Getting Started

To get started you need to have a detector, most people getting into metal detecting for the first time have no idea what detector to buy so we have put together this handy buying guide to help you choose which detector is best for you.

After selecting a metal detector, we recommend spending some time going over the user manual to familiarise yourself with the features of your detector.

Once you’ve done this it is a good idea to practice in the backyard before embarking on your first metal detecting adventure. All you need to do is place some coins and other metal objects such as nails around the backyard and move your detector over them. The basic technique for metal detecting is to ‘go slow and stay low’. This means that the speed that you sweep the coil across the ground should be slow, and the coil should pass across the ground in an even sweep that is as close to the ground as possible. Listen to the sound or signal your detector makes, you will begin to understand what finding a coin sounds like.

Once you are confident with your metal detector you can begin treasure hunting out in the field!  

Read on for:



To have a successful day out treasure hunting in the field it’s important that you have the right equipment and accessories. Here’s a checklist to help you when you head out:

What to wear:

  • Comfortable clothing suitable for the weather conditions
  • Hat and sunscreen
  • Appropriate eyewear – sunglasses and/or goggles for use when digging
  • Sturdy footwear (no steel toe boots)

A basic kit should include:

  • Water for drinking and cleaning finds
  • Gloves
  • Digging tools
  • Container or bag to keep your finds safe
  • A basic first aid kit
  • Insect repellent
  • Notepad and pencil
  • Mobile phone
  • Spare batteries
  • Pin pointer
  • A bag to keep your metal detector in
  • And most importantly your metal detector!
  • If you are travelling to a remote area, always advise someone of your movements and check back in with them when you get home again.


Get to Know the Lingo

In the metal detecting world there is often a lot of jargon used, so we’ve broken it down for you.




Non rechargeable battery recommended for most detectors by the manufacturers.

All metal mode

A setting available on some detectors allowing them to detect any kind of metal (ferrous or non-ferrous).


Manmade objects found whilst detecting. We normally refer to buckles, buttons, musket balls and other finds as artefacts, but not coins.


an acronym for all ‘all terrain’, a term often used to describe specific models of metal detectors that can be used on all types of terrain. 

Audio ID

This is available on a number of detectors to identify a target by an audible tone.

Coil cover

Protective plastic cover which fits on to the underside of the coil. The coil cover should remain on the coil during use to prevent scratches and damage to the coil. It is cheaper to replace a coil cover than it is to replace a coil so these are highly recommended.

Coin Shooting

Hunting for coins regardless of location or era of coins targeted.


A type of search coil with two circular coils tuned to each other to produce a cone shaped search matrix (see coils).

Control box

Contains the detector's main circuitry, controls, speaker, batteries and microprocessor chip.


How far in the ground an object is buried.


Informal term for a metal detector.


Someone who uses a metal detector for a hobby.


The ability of a metal detector to reject a target, such as a pull tab and foil or accept a target such as a coin or jewellery based on its metallic composition.


A term used in Australia and New Zealand referring to prospecting for precious metals and gemstones.


The number of times per second the energy transmitted from a detector's coil changes direction (e.g. 7.0 kHz = 7000 times per second) - higher frequencies are typically used to find targets such as gold nuggets, while lower frequencies are best for general purpose hunting.

Gold pan

A bowl-shaped, shallow container that traps gold flakes.

Ground Balance

An adjustment made to 'cancel' or ignore ground mineralization; may be done manually or automatically

Metal detector

An electronic device that is used to search for buried metal objects. It gives an audible signal and visual display when it is close to metal.


When you use a metal detector or a device called a ‘pin pointer or pin pointer probe’ to find your target or object with greater accuracy.


Searching for gem stones, minerals, coins, gold, jewellery and other metals.

Pulse Induction

‘PI’ is a different type of technology to a VLF detector, designed specifically for highly mineralised (and salt) soils. This type of detector transmits and receives alternatively many hundred times a second, allowing it to still detect metallic objects in extreme soil conditions. A downside to this technology is that PI detectors are poor discriminators of ferrous metals.


An object surviving from an earlier time, especially one of historical interest.

Search coil

Also referred to as the ‘coil’, the search coil is the flat, typically circular disk swept over the ground to sense the presence of metal


Synonymous with Depth, the adjustment that determines how deep or small a target can be detected - the higher the sensitivity, the greater the detection depth.


Any metallic item sensed by a detector.

VLF Detector

‘Very Low Frequency’ or ‘Constant Wave’ metal detector. This type of detector is continuously transmitting and receiving at all times. An advantage of this system is that VLF detectors are excellent discriminators.


Metal Detecting Code Of Conduct

As with other sports and hobbies, there is a code of conduct you must adhere to when metal detecting. Below are the basics to follow:

  • Ask permission – always ask permission if you want to detect on private property
  • Fill in your holes – there is a right way to dig a hole so that you can fill it again easily after searching – see diagram below on how to dig a plug
  • Respect private property
  • Leave all gates as found
  • Do not disturb/destroy old structures
  • Do not detect in National Parks or Heritage Listed locations.
  • Check with your local Council regarding detecting in Parks. Some Councils have by-laws prohibiting this and fines apply.
  • You must hold a relevant permit for your State when fossicking for gold, minerals or gemstones (fees and charges subject to change). Most Australian States and Territories and New Zealand have designated public fossicking areas. See details below on fossicking permits.
  • Remember that when you are out with your metal detector you are an ambassador for the hobby. Don’t do anything that might give it a bad name and never miss an opportunity to explain your hobby to anyone who asks about it.

Diagram 1 – how to dig a plug

Fossicking Permits

Below is a list of permit details for each Australian State and Territory and New Zealand.

  • NSW: No licence is required for recreational fossicking in NSW unless you are planning on fossicking in State forests, a permit can be obtained online and is $27.50 for 12 months and covers a family of five. To apply online click here.

For general information about fossicking in New South Wales, visit the website here

  • VIC: In VIC you must obtain a Miner’s Right permit for fossicking and prospecting.  The Miner’s Right is $20.40 for 10 years and can be purchased online here.

For more information about prospecting and fossicking in Victoria, visit the website here.

  • QLD: Fossicking Licence $47.55 for an individual for 12 months, the licence can be purchased online here.

For more information on fossicking in Queensland, visit the website here.

  • SA: No licence is required for fossicking in South Australia. For general information about fossicking in this state, visit the website here 
  • WA: A Miner’s Right is required for both prospecting and fossicking in WA, you can obtain a Miner’s Right for a fee of $20.00, find out more here

For general information about prospecting and fossicking in Western Australia, visit the website here 

  • TAS: a Prospectors licence is required to fossick outside of the declared fossicking areas in Tasmania, the licence fee is $30.40.

More information about fossicking and prospecting in Tasmania, including the licence application form, visit the website here

  • ACT: The majority of Australia Capital Territory is Namadgi National Park where fossicking is not permitted.
  • NT: All information about fossicking in the Northern Territory, including fossicking request application form can be found on the NT government website here
  • NZ: Recreational gold fossicking doesn’t require permission at designated sites, you can find out more about fossicking in New Zealand here

There are a number of clubs you can join and sometimes being a member of the club allows you to fossick under the club licence.


Where To Go Detecting

The great thing about metal detecting is that is can be done just about anywhere! Of course, you must follow the code of conduct and don’t go onto any private property without first obtaining permission and ensure you have the correct permit if required. So where do you start? For new treasure hunters the best place to start is at home, do your homework before you go out into the field. Great places to start are:

  • Old goldfields and minerals exploration areas
  • Other old mining sites
  • Ghost towns
  • Historical town sites
  • Abandoned sites
  • Beaches
  • Show grounds and race courses
  • Picnic areas
  • Battlefields
  • Camping and sports grounds
  • Swimming areas
  • Parks and playgrounds
  • Around jetties and piers


Troubleshooting In The Field

Just in case things aren’t going to plan and you are having issues with your detector, the following troubleshooting checklist may be of assistance:

  • Batteries - only use the very best quality alkaline, or rechargeable batteries. Replace your batteries when the battery monitor is at ‘Low’. If you have absolutely no power, check that the batteries are installed with the correct polarities.
  • Coil connection - ensure that the search coil cable is connected firmly to the control box and wrapped tightly around the stem (allowing for some ‘heel-toe’ movement of the search coil), to prevent ‘false’ signals.
  • Ground balance - this is by far the most critical consideration when prospecting. If the detector is noisy, it is most likely out of ground balance. Ground conditions can change very quickly in goldfields (or any area of mineralised soils), so it is imperative to stay ‘on top’ of the ground balance. This also applies to detectors with Automatic Ground Balance, or a ‘Tracking’ function.
  • Factory Reset - if your detector has a ‘Factory Reset’ function, it is a good idea to perform this procedure at the start of each day’s detecting, to clear any residual notching or programming you may have used on the last outing.


Where To Find Out More

If you want to know more about metal detecting good places to start are:

  • The internet and websites such as which holds historic newspapers
  • Local libraries
  • Local council
  • Local museums
  • Local metal detecting clubs
  • Magazines and newspapers such as Australian Gold, Gem & Treasure Magazine
  • Social media – there are many pages to follow and groups to join

If you are getting into some serious prospecting, there are resources available from your State Mining Department. 


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