasure can I find on the beach?

-How can I find it with a metal detector?

-Where should I expect to find treasure?


Admit it! Everyone who has ever listened for that buzz of a detector locating its target has dreamed of unearthing great wealth. Even in a sedate, well-kept park where one really can’t expect to find an outlaw cache or pirate treasure, there’s always the possibility of an antique piece of jewelry or a priceless old coin. At the ocean’s edge, the imagined treasures grow even grander. On a more practical note, most hobbyists are just as happy to dig up a single coin and are overjoyed to find more than that. The typical beach hunter would gladly settle for just the coins and rings lost daily by those who use the water for recreation and commerce.

Thus, it should be a continuing goal of hobbyists to search where targets are most plentiful…to seek treasure where it is hiding, if you will. You can believe me when I say that it has been my experience over decades of treasure hunting that beaches will yield treasure more valuable and in greater quantities than sites away from water.

Think of all the coins, jewelry and other valuable objects that fall into the sand. While you scan a metal detector over the beach or ocean bottom, constantly keep this vision in mind; only a few feet beneath the sand’s surface a veritable "blanket" of treasure awaits the treasure hunter. And, this blanket is continually being replenished!

My advice to any metal detector hobbyist, therefore, is to become a beachcomber. The joys are countless, and the rewards are constantly surprising!

Just what is a beachcomber, anyhow? I describe him or her simply as a person who searches along shorelines. And, what is being sought? Just about everything! There’s always plenty of flotsam, jetsam and other refuse. Often, it’s merely junk, but it can be lost wealth. Out of sight below the sand lies that blanket of treasure awaiting the metal detector. Always remember, however, that the value of any treasure is ultimately determined only by its finder. Keeper finds can be anything from a weathered float to a costly piece of jewelry. Oftentimes, the greatest joy for the beachcomber comes simply from walking the beach., from experiencing soft winds off the water and feeling the sand under bare feet while listening to the tranquilizing sounds of surf and seabreeze. The rewards of a metal detector are but an added bonus.

While beach pickings can be good almost anytime, certain seasons, months and even hours of the day will prove to be better than others. This Guide will point these out. Let me caution you here and now, however, that as a first-time beach hunter, you will probably meet with disappointment. But, don’t most great ventures begin awkwardly and without great reward? Persistence is the key! After just one year, a pleasant "season in the sun and sand," most treasure hunters will find themselves forever hooked on beachcombing. Too, they’ll be richer for the effort, both in pocketbook and spirit.

Where people congregate, treasure can be found. There can be no disputing that statement; it’s that simple. Try this test. Visit any local park on a pleasant spring or summer day. Count the people and watch their activity. How many did you count? Chances are that you saw a few dozen. What were they doing? They were probably walking, picnicking or perhaps engaged in some sports activity.

Now, drive to a local swimming beach. Make the same observations. How many did you count and what were they doing? You probably counted the same few dozen, plus several hundred more who could lose valuable treasure. And, they too were walking, picnicking or engaged in some sports activity. But, their frolicking and horseplay in the surf or dunes seemed far more likely to dislodge jewelry and other treasures than the sedate activities of a park.

You can be sure that treasure will be lost at that beach every day. And, I don’t mean "cheap" treasure. People consistently wear expensive jewelry while sunning or swimming. They either forget they have it on, or they don’t understand how they could lose it. It can’t happen to me, they must think. But, it will… and does!

Beach treasures awaiting the metal detector include coins, rings, watches, necklaces, chains, bracelets and anklets, religious medallions and crucifixes, toys, knives, cigarette cases and lighters, sunshades, keys, relics, bottles, fishnet balls, ships’ cargo and other items that will soon fill huge containers. And, for some lucky, persistent and talented hunters, their dream will come true. They will indeed find that chest of treasure hidden by some buccaneer or 17th century Spaniard who never returned to claim his cache.

It’s hard to understand why people wear jewelry to the beach. Yet, they do, and they often forget…even about valuable heirlooms and diamond rings. But, whether sun bathers and swimmers care about losing their possessions or not, it’s just the same for the beachcomber. All rings expand in the heat; everyone’s finders wrinkle and shrivel in the water and suntan oils merely hasten the inevitable losses. Beachgoers play ball, throw frisbees and engage in horseplay. These activities fling rings off of finders and cause clasps on necklaces, bracelets and chains to break. Into the sand drop valuables where they quickly sink out of sight to be lost to all save the metal detector.

How many times have you watched coins, jewelry, keys and other beach "necessities" being placed oh-so-carefully on the edge of a towel or blanket? Then, in a hurry to escape a sudden storm or just through carelessness, the sunbather grabs and shakes the blanket. There go those "necessities" into the sand. Even though the valuables are sometimes immediately recovered, many are never found except by a metal detector.

Boys and girls play in the sand. Holes are dug, and sand is piled up and made into castles and other elaborate structures. In this process toys, coins, digging tools, jewelry, knives and other possessions are lost until the metal detector or keen observer discovers them.

The tale of one such pair of keen eyes on the beautiful beaches of Grand Cayman was related by my good friend Robert Marx. This beachcomber spotted something shining on the sandy bottom in shallow water. To his astonishment it turned out to be a gold cross covered with diamonds. Without telling anyone, he returned later with scuba equipment and really struck it rich. Using only his hand to fan away thin layers of sand, he recovered a fantastic cache of treasure, including a large bar of platinum dated 1521, various bars of silver bullion, a silver bracelet in the form of a serpent covered with emeralds and a large gold ring bearing the arms of the Ponce de Leon family. Since there is no evidence of a shipwreck ever having occurred in the area, the treasure – perhaps the booty of a conquistador – was probably buried ashore and washed out into the shallow sea as the beach eroded.

Few are this lucky –and, believe me, luck is important to the treasure hunter, no matter how great his skill and training-but beach treasures await all of us, ready to sing out in response to the signal of a modern metal detector.




What sort of metal detector should be used on the beach? This is a good question for the veteran hobbyist who lacks beach hunting experience as well as the novice. Knowing what to expect on the beach is helpful and knowing where to find it is even more important. Without the proper equipment, however, such information is irrelevant at best and essentially useless.

First, comes the choice of a detector. While the sand on most beaches looks innocent enough, the "wrong" type of detector can spell trouble for a beachcomber. Depending on ground mineral content, some detectors are practically worthless, others so-so, and yet others perfectly suited. A quality automated VLF detector with discrimination is the best choice. These instruments ignore iron magnetite (black sand) and salt minerals, and they permit discrimination to be adjusted.

This is good news for most hobbyists since the automated VLF detectors such as those in the Garrett Freedom and AT (all terrain) series are among today’s most popular models. High quality manual adjust VLF detectors such as the Garrett Master Hunters are equally suitable for beach hunting, especially when operated semi-automatically in their Discriminate Mode, which I will discuss shortly.

So named because they operate in the Very Low (radio) Frequency spectrum of 3 to 30 kilohertz, VLF detectors generally ignore minerals, including salt water. Some instruments have an internal switch that cuts out salt minerals. Automated models can be operated from zero discrimination through pulltab rejection.

Now, that doesn’t mean a hobbyist without an automatic VLF detector can’t search beaches effectively. Neither does it mean that a veteran treasure hunter has to leave at home that "Old Faithful" BFO or TR detector that has already found so many coins, rings or nuggets.

On iron mineral-free beaches such as those of Florida, a BFO, TR or most any of the later designs works well. When a BFO or TR features a discriminating mode, water-saturated sands can be worked easily. With discrimination control set near bottlecap rejection, salt minerals in the water are eliminated from detection.

Manual adjust VLF’s give good depth in most beach sands. Unless the circuits are "automated," however, performance may be somewhat limited on beaches with heavy iron mineralization. A VLF with TR discriminating mode should be set at approximately the bottlecap setting. Of course, that setting imposes limitations, especially if the hobbyist decides to advance the setting to pulltab rejection and dig mostly coins. Many veteran beach hunters are probably aghast at that recommendation, since few of them use any discrimination unless the beach is a veritable "junk yard." And, it is true that a hobbyist using discrimination is more likely to miss some valuable treasures than one who is "digging all targets." That’s a fact of life; but, there are times when I believe that discrimination is needed.

Pulse induction models such as the Garrett Sea Hunter underwater detector operate nearly flawlessly on all beaches. Giving good depth, they are a pleasure to use. Generally, they are heavier because of extra battery requirements and the heavier case needed by submersible/land models. One shortcoming of pulse detectors is that small iron pieces, especially nails and hairpins, may not be rejected.

On beaches where black sand (iron magnetite) is present, the choice of detectors is narrowed considerably. BFOs and TRs are out of the question because they cannot cancel the effects of the natural iron. Pulse induction detectors ignore it as do both manual and automated VLF models.

They hobbyist who likes to hunt with a BFO or TR instrument should take it tot the beach and use it over wet sand with discrimination set near bottlecap rejection. If the detector’s audio cannot be "smoothed out," black sand is probably the reason; another instrument may be required. I urge all beach hunters to consider purchasing one of the late model automated (sometimes called "motion") discrimination detectors. Even better are the environmentally protected units which permit hunting in rain or splashing surf.

When a detector is not protected by its manufacturer against the environment, it is necessary to cover its control housing with a plastic bag. This will protect the detector from mist, rain and blowing sand, and offer less opportunities for ever-present beach sand to work its way into the electronic controls.



Most searchcoils are submersible. All of those manufactured by Garrett can be submerged to the connector, but always check with the manufacturer when uncertain. Be careful of water in the detector stem since not all units have a plug to prevent water from running into the control housing. To be safe, immediately after using a detector in water, drain the lower stem. IF water is not drained, it may flood the instrument the first time the searchcoil is placed higher than the control box.

For greatest success on the beach always use headphones. Of course, most veteran treasure hunters use headphones no matter where they are searching. They are especially necessary on the beach where wind, surf and "people" notice will mask detector signals and cause many good targets to be missed. Any type headphone is better than none at all, but the best are those with ear cushions and adjustable volume controls. Coiled cords are recommended along with right-angle plugs.

Since large cushioned headphones can become hot and uncomfortable, smaller versions are available. Even though these light models with smaller ear coverings mask out less noise interference, they can be used effectively.

Since almost any kind of digger can be used in loose beach sand, many beginners overlook the importance of a digging tool. Why, some even use their hands! I strongly counsel against this for several reasons-first and foremost being the abundance of broken glass. In fact, I strongly recommend gloves, at least for the hand that does any digging.

Another reason for not depending upon hands as a digging tool is that the beach hunter cannot always expect to find targets in soft beach sand. I prefer two types of diggers: a heavy-duty garden trowel and a light-weight pick with a flat blade on one end. Just a quick whack with the pick, and I usually have my treasure. Of course, pinpointing is essential before digging is attempted. The hobbyist should begin with a trowel or small shovel and graduate to a pick-type digger with a long handle when pinpointing improves. The long handle permits uncovering targets without having to kneel on the ground.

Scoops are reasonably good in dry, loose sand. A quick scoop, a few shakes and there’s the find. In wet sand, however, scoops are just a waste of time. It takes too long to work damp sand out of a scoop, except in the water where onrushing surf can help clean wet sand from the scoop.

Occasionally, a strong, thin digger-like screwdriver is needed. A good percentage of my finds are buried in roots beneath trees and tree stumps. Digging can become difficult within a complicated root structure, and a strong, thin rod is needed to loosen the soil and make a hole from which the find can be recovered.

And speaking of holes, let’s talk about them. Some treasure hunters leave the holes they dig. Don’t you! Always, without exception, fill every hole you dig. It doesn’t take much time, and you are doing it for the sake of our hobby. Plus, you don’t want someone to step in one of your holes and twist an ankle. I have filled so many holes that I do it automatically. Even in deserted mountainous and desert areas, I kick dirt into the holes I dig.

Other gear needed for beach hunting includes an assortment of pouches, a secure pocket for storing especially good finds and a pocket for storing especially good finds and a place for personal items. If you’ve hunted for treasure at all, you probably already have some ideas about recovery pouches. Let me offer just a couple of suggestions for the beach:

-Place all detected items in a pouch; carefully inspect your finds occasionally and discard trash properly.

-When I find an especially valuable article, I return to my vehicle or camp to stow it properly.

-Use care in handling rings with stones. Often, mountings corrode during exposure. Examine jewelry with your pocket magnifier; when a mounting shows corrosion, handle that ring with extra caution.

-A fastener on a pouch is not a necessity on the beach unless you lay your pouch down carelessly or let it bounce around in your car.

-Pouches should be waterproof to prevent soiling your clothes and sturdy enough to hold plenty of weight.

-Many pouch styles can be mounted on a belt. I often wear a web-type belt carrying a canteen and an extra pouch or two.

Concerning clothing, the best advice is to dress comfortably. But, protect yourself against the elements you’re sure to encounter on the beach. Obviously, you’ll want to keep warm in the winter and cool in the summer, but I caution you to shade exposed skin areas to protect against sun and windburn. In warm weather I wear shorts or lightweight trousers, a light (but long-sleeved) shirt, socks and comfortable shoes or sneakers. I wear a wide-brimmed cotton hat with some sort of neck shield. Even when hunting only on the beach, I’m always prepared to get wet. Sometimes an attractive low place in the sand will be yielding recoveries, and I must be prepared to follow it right into the water.




Well, here you are, on the beach at last, proper detector in hand and dressed for any kind of weather. You’re equipped with a selection of digging tools, and you have the pouches and pockets to store that treasure you expect to find.

So, what next?

When you walk out onto a beach, where do you begin? How do you select the most productive areas? This is possibly the question I am asked most frequently by beginning beach hunters (and, more experienced ones as well). The answer, first of all, is that nobody should go pell-mell onto a beach and begin scanning here and there without a plan. This is truly for beginners. There is a right way and a wrong way to search for treasure. As I have stated so often in my books, "Start fight and be successful!"

You must begin by being in the right place at the right time. The following discussion of research will suggest sources that will lead you to productive sights. This Guide will also suggest how you can take advantage of tides and weather to put you there at the right time.

The dedicated treasure hunter always first answers the question of "Where?" With research. Beyond that, experience must be the teacher. Inquiring and attentive hobbyists continually pick up ideas from other more veteran beachcombers, but the final decisions must be based on individual perceptions and intuition. Experience alone will educate the beach hunter about places that never produce and other places that are often rewarding. A knowledge of storm, wind and wave action will often rescue someone studying a new beach. Later, I’ll relate how this helped me.

My books and those of other treasure hunters list numerous research sources where both general and specific leads can be found for searching beaches with a metal detector. As the hobbyist researches these various sources, techniques and abilities will improve. That’s why I urge anyone to apply himself of herself to beach hunting for at least a full year before attempting to judge this aspect of treasure hunting. And, when you seek to carry out research, I implore you not to be haphazard or sloppy. Be diligent and methodical; your progress and success will be amazing.

Always begin locally; your home territory is the area you know best. Use every source of leads and information; seek out old timers; visit or write chambers of commerce and tourist bureaus. Don’t forget to contact historical societies; leave no source untouched in your investigation of an area. To speed up work always be specific. Ask about information concerning both past and current swimming beaches, resorts and recreational areas. Throughout history, certainly that of this country, swimming has always been a popular activity. Don’t overlook the favorite beaches of years gone by, either. Also, ghost towns are not limited to mountainous areas; they can be found on beaches as well. Treasures from the past are always found in and around them.

When checking newspapers, pay particular attention to accident reports that will usually give the location or at least the name of a particular beach. Review old newspapers; be especially alert for the Sunday weekend or recreation columns that proclaim the holiday joys of swimming and sunbathing at local beaches. Advertisements of beachwear occasionally offer clues to areas of activity.

Don’t overlook old postcards; antique shops can be a good source. If there is a postcard collector in the area, pay him or her a visit. Old picture postcards can be reliable X-marks-the-spot waybills to treasure.

If you are not a member of your local or regional treasure club, consider joining. If no club exists, get together with other hobbyists and start one! While you can’t realistically expect to discover many secret "sweet spots" for finding treasure you can get to know others who share your interest and enthusiasm. I can assure you that swapping treasure tales and techniques broadens everyone’s knowledge, sharpen skills and increases success rates of members. It always helps me!

Don’t be content to work only local beaches. Broaden your scope; it may pay rewards. For example, if you live in northern California, make a study of the history of the San Francisco Bay area. Many ships have gone down there, losing valuable cargo’s of silver and gold, much of which has not been found. Violent storms often churn up ocean bottoms and cast sunken treasure on the beach. Other estuaries and harbors may not yield the precious metals of the Golden Gate, but historical study of any coastal area can often reveal locations for profitable metal detecting.

Never overlook the possibility of finding flotsam and jetsam washing ashore from offshore shipwrecks. Regardless of the age of a wreck, some cargo-especially gold, silver, copper and bronze objects-will probably remain in fair to excellent condition for years, decades or even centuries. Gulf coast and Caribbean shipwreck locations still yield silver and gold from the mines of Mexico and Peru. Gold and silver from California and other western states can be found along the Pacific coast.

When researching reports of shipwrecks, don’t overlook Coast Guard and Life Saving Service records. Newspaper files and local and state histories are good sources of information. Insurance companies and Lloyd’s Register may provide precisely the data you need.

Assategue Island, off the coast of Maryland and Virginia, has proven to be the depository of much cargo from shipwrecks of yesteryear. Treasure hunters, scanning the beaches with their metal detectors, have found valuable coins and relics, some of which "marked" the location of larger treasures. Although much of the island is controlled by the National Seashore Service, portions are open to the public. Permission to search with you metal detector can sometimes be obtained on National Seashores; it never hurts to request permission.

Stay alert to current weather conditions. You’ll want to search at low tides-the lower the better. After storms come ashore, head for the beach. When oil spills deposit tar and oil on beaches, there’s a good possibility bulldozer and other equipment used to remove it can get you much closer to treasure. Watch for beach development work. When pipelines are being laid and when seawalls, breakwaters and piers are being constructed, work these areas of excavation.

I hope these examples of potentially productive areas offer ideas that will encourage you to expand your territory. Treasure hunters often travel thousand of miles in their quest for treasure. You can do likewise, especially if there is a pot of gold (or escudos) at the end of your journey. But, I must stress that considerable local treasure is all around you-wherever you are located. I am positive of this because I know that lost or hidden treasure exist everywhere. Find what’s in your backyard first; then, hit the treasure trail!


To find treasure you must begin by being at the right place at the right time with the right equipment. Research sources will indicate the right place. Discussions of weather, tides and beach selection elsewhere in the Guide should put you there at the right time. Now, you must develop the skill needed to "read" a site. If you learn which features are important and which are not, much of your battle is already won. As you research records, histories and old maps be on the alert for clues to landmarks and locations. For instance, the name of a beach led me to a valuable Spanish icon that is very precious to me. Wouldn’t a name like "Massacre Beach" cause your ears to perk up? Let me tell you of this experience where visual and mental study led me almost directly to one of those "X-marks-the spot" locations.

I was with a group of treasure hunters on the beautiful Caribbean Island of Guadeloupe. Submerged at the entrance to a cove were numerous old and very large anchors protruding a few feet out of the water. Quite an unusual sight! We learned that the anchors had been placed there centuries ago to prevent enemy ships from entering the cove which then served as a harbor. This location had obviously experienced some interesting history. I was intrigued, of course, but primarily by treasures that might have been lost during this history. It took little imagination to visualize enemy ships sailing in with cannons blasting and shore batteries returning the fire. Vessels must have been sunk in that harbor.

Only a short distance away was the area known as Massacre Beach. Such a name stirs the imagination. What scenes of brutality had occurred here? How violent must they have been to mark this pretty place forever as a site of ruthless killing? Could any treasure hunter standing on such a beach resist searching beneath it for artifacts and relics that must surely have been lost in the slaughter? Do any of them still lies somewhere beneath its sands? Where?

As I studied the area, my eye was caught by an outcropping of coral protruding a few inches out of the water and ending abruptly where the sea washed upon dry land. It seemed logical to me that anything ever lost here in the sand could still be trapped by that coral that prevented high water from washing it back into the blue waters of the Caribbean.

Also, I thought of that barrier of anchors and the ships it had been designed to deter. If any of them had ever been sunk in the cove, storms could have hurled treasure from their wreckage onto this beach where objects might still lie captured by the coral. I walked to the edge of the water next to the coral outcropping and turned on my Master Hunter detector. After only a few scans, it sang out with that glorious "sound of money."

At a depth of about one-foot, I dug into a shelf of solid coral that had become smooth from centuries of water and sand abrasion. When I moved my hand over the coral and failed to locate a target, I reasoned that it must be below the coral ledge. I scanned again and heard the detector frantically signally the presence of something large and "valuable." Again, I dug my finger around in the hole, and sought to probe under the coral. My fingernails caught on something that moved. I grasped the object and lifted it out of the water where I first judged it to be just a piece of coral. Looking more carefully as I wiped away the sand, I saw that it was some sort of man-made object either carved or cast out of metal.

This breathtaking discovery proved to be a Spanish icon made of pewter. The Virgin Mary was holding the Christ Child in her arms; halo rays adorned both heads. As companions surrounded me, another member of the group continued scanning and quickly discovered a Spanish cob date 1692. This date, plus features of the icon, date the religious relic to the years just prior to 1700.

Careful study of the are worked in my favor. The name Massacre Beach stirred up my interest. Knowledge of wind and wave action led me almost to the precise location where my metal detector and digging tool completed the search.


Learn from my success at finding the icon. "Reading" a site requires recognition of key features and the forces that my have acted upon them over the years. Beaches protected from winds that cause large waves are more popular than unprotected beaches. For instance, southward-facing beaches on the west of the United States are more protected from prevailing winds and heavy surf than beaches facing west or north. Popular beaches usually feature fine, clean sand with a wide and gradual slope into the water. Remember that changes continually occur as a result of both man and nature. Popular play areas of yesterday may scarcely be recognizable as beaches today. Many such identifiable sections of "lost" beaches can be hunted profitably. Not all are still connected to the mainland; some are separated by lagoons and marshland. Some have been converted into bird and wildlife sanctuaries.


As areas have grown more populated, former swimming beaches have disappeared or been permitted to erode. Land development and new business and industry took precedent over recreation and natural beauty. Breakwaters, harbor extensions, jetties and damming or otherwise diverting streams and rivers have destroyed once-popular play areas. Treasure lost there years ago, however, will remain forever-or, until it is found. Search out these treasure vaults and reap a harvest.

Obvious other places to search for beach treasure are man-made spots. Walk onto a beach and observe people at play. Watch children of all ages as they frolic. Then, when they tire of that activity, watch them scoot away. Coins fall from pockets…rings slip off of fingers…bracelets, necklaces and chains fall into the sand as young people play their games. Other more subtle games are being played on beach chairs and blankets, but wherever people relax, coins and jewelry fall into the sand.

Search around trails, walkways and boardwalks. Never pass up an opportunity to scan the base of seawalls and stone fences. People without chairs often camp by these structures where they can lean back. Always search under picnic tables and beaches. Sure, you’ll find lots of bottlecaps and pulltabs, but you will also find coins, toys and other valuable objects. Search around food stands, bathhouses, shower stalls, dressing sheds and water fountains and under piers and stairs. Posts and other such obstacles are good "traps" where treasure can be found.


WINDS, TIDES AND WEATHER-Wouldn’t it be great if the ocean suddenly receded several feet, leaving your favorite hunting beach high and dry? You could walk right out and recover lost treasure so much more easily. Well, the ocean does recede slightly every day during low tide. About twice a day a full tide cycle occurs-two high and two low tides. It’s low tide that interests the treasure hunter…when the water level has dropped, leaving more beach area exposed. A drop of only a few inches in tide level can take the ocean several yards farther out, especially on gently sloping swimming beaches. This exposes more beach to be searched and also makes more shallow surf area available.

You can learn when maximum low tides occur by reading tide tables in newspapers or obtaining them from scuba shops or fishing tackle stores. Weathermen on radio and television in coastal cities often report times of high and low tides. On some days, especially after a new or full moon, tides will be lower than usual. Take advantage of these opportunities.

The successful beach hunter begins working at least two hours before low die and continues that long after the ocean begins to rise. That’s four to six hours of improved hunting. Be alert to lowest of ebb tides when you can work beach areas not normally exposed. Timing search periods is important. I try to wok dry beaches during high tides and then follow the tide out, working a parallel path hugging the water’s edge. Each return path is nearly parallel to the preceding one. When the length of the paths is too long, each path will veer outward as the water recedes. Wide searchcoil sweeps can offset these veering paths.

Listen regularly to weather reports and forecasts to learn of prevailing winds. Strong offshore (outgoing) winds will lower the water level and reduce size and force of breakers. Such offshore winds also spread out sand at the water’s edge, reducing the amount that lies over the blanket of treasure. On the other hand, incoming wind and waves tend to pile sand up, causing it to increase in depth. Pay attention to winds and tides, especially during storms.

Weather is a contributing factor to tide levels, which can be dramatically altered by storms and high winds. A big blow moving in from sea may raise normal tides by several feet. When this occurs, wave action can become so violent that it is impossible and dangerous to hunt-even far up on the beach. But, the stage is set, and you should hit the beach when calm returns.

Conversely, an outgoing storm can cause lower tides and a compression of wave heights. These conditions and the changes they cause is a continuing process that controls sand deposits on the beach and in shallow water.

Storms often transfer treasure from deep-water vaults to shallower locations. Plan a beach search immediately following a squall. If you are hardy enough, try working during the storm itself. It may be revealing, Indian John told me of working a Florida beach during a deluge. Suddenly, at water’s edge, a gully began forming before his eyes. As it grew deeper, he suddenly caught the unmistakable glint of treasure. I don’t know how much he took from that glory hole, but he smiles when he tells the story.

Always remember that extremes in weather, wind and tides can make unproductive beaches suddenly become productive. Storms play havoc with beach sands. Fast-running currents that drain a beach can wash deep gullies in the sand to bring you closer to the blanket of treasure.

Sand formations, Nature’s Traps-

Another reason for working beaches immediately after a storm is that the beach continually reshapes and protects itself. Sands shift normally to straighten t he beachfront and present the least possible shoreline to the sea’s continuous onslaught. During storms, beach levels decrease as sand washes out to form underwater bars which blunt the destructive force of oncoming waves. Following the storm, waves return this sand to the beach.

To understand how articles continually move around in the shallow ocean, consider the action of waves upon sand. At the water’s edge, particles of sand from the sand bank. When a wave comes in, sudden immersion in water causes the grains of sand to "lighten" and become more or less suspended in the water. Such constant churning keeps particles afloat until the next wave comes in. The floating particles are then carried some distance by the force of the water.


In the same manner, coins, jewelry, seashells and debris are continually relocated, generally in the direction of prevailing wind and waves. As they move, waves and wind carry material until a spot is reached where force of the water lessens. Heavy objects fall out and become concentrated in "nature’s traps." So, whenever you find a concentration of seashells, gravel, flotsam, driftwood and other debris, work these areas with your metal detector.

Similarly, look for tidal pools and long, water-filled depressions on the beach. Any areas holding water should be investigated since these low spots put you closer to the blanket of treasure. As the tide recedes, watch for streams draining back into the ocean. These will locate low areas where you can get your searchcoil closer to the treasure.

As experience accumulates, you will discover "mislocated" treasure in areas away from people. How did this happen? Perhaps this is where people used to congregate; it might once have been a swimming beach. Then, for some reason, the old beach was abandoned along with its treasure. Another reason is natural erosion that redeposit objects. Even though such action is seldom permanent, always keep in mind the forces that cause it to happen-and watch for them in action. These forces do not occur accidentally, and they can create treasure vaults for you to find and unload.

When searching a large area of beach, you should clearly define your area of search and systematically scan every square foot. There are many grid methods to use, some simple, some elaborate. The simplest perhaps is to guide on your previous tracks as you double back and forth. Using a stick or other object you can draw squares in the sand. Work the first square completely and then draw an adjoining square and work it. These methods work if others don’t destroy your tracks and lines as fast as you make them.

You can drive stakes into the ground or just guide yourself on piers, trash containers, trees and other permanent objects.

When not following the tide out, some hobbyists prefer to walk a path parallel to the water. They then turn around, move about two feet away from the water and walk a return path. Others prefer to start at the high water mark and scan down to the water. They then turn around and walk a return path about two feet tot the side of their first path. This second method has more merit since it permits treasure troughs to be spotted more quickly.

Here’s how. These troughs, or "cut" areas that bring you closer to bedrock and the treasure blanket lying there, sometimes form parallel to the water line. When the tide goes out, the troughs fill with sand; still, they can sometimes be found. While scanning a path between high tide and the water’s edge, each time a find is made, either mark the location or remember it. After you have scanned some distance down the beach and made several finds, look back and study where you have worked. Observe the location of your finds to see if a pattern is developing. Most may have occurred in a narrow belt parallel to the waterline. If so, you’ve probably discovered the location of a buried trough where a storm or other wind and wave action have created a treasure vault. Empty it!

When selecting a beach on which to walk your grid pattern, seek one where you earlier observed a cut forming perpendicular to the waterline. High tides or waves pouring back into the ocean form these cuts, usually at low spot that have resulted from previous storms. Remember, cuts are important to you because they bring you closer to treasure; also, coins and jewelry washing off a beach are pushed into these cuts by streams of draining water.

Now that you will be searching in patterns rather than randomly, you will soon see the value of keeping precise logs of your treasure finds. Even with others working the same beach, it is likely that valuable patterns will emerge on the pages of your notebook that will lead you directly to "hot spots." You may think that with others and yourself steadily working a particular beach, all its treasure would soon be recovered. Why keep track, you may ask. You’ll learn, however, that active beaches are continually replenished by "new" lost treasure and that all beaches add "old" treasures that tempests have withdrawn from deeply hidden storerooms.

Pay attention the next time you get close to turbulent surf. When a wave breaks near the beach, notice that water appears brown because of suspended sand. Crashing waves transport this sand onto the beach. If the waves are breaking perpendicularly j-at a ninety degree angle to the beach front- most of this sand is washed right back out to sea by the receding water.

Waves rarely break perpendicularly; rather, they bring sand in at an angle that sets up a current. This angle of transport washes sand to either side of its origination point. Some of the displaced sand remains on the beach and some is washed out to a new location. The result of this action is sand movement in the general direction of the waves.

Understanding this phenomenon is important because the same "ocean transport system" via storms and high waves causes a redistribution of treasure from the point where it was lost to its present location awaiting your metal detector. The ability of water to move heavier-than-sand material depends on its speed. Large waves and fast-moving currents can carry sand, coins and jewelry along a continuous path. When wave action slows down, movement subsides. When wave action picks up, movement resumes. Growing shores are "nourished" by material that has been eroded from a nearby stretch of beach. Heavy treasure takes the path of least resistance, moving along the lowest points of cuts and other eroded areas. As coins and jewelry are swept into new beach areas, they become fill along with the new sand. Being heavier, they gradually sink to lower levels and become covered. When a beach or shore area has become fully "nourished," the buildup essentially stops, leaving the treasure buried and awaiting the signal of a metal detector.

Since shorelines and beaches are continually being reshaped, you must be observant. One key to success is establishing permanent tide and sand markers. Such markers can be a piling or structure readily visible at any time. Ideally, your water marker will be somewhat submerged during both high and low tides. Checking this marker lets you measure water depth at all times to learn if the water is rising or falling.

Your marker in the sand is important because it is a gauge of sand height. Chances of finding treasure increase as more of this marker is exposed, indicating low sand levels. There are high and low sand formations. At low levels you may find treasure as it becomes uncovered by the action of wind and waves. High formations do you no good except to serve as gauges when storms erode cliffs. Imaginative beachcombers expect such erosion to reveal accumulations of debris and treasure that have been buried for decades. As noted earlier, stay alert for references to old settlements or ghost towns. What has been covered for generations may be uncovered before your eyes.


Do not race across the sand with your searchcoil waving in front of you. Slow down! Work methodically in a pre-planned pattern. Unless you are in a hurry and seek only shallow, recently lost treasure, reduce scan speed to about one foot per second. Let the searchcoil just skim the sands and keep it level throughout the length of a sweep. Overlap each sweep by advancing your searchcoil about one-half its diameter. Always scan in a straight line. This improves your ability to maintain correct and uniform searchcoil height, helps eliminate the "upswing" at the end of each sweep and improves your ability to overlap in a uniform manner, thus minimizing skips. Practice this method; you’ll soon come to love it-and, especially its results.

It would be well to mention "hot rocks" here. Gravel on the beach may sometimes include pieces with enough mineral content to be classified as a detectable hot rock. A VLF detector occasionally gets a good reading on one of these rocks and sounds off with a "metal" signal. When this happens, set your discriminating mode to zero rejection, switch into that mode and scan back over the gravel. If it is a hot rock, your detector will ignore it, or the sound level will decrease slightly. The subject of hot rocks is covered more fully in my book, Modern Metal Detectors.

Don’t ignore either very loud or very faint detector signals. Always determine the source. If a loud signal seems to come from a can or other large object, remove it and scan the spot again. When you heave a very faint signal, scoop out some sand to get your searchcoil closer to the target and scan again. If the signal has disappeared, scan the sand you scooped out-you may have detected a very small target. It might be only a BB, but at least you’ll know what caused the signal.

Remember, Your metal detector will never lie to you. When it gives a signal, something is there.

During your search near the water, when you begin detecting trash (pulltabs?) in a line parallel to the waterline, search for a nearby parallel trough. Remember that more than one trough may have been created, and that those farther out can contain heavier treasure items. Walk out from your "trash trough" and seek out one that produces keepers.

When pinpointing, always try to be precise. Good pinpointing saves time and lessens the possibility of damaging your finds when you dig.

Various pinpointing and retrieving ideas and methods have been reviewed. Here are a couple of final suggestions that could increase your take. As part of your beach gear, consider adding a garden rake. When you encounter debris, seaweed and other materials spread over an area you want to scan, use the rake to remove such material. Try to place raked materials where they can be picked up by beach cleaners and not washed back out to sea. Removal of any overburden will let you scan your searchcoil closer to the ground, moving you down just a little closer to those deep treasures.

Try exploratory trenching to clean out deep troughs and locate glory holes. Choose a spot where you have found a concentration of good objects (not items flung from a blanket) and dig (as long as it’s legal) a trench about a foot deep. This trench should be wide enough for you to insert your searchcoil in its normal scanning position. Be sure to scan the sand you dig out. The trench length can be as long as you like. If you are digging in a spot where you have found several items close together, determine if you are in a natural drainage pattern. If so, dig toward the low side (the direction water flows) because that is the direction that coins and jewelry will have been washed. If your trench is being dug to locate a trough, dig in a perpendicular direction to the "line" along which you were locating targets. You may have to dig several parallel trenches to locate the trough.

No matter, where or how much you dig…always fill your trenches and remove trash that you uncover.


This matter of trash on a beach is one that daily becomes more urgent to all of us beachcombers. I refer especially to plastic trash that is more than just unsightly. Fish and sea birds become entangled in six-pack rings; sea turtles mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and swallow them; birds peck at plastic pellets and feed them to their young. Similar harm results from countless other plastic items that are carelessly discarded on our nation’s beaches every day. What can a beachcomber do about it?

Most metal detectorists carry out the metal trash they dig because all treasure hunters benefit from its removal. But, what about non-metallic trash? Certainly, none of us carries around a container large enough to hold all the plastic trash and broken glass we find in only a few hours. Let’s join together to help, however and dispose properly of as much trash as we can. We perform a service not only for all beachcombers and sun worshippers but for sea creatures and bird life as well. How about if…can’t we join together and help one another?


One of the great thrills of beach hunting is that "big one" that always awaits… your chance to strike it rich. I’m very serious when I suggest that you always be on the alert for treasure stories and legends. Don’t ignore those tales of missing treasures…of great losses and "almost" or partial recoveries. Not only will this add excitement to your hobby, but the stories sometimes prove to be true!

Before you spend too much time seeking the mythical "pot o’ gold," however, you should attempt to verify the sea story you are following. Major concerns before you get yourself seriously involved in tracking legends are, first, to make certain that the treasure ever actually existed; then, to locate the precise spot where it is rumored to have been lost or where it was only partially recovered. Remember that beaches run for miles and that names of various areas can change regularly. Also, the appearance of beaches change. Erosion may take years to alter a beach radically, but storms can transform its appearance in just a few hours.

Investigate stories and legends before ever turning on your metal detector. Check newspapers, police records, historical societies, local coin shops. Uncover sufficient information to convince yourself beyond the shadow of a doubt that the facts are correct. Then, you can pursue the tale, knowing that what you are searching for actually exists. When you locate unusual treasures on the beach, look more closely at nearby land and sea areas; you may have located a sunken treasure ship!


Schedule your beachcombing expeditions according to current (hourly) weather reports. Stay alert to weather forecasts and go prepared to withstand worst.

Plan your treasure hunting expedition. Make a list of all you will need the day before you make the trip and check all gear carefully before you leave.

Always put batteries at the head of your list (see above). And, always check your batteries first if your detector should stop working. Some hobbyists take these longer life batteries for granted and expect them to last forever. Believe me, they won’t. You’d be amazed at how many broken detectors can be "repaired" with new batteries.

Take along a friend, if possible. If you go alone, leave word where you’ll be. Always carry identification that includes one or more telephone numbers or persons to call (with a quarter for the pay phone taped to the list). Your personal doctor’s name should be on this list.

Be wary of driving in loose sand. Carry along a towrope and a shovel. You may need someone to pull you out of trouble, or you may have to dig ramps for your wheels if a tow vehicle isn’t handy.

If there are no regulations to the contrary, you may want to search among crowds. But, don’t annoy anyone. Angering the wrong person can result in immediate trouble, or you may find a complaint filed against you personally and the metal detector fraternity in general. You certainly wouldn’t want to cause a beach to be put off limits for metal detecting.

Whenever possible, return any find to its owner. Try to oblige when someone asks your help in recovering a lost article. It might be feasible for you to loan them your detector and teach them how to use it. Who know? You might add a new member to our brotherhood. When helping look for a lost article, it’s a good idea to keep its owner close by throughout the search so that they will know whether you succeed or not. If you can’t find the article, get their name or address; you might find it another day.

Do not enter posted or "No trespassing" beaches without obtaining permission. Even in states where you are certain that all beaches are open to the public, do not search fenced or posted areas without permission. Never argue with a "loaded shotgun;" leave such property owners to themselves.

Finally, remember that modern metal detector is a wonderful scientific instrument. It searches beneath the sand, where you cannot see. It is always vigilant about the presence of metal. But, no detector can "do it all." You must develop powers of observation that keep you attentive to what a detector cannot see. Watch for the unusual! Sometimes you’ll visually locate money, marketable seashells or other valuables. The real benefit of developing keen po9wers of observation, however, is to enable you to enjoy the glories of the beach to their fullest and never to overlook the signposts pinpointing to detectable treasure.

As you scan along the waterline and observe the sands under the water, you may eye a coin shining in the water. Check the spot with your detector. Perhaps you ground only a freshly dropped coin, or it could be the top layer of much greater treasure. And, how about that rock outcropping, the gravel or shells peeking through the sand, that accumulation of debris…any of these might mark the location of a glory hold. Remain alert and be rewarded!

There’s treasure to be found near the water! And, vast amounts are waiting…enough for all. I sincerely hope that you’ll join the rest of us beachcombers in searching for this lost and hidden wealth. When you do, perhaps I’ll see you on the beach!



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