There have been plenty of eye-popping news stories about people using metal detectors to uncover precious artifacts—ancient coins, precious jewelry, gold nuggets, maybe even a piece of Charles I’s crown? (The Brits always have the best finds).
As exciting as these discoveries are, the odds of finding such items is low, and it can depend on your experience, the metal detector you use, the locations you are exploring, and crucially, your dedication. You could make a bit of extra cash with a metal detector, but don’t expect to make a living off of it—maybe just $20 a week. Then again, the prospect of a big find is tantalizing, too, but you’ll have to invest time and money and develop some knowhow if you hope to do it—and be prepared to uncover a lot of old rusty nails along the way.
How metal detecting can pay
If you’re lucky enough to discover valuable objects while metal detecting, just remember that they have to offset expenses—your time is money, metal detectors cost thousands of dollars, and you will likely have travel expenditures, too.
Plus, you might not get to keep the treasure, even if you find one. While most states have a finders-keepers treasure trove law, some states require that found items worth $100 or more be handed over to police.
Realistically, you’ll probably make more money working as a professional detector searching for people’s lost jewelry. You could join sites like the the Ring Finders, allowing people in your area to recruit you as a local metal detector. Note, however, that professional detectors tend to only charge for gas money and a $25-50 “call out fee” (for the bother, if nothing turns up), and usually work on a “reward basis” (pay what you can). The joy in finding someone’s lost wedding ring might be its own reward, but you probably don’t want to consider doing it as much more than a hobby.
Another option for making money is by running a popular metal detecting YouTube channel, but you’d really have to invest time and some money into that first (for more on making money on YouTube, see this Lifehacker post ).
Aside from that, who knows—maybe you’ll find some hidden treasure under your porch, after all?
Тhеrе аrе mаnу fеdеrаl, ѕtаtе, аnd lосаl lаwѕ, оrdіnаnсеѕ, аnd rеgulаtіоns restricting where you can do metal detecting. Don’t try it in national parks, near monuments, or on historic battlefields or some Native American lands. People who ignore the rules tend to give the hobby a bad name, which is why many detectors follow a code of ethics.
For more information on legal considerations, check out this post from metal detecting blog Tech Metals Research.