The Dirt Fisher – Metal Detecting for Fun and Profit

Metal Detecting Terminology

As with many other hobbies, metal detecting has a lot of terminology and lingo that can leave a beginner puzzled.  If you are new to the hobby of metal detecting or relic hunting, then you will certainly want to brush up on the terms below.

(If you can think of anything missing from this list, please offer a suggestion in the comments below. – Thx)

You will often hear this in reference to jewelery objects found.  High quality Sterling silver will usually have a .925 stamped on it.

Barber dimes were minted in the U.S. from 1879 – 1917.  These silver dimes are a great find and highly sought after by coin shooters.

Any jewelry that has no significant value or precious metal content.  This term is often used with costume jewelry finds.

A cache is a number of coins and/or jewelry items that appear to have deliberately been buried together.  Often this would occur in a mason jar, a can, or some type of box.  People in the old days didn’t often trust the banks and resorted to burying their valuables.  Finding a cache is often a dream of many metal detectorists.

A coinshooter is a detectorist that specifically sets out to search for old coins.

Dinged (Dinged it)
If you nick a coin or other object that you are attempting to recover from the ground, you will often hear “I dinged it”.  This is bad news especially when you are recovering old coins, because it lowers the monetary and aesthetic value.

The emitting of different tones for different types of metals.  A metal detector ‘eliminates’ certain metals, it is said to ‘discriminate’ against those types of metals.  Discrimination is an important feature for avid detectorists, because it allows you to ignore trash and other objects that would be undesirable.  You will often see coin hunters and jewelery hunters discriminating iron, so they can cut out the chatter and get alerted for good signals.  Relic hunters on the other hand, will not discriminate iron, because old tools and goods were commonly manufactured from iron.

When metals are ‘eliminated’ it means that the detector will not emit a tone or even light up when the specified object is passed through the search coil’s detection field.

Metals that are made of or contain iron.

Ground Balancing
A feature of better quality metal detectors which allows it to sense and ignore the earth’s naturally occurring minerals.  Highly mineralized soil can often result in a lot of ‘chatter’ from your detector.  Ground balancing allows you to ignore those minerals in the soil and only be alerted when a metal object is detected.

This is a common metal that is often a low-grade target for coin and jewelery hunters.  Things like old cans, pipes, bolts, and nails are often composed of iron.  There are many desirable targets for relic hunters that are made of iron.  These can be things like cannon balls, tools, old arms, etc.

U.S. pennies minted since 1959 have the Lincoln Memorial monument on the back, instead of the wheat backs used prior to that date.  Also called Stinkin’ Lincolns.

These 90% silver dimes were minted from 1916 – 1945 in the U.S.  Mercury dimes are a great find.

The process of determining the exact location of a buried object.  This allows you to dig a smaller hole and recover the object more quickly.  Many metal detectors have a pinpointing capability that helps to determine the location and depth of the object.  Hand-held pinpointers are typically used to help locate the item once a hole has been opened in the ground.

A plug is the grass and dirt that is carefully removed from the ground, allowing you to gain access to the object beneath the surface.  “Cutting a plug” is a practice used by ethical metal detectorists in an effort to perform as little damage as possible to the ground.  The plug can be replaced and tamped back down, often leaving no sign that you ever dug in that spot.

Very desirable to coinshooters, a pocketspill is where you find multiple coins in a single hole.  This often could occur from people sitting in the grass and having multiple coins fall out of their pocket in close proximity to each other.  Always double-check your holes for additional signals to see if you are onto a pocketspill.

A relic is an item or object of interest with an association to the past often due to its age.  Relics are often made of iron, bronze, lead, or precious metals.

A term often used for an found item that is seriously corroded.  Roached coins will have little monetary or emotional value when found, and often you will not be able to even read any dates on them.

A rosie is another name for a U.S. dime that was minted between 1946 – 1964.  They are desirable because they contain 90% silver.  They bear the image of President Roosevelt on the face and the olive branch, torch, and oak branch on the back.

If you hear a detectorist say they have “roundness in the hole” then they have likely found a coin or a button.

Stinkin’ Lincolns
A U.S. penny often minted from 1959 to present.  Pennies prior to this date are often just referred to as Wheaties.  Finding “Stinkin’ Lincolns” is often a source of frustration when you have hopes of finding older or silver coins.  Modern day pennies are common finds that offer little value or excitement.

Wheatie / Wheat Penny / Wheat Back
U.S. pennies minted from 1909 – 1958.  They bear the wheat stalks on the back of the coin, hence giving it its name.


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