Have you just taken up the hobby of metal detecting? Perhaps you have been out hunting a few times or you're still deciding which metal detector to buy. When you begin treasure hunting with your new metal detector, three big questions pop up:
Wow- this is cool! What is it?
Should I try to clean it?
Is this worth any money?
Only second in importance to finding something with your metal detector is identifying what you have found! Often times, you can tell it's interesting and looks valuable, but you have no idea what the object is or what it was used for. First of all...don't try to clean it right away. Before you know how to clean your find, you need to identify it. With an old or rare coin, there are books, magazines and web sites that can help you determine its value. When it comes to relics, there are a few different ways to identify them. One suggestion is to post a photo of your find in a metal detecting community, such as the FindMall. Fellow diggers with lots of experience are usually happy to help people identify things they have uncovered. Other ideas: check out the antique section at your local library or book store; or pick up the magazine Western and Eastern Treasures. It has a feature column called, "Ask Mark Parker." He is famous for identifying relics found with a metal detector, so if other inquiries come up empty, you could send him a request.
How to Identify Old Coins
If coin hunting is your niche, you will undoubtedly come across old and/or possibly rare coins with Numismatic value—and they may be valuable! To determine their worth, you will need to do some research. The internet is a great tool, because simply typing in mint dates, symbols or writing on the face of your coin should pull up either a profile of the coin itself or a wealth of other helpful information. Coin hunting experts also recommend a book called, The Official Red Book. It is specifically about identifying American coins. If you need foreign coins identified, two resources include: The World Encyclopedia of Coins & Coin Collecting and Standard Catalog of World Coins.
Identifying Relics and other Artifacts
Relics can sometimes be difficult to identify because of their metal composition and how long they've been buried. Because of rust, corrosion and decomposition, some artifacts bear only a slight resemblance to what they originally looked like. Depending on which region of the country you're in, you may stumble upon some valuable war relics. Some of the common relics you may find include:
Bullets and shell casings. Bullets come from many origins—law enforcement, shooting ranges, military, hunters and criminals. Civil War bullets are prized collectibles.
Military buttons. Revolutionary and Civil War buttons are highly sought after and can be sold or traded.
Old homestead items including timepieces, broaches, pins, parts from inkwells and pens.
Buckles from soldier's uniforms, horse saddle clasps or cowboy buckles.
Antique toys, tin soldiers, costume jewelry
Trade tokens- these were popular centuries ago and again among businesses in the first half of the 20th century.
How to Determine if Jewelry is Real or Fake
Hopefully, some of the treasure you find will be jewelry. Whether you've found an old broach or a new bracelet, there's a chance it's real gold. Detectorists share exciting stories about finding gold or platinum rings with diamonds, emeralds, rubies or other precious stones. Some hobbyists look for engravings so they can return wedding rings to their owners. Others sell their jewelry finds. So, how can you tell if a ring is really gold or if the stones are real? There are tools that can help you identify jewelry. One is a jeweler's loupe. A loupe is used to magnify metal and gemstones. Experts say 10x magnification is ideal for inspecting jewelry to look for its markings. For rings, most of the markings will be along the inside of the band. For necklaces, chains and bracelets, most markings are near the clasp. For earrings, check the backside of the earring. The markings will tell you what the jewelry is made of. For a full list of common jewelry marks, check the internet. A few common examples: 14k means 14 karat gold. It can be white, yellow or rose. .417 also means 14 karat gold. 18k is 18 karat gold; .750 also means 18 karat gold. PLAT means platinum.
A jewelry mark does not guarantee that it is real because there are lots of counterfeit pieces out there. To be sure, you can test the authenticity of metal. An acid test kit is made to test the different purities of metal. First, you have to scratch a small portion of the jewelry on a small stone. Then, place a drop of acid on the stone where you scratched the metal object. If the metal residue dissolves, the item is not real. If it doesn't dissolve, you're in luck—the metal is real! Obviously, if you want a professional opinion, you should take your jewelry find to an appraiser.
Treasure hunting is a thrilling hobby! Every day, people are unearthing treasure with their metal detectors around the world.