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The Future Of Metal Detecting

Updated: Nov 24, 2023

"Change" is what often breaks our heart, or pushes us to a better place; even if we are not inspired to move. "Change" is also the the staple diet of a metal detectorist; and it ages like fine wine! Via YouTube, i've seen European detectorists pull 2000 year old Roman coins that were once, ordinary change. Most of the "clad" that metal detectorists find ends up in a jar to be brought to a bank, rather than an individuals hall of fame known as a "finder binder".

You can be sure that the modern clad that slips through the cracks will become the treasures of tomorrow. Take a second, close your eyes and imagine someone going berserk after finding a 2016 dime or a 1994 "eagle selfie quarter" (doesn't the eagle on the back of the quarter look like he is posing for an instagram selfie?). We have one exception though and it is dangerous for the future of metal detecting! This exception is the "zincoln". "Zincolns" are pennies minted after 1982. They have a thin copper shell and a zinc inside; kind of like a poorly made M&M. These coins were created when the price of copper exceeded the one cent monetary value of the coin. Zincolns age horribly in dirt and in surf. See the image below.

As of the writing of this post, 1983 was 37 years ago. I have found Zincolns that have been buried for 30 years and they split apart and have gaping holes. Without exaggeration, any Roman coin, buried for thousands of years (even the counterfeit ones), will look brand new compared to a Zincoln that has been buried for a sliver of the time.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been a cyclone that has unearthed many unexpected off the radar phenomena. Despite the efforts of the Federal Reserve to print money at record rates, the United States is in the midst of a national coin shortage. 2020 has seen less traffic to retail stores and less face to face transactions. There is no data to support this but germaphobes probably wanted nothing to do with coins in 2020! In 1933 the United States went off of the Gold Standard, a system where paper currency is backed by a tangible asset with a store of value such as gold. Currently, the melt values of all of our coins (with the exception of pre 1982 pennies) do not equate to their supposed value. The Dollar is a fiat currency that is rapidly inflating by design. At one point in our history, the United States minted half cents because it fit in to the pricing needs at the time. As we move in to a future with a rapidly inflating dollar, new alternative currencies such as Bitcoin on the rise (Bitcoin is not metal detectable) could detectorists see a sea change in the change that they find with a metal detector?

Metal detectors have been in existence since the mid to late 1800's since Alexander Graham Bell furthered the design of Gustave Trouve's device. Both inventors had the intention of saving the lives of people who were shot by finding bullets lodged in bodies. Alexander Graham Bell aimed to pull an assassin's bullet out of President James Garfield. During World War I, metal detectors were used to sweep for mines, sometimes very unsuccessfully! So do you remember that old PC game minesweeper? I suppose that Minesweeper is technically a metal detecting game! Very generally speaking, as the 20th century elapsed, metal detecting became a hobby to a handful of people around the world. Today, it is a lucrative industry with many competitors who have innovated and improved the efficiency of the products that are offered.

Image: WWI metal detector made for mine sweeping.

But what will the future look like for metal detectorists? In 2020 we are at the dawn of self driving cars, privatized space flight, and drone delivery of packages. The majority of stock market trades placed each day are from computer algorithms. There seems to be a sea change going on everywhere, from using Zoom to meet, cloud storage to collaborate rather than commuting to work and doing it in person, to Robin Hood a brokerage that offers social media like transparency to stock traders. Metal detecting has certainly had its share of advances, such as multi frequency detectors from White's (V3i) Garrett (Apex) and Minelab (Equinox, CTX3030, E-Trac, several others). Can you imagine the programming that is involved to create a detector that marries multiple frequencies at once? The triage that is involved in that process is an example of Artificial Intelligence coming to metal detecting. The AI sifts through signals from multiple frequencies to give a Target ID in various types of ground. A user can choose to notch certain ID's out or hear and see the whole gamete of signals on the screen.

In the future:

1.) How far can detecting technology go in terms of depth and credibility of signals?

2.) Who is going to be doing the detecting?

3.) What will these detectors look like compared to today?

How far can detecting technology go in terms of depth and credibility of signals?

Admittedly, the mechanics of metal detecting is my weakest area of knowledge. According to the Minelab Website, depth depends on coil size, mineralization level of the ground (less mineralization more depth), target size, target shape, target orientation (think coin on the side). Companies are using programming to triage when multiple signals are present and are using multiple frequencies to get more signals. Some companies have not strayed far from Alexander Graham Bell's formula, but produce spectacular results.

Who is going to be doing the detecting? What will these detectors look like compared to today?

We are at the advent of Amazon drone package delivery. The Roomba by I-Robot has been on the market for years. It is a programmed robot that can clean rooms and navigate its way back to a charger. Will we ever see a detector drone that can mine treasure the way that bitcoin is mined by computers?

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