Are you looking for the best metal detector for coins and having trouble making a buying decision?
Coin hunting is by far the most popular form of metal detecting today.
People have been dropping coins in this country for hundreds of years and will continue to do so for hundreds more.
This article will help you choose the best metal detector for coins, whether you’re searching for old silver coins or just modern-day change.
What to look for
I’m going to get into some specifics on what technologies and features to look for in the more advanced coin detectors, but let’s straighten out some basics.1
Basic Statement #1
Every metal detector will detect coins – whether it’s a $50 machine or $10,000. Coins are metal, and metal detectors, well, detect metal.
Basic Statement #2
There is no “best” metal detector for coins – there are best coin detectors for different price brackets. That’s why all the detectors listed in this post are at various price points.
Basic Statement #3
You do not need a “gold” detector to find gold coins. Gold detectors are meant for nugget hunting – not coins. In fact, I don’t recommend using a gold detector as your primary coin hunter, period (more on this later).
Now that we have all the public service announcements out of the way let’s dive into some of the nitty-gritty.
So what makes a metal detector ideal for coins?
There are a ton of factors, but here are some of the bigger ones:
If you’re hunting for old coins, you’re going to need a detector that can accurately ID targets greater than 6” – generally speaking.
Coins gradually sink over time, so the older you want to find, the deeper you’ll have to go.
I say accurately because a lot of machines (entry and mid level) will detect a silver 1913 Barber Quarter at 10”, but it likely won’t have any idea what it is.
In fact, there’s a good chance the detector might tell you it’s a trash signal, or even just a ground signal!
The signal from the coin will be too weak on the entry/mid-level detector to accurately identify causing you not even to dig and walk right on by.
Operating frequency is one of the biggest factors to consider when choosing a coin machine for maximum depth.
Metal detectors with a low frequency (2-4 kHz) will hit much deeper than your average all around machine which is typically 5-10 kHz.
Remember that metal detector manufacturers design the majority of their machines to meet the needs of the average all-around detectorist – this means coins, jewelry, and relics.
But since serious relic hunting typically requires a higher frequency (10-20 kHz), most all around machines cater to both coin AND relic hunters with operating frequencies in the 5-10 kHz range – a happy medium.
Going back to our gold nugget detector example from above, these machines also require a much higher frequency which makes them a bad bet for coin hunting.
Also, a lot of gold nugget machines use an entirely different technology called Pulse Induction which I do not recommend for coin hunting.
For more on gold nugget detectors, check out our guide here.
So remember, if you want a machine that’s going to hit deep on old coins, the lower frequency is better.
But what if you want a detector that’s both an all-around machine AND perfect for deep, old silver?
Well, then you’d want a detector with multiple frequency technology.
This is where things start getting expensive but are totally worth it if you’re serious about metal detecting.
Minelab is the brand you want to look at when it comes to mutli-frequency machines.
They have a technology called Full Band Spectrum (or FBS as you’ll see in most sales/marketing material).
While most all detectors broadcast using a single frequency, Minelab FBS machines broadcast at 28 different frequencies ranging from 1.5-100 kHz, simultaneously!
Since most of us probably don’t want to pay over $1k for a metal detector, let’s touch on some of the other features to look for in a coin detector.
This is a feature that will allow you to ignore the signals coming from the ground. Yes, metal detectors will pick up on microscopic particles like iron and salt!
Most entry-level detectors have a “preset” ground balance, which means you cannot ground balance the machine yourself – not good.
Ideally, you would want something where you can either manually or automatically adjust the balance to your specific ground conditions.
This will allow you to get much better depth and target ID, which means you won’t skip over those ‘iffy’ signals.
Good coil selection
I would also advise you to choose a detector that has multiple accessory coils available should you have the funds to purchase some or all of them in the future.
Different hunts and locations require different coil types and sizes.
Some hunts might warrant a smaller, double D coil where others a larger concentric coil.
Several factors go into this decision including ground mineralization, trash density, and your experience pinpointing.
Speaking of pinpointing, that brings us to our next topic.
There is an age-old debate among experienced detectorists on what type of coil configuration is best for pinpointing?
Is it concentric or DD?
Technically speaking, concentric coils are better for pinpointing, but let’s not get technical here.
All you need to know is which type of coil you are more comfortable with and can better pinpoint targets. You’ll only figure this out by trial and error.
I personally feel more comfortable using a DD coil even though I openly admit that concentrics are better at pinpointing (don’t tell anyone I said that).
Why is this important?
For two reasons.
The first is that you’ll dig much smaller holes the better you are at pinpointing.
And since most of you will be hunting in public areas like schoolyards, parks, and churches, you’ll want to dig as small a hole as possible (see my post on responsible metal detecting here).
The other reason is that you’re hunting for coins that could potentially be 100s of years old (thousands if you’re in Europe).
And do you know what’s worse than anything when you finally dig that elusive 1913 S Barber Quarter?
A big ole scratch right down the middle…
Trust me, pinpointing is important so choose a coil that makes you feel comfortable.
A quick sidenote. In addition to pinpointing with your detector, you’ll also want to ensure you have a quality handheld pinpointer. See my in-depth article here on the best pinpointers available today.
I hope this article was helpful and gives you a better idea of what to look for when choosing a metal detector for coins.
If this will be your first detector, my parting advice to you is not to get too bogged down in the specs on the machine (assuming you’re buying an entry or mid-level detector).
If you stick with a quality detector from one of the major brands, you really can’t go wrong.
Remember, the target audience for this article is mainly those who are looking for a higher-end detector that’s going to accurately find old coins at great depths.
If you’ve never used a metal detector before, my advice is to start out with an entry or mid-level machine, learn it, then upgrade in the future.
An expensive, expert-level detector is only as good as the person using it.
And since practice makes perfect, go buy your detector and get out there!