Revealing the treasure you’ve found

Image of a coin ball, commons metal detector finds.

A coin ball – can you find the coin in this picture?

You got up early, you had already done your research and knew where you were going. The day was simply beautiful and the location was peaceful. It had rained a couple of days before, so the ground was easy to dig. Every thing went very well.

The metal detector finds were going to be good today, you could feel it. You were right, your treasure pouch got filled pretty easily. Days like these are the reason we hunt for treasure. Now, you realize there is more to do.

The fun part is coming up as a lot of our metal detector finds have been in the ground for a long while and have years of dirt and conditioning. The dirt has a lot of elements in it that can react to certain metals. The condition of most of your days recoveries will require some type of cleaning. The coins you will find need to be treated carefully.

Condition, Condition, Condition

Image of freshly dug metal detector find

Depending on where you are metal detecting, the area and the age of the ground and its use, will determine the age of most of your metal detector finds. If the swimming pool was built in the 1980’s, chances are you will not locate any silver coins. The silver standard was taken out of circulated coins in 1965. All coins before 1965 were 90% silver, excluding pennies and nickels of course.

Cleaning these crusty critters can be a lot less tedious with newer coins. I say this because you do not have to be as careful in cleaning the newer coins. The older coins of course need to be treated with care. The first three golden rules in coin collecting is condition, condition, condition. Any numismatist will explain this to you. Never clean a coin. This can represent a problem for some of our finds. All our metal detector finds will come out of the ground dirty. So how do we approach this situation.

Do not scrub metal detector finds

Different Metals Require Different Treatment

Our metal detector finds will vary as wide as the area we searched. I have found everything from ankle bracelets to Zenith T.V. knobs, and everything in between. Cleaning up most of what the metal detector finds is fairly straight forward. I prefer to let the bounty soak in a bowl of warm soapy water for a little while. This will start to remove the built up of dirt and grime.

The fascinating thing about finding silver and gold coins is, you will find they come out of the ground the same way they went in. As a old digger friend of mine used to say, “Shiny as the day they were lost”. The silver and gold are less reactive and will not oxidize as the clad coinage will, so there is really no need to clean them. Leave them as they are.

“If Coca-Cola can clean up and old coin like that, just think what a wonderful job it will do of keeping my intestines clear, and my family and I have been drinking it ever since.”
― Terry Ravenscroft, Dear Coca-Cola

Copper of course will come out green, especially if it has been in the ground for awhile. I have dug up Indian pennies over 6 inches in the ground. They came out as green as the grass I found them in. Copper will oxidize. I was told from an old timer friend of mine that if you soak copper pennies, that have turned green, in good olive oil, it with turn them back to brown. I have tried this, however I gave up after a couple of months, unfortunately I did not get a time frame from the old guy who shared this with me. However, I have read since that this is indeed a technique to try.

The Penny

This brings us to new pennies. The copper penny is no longer a copper penny, it was not cost effective to produce anymore. The U.S. Mint found it cost more to make a copper penny than it was worth at face value. As of this writing the copper in a copper penny is 160% more valuable. The last copper penny was minted in 1982 after that time the copper was taken out of them. There was actually 8 different varieties of the penny minted in 1982.

The new pennies are made out of zinc which is then copper plated. This does not hold up well to the conditions underground. When the metal detector finds one of these pennies, many times it will comes out of the ground in bad shape. I have personally run my pick right through them when probing the ground to find the target. I have found them almost disintegrated. That is a shame. It seems to me that this will limit the metal detector finds in the future.

Metal dector finds and a close up look  at a penny oxidizing

A close up look at modern penny oxidation

I have had people say, “Well it’s only a penny”. True treasure hunters will see it as more than just a penny. It is a little piece of history, something somebody lost, it wound up there, and you found it for a reason. I see no problem when a metal detector finds clad coinage. They do however come out of the ground discolored.

Now, back to the metal detector finds that have been soaking in the soapy water. I will rinse the water out a couple of times and put in clean soapy water.  I use an old soft toothbrush and scrub the treasures gently under warm running water, including the clad coins.

It is acceptable to mildly clean a coin this way that has come out of the ground, however do not polish it with any type of cleaner or polish. Remember not to polish or clean gold or silver coins. It is OK to wash them off but DO NOT scrub them with anything. It is quite possible one of your finds could be a rare coin, especially gold or silver coins.

Other Metal Detector Finds

Your other finds can be cleaned as I said earlier by just washing and scrub lightly. Do not ever scrub hard or polish a token or medal or tag, until you have identified what it is. I have seen old dog tags go for a healthy sum. I once saw, on the Antiques Roadshow, a slave tag appraised at $15,ooo.

The treasures the metal detector finds can be as varied as the places you choose to treasure hunt. The small stuff the metal detector finds, you can clean without worry, thimbles, keys, toy cars, etcetera. That kind of treasure needs to have the dirt taken off of it. Most jewelry will be safe to clean, just be careful of the gemstone settings, they may be loose.

Metal detector finds thimbals

Most of all, use your better judgement for cleaning your treasure. If you are completely unsure, leave it alone and take it to a jeweler or an antique dealer.

Now that you have your digs for the day all cleaned up, its time to line everything up and admire. Feel proud with your metal detector finds in front of you because there lies true history.

Good Digging!

  1. Amber

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