Imagine finding an incredible fortune buried in the woods, or even your own back yard. Well, for some people, this seemingly-crazy fantasy isn’t so far from reality. Thanks to the power of metal detectors, every now and then, lucky people have found unbelievable wealth waiting just below the surface. So, grab your detector, as I share with you the ultimate tales of incredible metal detector finds to head out in search of your millions.
10. Beginner’s Luck
In 2013, ordinary British citizen Wesley Carrington purchased a metal detector. A mere twenty minutes into his first time ever using it, he discovered a hidden stash of Roman gold coins.
These were estimated to be worth nearly $127,000. This could well be the most profitable instance of beginner’s luck ever recorded. Wesley later joked to the press that he “peaked early” in his career as a metal detectorist. Considering many spend decades to find little more than cola cans, I’d say he was right. The coins had been laying in wait only seven inches underground for 1,700 years; it have been described by historians as being of ‘national significance’ due to the rarity of gold coins of this quality.
Despite joining a metal-detecting club, Wesley has yet to replicate his lucky find.
9. A Meteoric Success
In 2012, trawling the plains of Rio Rancho, New Mexico with a metal detector that his Grandpa made him, 13-year-old Jansen Lyons discovered something out of this world: a two-pound meteorite.
The galactic find was designated as a large nickel-iron chondrite, a variety formed from cosmic dust in the formative years of our solar system. Jansen’s discovery had lay in place for an estimated 10,000 years before its discovery, making its touch-down long before recorded history even began. A small piece of the meteorite is now on display at the University of New Mexico; the teenager kept the rest, despite its estimated value of over $1,000. This kid could write the book on honorable detectorist conduct!
8. A Hoard Worth Hoarding
In 2010, Englishman Dave Crisp hit the detectorist’s jackpot near Somerset, England. He found the Frome Hoard, which is a colossal stash of over fifty thousand Roman coins.
The coins, which were mostly made from silver and bronze, were found inside a ceramic pot and comprise one of the largest hoards ever dug up in Britain. Unlike some lucky metal-heads, Crisp said that in his prior twenty-two years of metal detecting, he had never found anything nearly as interesting as this. For Crisp, perseverance paid off, as he took home half of the $405,527 the hoard sold for; the other half went to the owner of the land he found it on. A nice gesture, but also enforced by the law.
Not all of the amazing things found using metal detectors were crafted thousands of years ago. In 1966, an entire 1913 Ford Model T was found by a group of enthusiastic detectorists.
But it wasn’t a complete chance discovery. People went out looking for it after a Detroit DJ shared the story of a local named Perry Andrews, who supposedly buried the vehicle in the 1920s. According to local legend, he buried his beloved car in an attempt to preserve its value but was unable to retrieve it later.
6. Medieval Bling
If the entries on this list are anything to go by, England is the place to go if you want to make money in the world of metal detecting. This is backed up by a discovery that packed a significant financial punch for its small size when it was dug up in 2009. In a field near Esrick, North Yorkshire, detectorists stumbled upon a ring forged of gold, with a blue gemstone and red glass cloisonné – an ancient metalworking technique.
The discoverers reported their find to the Portable Antiquities Scheme. After a funding campaign by the Yorkshire Museum, they sold it to them to the tune of $44,321. Much like Bilbo’s finger bling, a group of experts gathered to discuss its fate in 2013.
It became the subject of much academic interest, with most historians believing that it dates back to the 5th or 6th century from somewhere in Europe. They thought it likely belonged to a member of a royal family. This inference came from the sheer craftsmanship of the ring, which is particularly impressive considering its age. Now, it’s just a matter of finding the accompanying manuscript full of frustrated curses from the devastated loser of the ring.
5. Sipping On Wealth
In 2001, metal detectorist Cliff Bradshaw discovered a dirty, crumpled cup in the English county of Kent.
But this wasn’t the aftermath of a Kent University student shindig. The cup – found to be fashioned of a single lump of gold – was purchased by the British Museum for £270,000, which was then $520,000. The Ringlemere Gold Cup dates all the way back to the Bronze Age, proving to the less-informed that not everything was made of bronze in that period. Unfortunately, the cup was badly crushed some time between the year it was made and the year of its discovery; it is no longer a very practical piece of dinnerware. Part of me hopes, though, that the night-watchman at the British Museum sneaks it out for his evening cup of Joe.
4. Helmet Head
A severed head is the last thing a detectorist expects to trigger their trusty device. But a severed head is exactly what an unnamed detectorist found on an exploration near Crosby Garrett, England… or so it seemed.
The find, since named the Crosby Garrett Helmet, isn’t actually composed of flesh; it’s a copper Roman cavalry helmet from the late 2nd or early 3rd century. It looks like it would be very hard to see out of, so perhaps the owner walked hard into a tree, killing himself? Historians disagree with my theory, however, suggesting that the helmet was intentionally placed into a man-made stone structure rather than misplaced or left with the corpse of a clumsy fashionista. It was likely a ceremonial helmet, not a tactical one, which explains how small the eye holes are. Ralph Jackson, Senior Curator of Romano-British Collections, described the helmet – thought to be inspired by the Trojans – as an “outstandingly important find”. Interestingly enough, the helmet was sold at auction for $3.6 million, but not to a museum.
The Tullie House Museum got outbid by an anonymous private buyer. So, while it has appeared temporarily at various museums, it is personally owned by someone, somewhere. I certainly hope it makes a regular appearance at costume parties. A $3.6 million mask makes for a not-so-subtle flex. And an undeniably stylish accessory. Just watch out for trees.
3. An Ocean Of Wealth
Despite everyone’s love for the underdog, not all buried treasure can be found by total amateurs. Case in point: a gold chalice from a 17th century Spanish shipwreck was discovered in the Florida Keys by diving company Blue Water Ventures.
Despite his professional training, this was 20-year-old diver Michael DeMar’s first ever treasure find – seemingly, another spectacular instance of beginner’s luck. He told reporters that, when his detector began beeping, he thought it was a beer can at first, but he investigated further. Good thing he did, because the two-handled, ornate chalice had an estimated value upwards of $1 million.
The company was investigating the shipwreck of the Santa Margarita, which is thought to have sunk during a vicious storm in 1622. It has been a source of riches for many sea-trawlers over the past few decades. The chalice is thought to have been the property of one of the ship’s wealthy passengers and was possibly used for communion. DeMar and his co-workers certainly paid homage to the cup’s past, in this regard, before passing it on to experts. The discoverers said that they all drank some champagne out of the chalice; that is the only rational response to a discovery of this kind.
2. Lucky Hands and Wealthy Boots
In 1989, a local prospector from Senora, Mexico, purchased a cheap metal detector at Radio Shack in the whimsical pursuit of a new hobby. A few days later, to his astonishment, he discovered something amazing: the largest existing gold nugget ever found by detectorists in the western hemisphere… the so-called Boot of Cortez.
The nugget, which as per its name is shaped like a boot, weighs a staggering 389 troy ounces. Troy ounces, by the way, are a special unit of measurement used by the precious metals industry, in case imperial measurements weren’t overly-complicated enough. The Boot of Cortez is 10 inches tall and 7 inches wide, and its rare level of purity and intriguing shape combined with its massive size make the Boot of Cortez extremely valuable. It sold in auction for over $1.5 million in 2008.
Now, here’s why I had to specify that the Boot of Cortez is the biggest existing nugget found by detectorists in the Western Hemisphere. In 1980, a gold nugget called the Hand of Faith was discovered in Australia by metal detectorist named Kevin Hillier.
It weighed 875 troy ounces, which totally blows that old, gold boot out of the water. This golden beast is considered the largest nugget ever found by metal detector. Hillier, however, wasn’t quite as good at bartering as his Mexican counterpart. Despite almost double the boots weight, Hillier received just over $1 million for his find.
Before I get to the number one spot, here are a few notably ridiculous honorable mentions. Englishwoman Karen Woolley freaked out when her 100-year-old diamond ring, a family heirloom, disappeared.
After becoming suspicious of her ever-hungry puppy, she ran a metal detector over him. The ominous bleeping confirmed her suspicions. With the assistance of a veterinarian, the ring was removed from the pup before it attempted to pass it the old-fashioned way.
Next up, A landowner in Oxfordshire, England, who earned his mention despite his poor memory. He found a 2,000-year-old Roman statute while out metal detecting one day, left it in a used margarine tub, and then forgot about it for ten years. Luckily, a detectorist asking him for access to his land made him remember the statue, but unfortunately its head had fallen off during its time as a rather elaborate condiment in a dirty corner of the refrigerator.
1. Pennies of Prosperity
Reg Mead and Richard Miles are the rock stars of the metal detector world – quite a title, I know. They began detecting in a field on the east side of Jersey, England in the early 1980s. They believed the area had promise because a farmer had discovered some old coins there a few years prior. Although it wasn’t an easy task, they turned out to be right. It took them 30 years to find what would come to be known as The Grouville Hoard.
That’s because the owner of the farm only let them go detecting once a year, for one day only, after all his crops had been harvested. It all paid off in 2012, when Mead and Miles found an estimated 70,000 late-Iron-Age and Roman coins. They were worth anywhere between $9 million and $18 million. Historians speculate that the hoard may have been part of a Celtic coin minting operation, but one thing’s for certain: the coins had lay buried for as long as 2,000 years. The Grouville Hoard is the largest ever found in Jersey, and the first major find on the whole island.
So, it turns out, that guy lugging his metal detector down to the beach every day isn’t so crazy after all. Judging by these tales of metal detector finds, though, you may be better heading to the English countryside! Are you inspired to head out, detector in hand and dig for your fortune? Or have you found anything cool with a metal detector? Let me know in the comments section down below. Thanks for reading!