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What are the Best Metal Detectors for finding Antique Bottles?

By Daniel Bernzweig

Antique bottle digging and collecting is gaining widespread popularity—probably because of the high likelihood of locating bottles with an understanding of where to dig. Since there has been so much urban development over past centuries, there are endless masked digging sites to unearth. There is a big market for old bottles and jars in good condition—collectors are known to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars for rare specimens. What makes an old bottle worth money? Unusual shapes, colors or artistic designs are the most sought after. Embossing makes a bottle particularly attractive. In this process, raised letters or designs were manufactured into the glass to advertise the product. Until paper labeling began in the 1890’s, embossing was used to signify bottle contents.

What Type of Metal Detector is Best for Bottle Digging?

While metal detectors will not locate bottles directly, they will lead you to the best place to start digging on a site. A metal detector will help you locate the bits and pieces of metal trash and relics that are common on old dump sites. Your trail of recoveries will assist you in quickly mapping out your site. A deep-penetrating metal detector with a large search coil is your best bet for uncovering a dump site. Large search coils can detect larger objects and detect them at greater depths. In many parts of the country with high ground mineralization you will want to select a metal detector that has a ground balance control. You will want to select a metal detector that operates at a lower frequency for locating privy pits and dump sites. Many metal relics are produced from iron, brass and steel. A lower frequency will be the most sensitive to locating these types of targets. Here’s a detailed list of the best relic metal detectors to use in your quest for finding old bottles and relics.

What are the Best Antique Bottles to Find?

Bottles that are most desirable are early American pieces from the 1700’s into the early 1900’s. This is because of the history behind these souvenirs and the fact that they were hand-made. As mass transportation systems become popular, such as the invention of the steamboat in 1807, a need evolved for durable containers. Hence, the creation of countless bottles for beverages, food, medicine, poisons, cosmetics and inkwells. The neat thing about locating a productive bottle site is that where there is one to be find there are usually many more waiting to be uncovered. So, when one bottle turns up, you can be confident that others are nearby.

Where can you Find Old Bottles?

Most bottles are found in places that are associated with finding old glass. This includes former trash dumps, old privies (or outhouses), construction sites and waterfront areas. Any area that served as a dump site for a long period of time is a bottle digger’s paradise. Long-past American generations disposed of their garbage in their own backyard, the privy pit or town dump. You can research these types of locations on the internet, at the library or by reviewing old city maps. There are also a number of speakeasies from the Prohibition era (1919 to 1933) which are being discovered by bottle diggers; many are hidden in remote areas on the outskirts of town. Aside from old bottles, speakeasy sites offer a good chance to recover coins and jewelry. You will need a metal detector to help locate old dump areas. A metal detector will pick up rusty metal remnants such as barrel hoops, old farm equipment, tin cans and lids.

Digging up the Privy Pit

Some of the best places to find stashes of antique bottles are long forgotten privy pits. Privies were also utilized for household waste disposal. Privies from the Civil War period to the late nineteenth century clearly reflect the lifestyle of the time, with many types of medicine bottles found within them. This was the era of the infamous “snake oil” medicine salesman—who travelled from door to door peddling assorted bottled remedies.

Finding an old privy pit takes some detective work, so it becomes a very adventurous dig. In many cases, privies were located on the property line in a straight line downwind from the rear door. They would be used for ten to twenty years, then abandoned and filled with bricks, sand, rocks or soil. Some privies went down very deep (to about 20 feet), with the average being about 10 feet deep. The bottom is the sought after trash layer. Depressions in the ground can signal a privy pit—that’s when your metal detector and probe are necessary. If your metal detector reads at high levels of metal, you may have hit the jackpot.

Pinpointing your Targets

According to bottle digging pros, one must-have tool is the Garrett Pro-Pointer. Instead of probing around for hours and coming up empty-handed, this handheld metal detector pinpoints targets quickly. It features audio and vibration alerts that will signal when your target is located. Both the tip and sides are sensitive to metal. You will also need some quality digging equipment as you get started. We highly recommend selecting one of the Lesche digging tools. You can choose from a wide range of options from hand held trowels to larger shovels. These products are handcrafted from the highest quality components and made right here in the United States.

Adding bottle digging to your metal detecting adventures can help you discover an entirely new and potentially lucrative hobby.

Just like coin collecting and relic collecting once you get involved in antique bottle collecting you will quickly appreciate this new and related hobby. If, like many detectorists, you find that you are fascinated by the hobby you can get involved in a local bottle collecting club. There are many resources to help you get started bottle digging. With a little luck and detective work, a hoard of treasured antique bottles can be yours!

© 2012 Detector Electronics Corp.

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