Finding Buried Treasure Caches & Hoards

By Michael Bernzweig

Treasure chests, caches and hoards of gold… are they really out there? Can they actually be found? Movies such as National Treasure can inspire any enthusiast to take off on an adventure to locate a buried war chest or hoard of gold coins. But the reality and logistics behind actually locating a hidden treasure cache can take the wind out of anyone’s sail. With greater rewards come greater difficulty and the necessity to have more sophisticated metal detecting equipment. But, if you have your heart set on cache hunting—you’ve picked the right time to embark upon this hobby. Todays’ advanced metal detectors are capable of finding deep caches that went undetected by the best treasure hunters decades ago.

People Hid their Valuables out of Necessity

When you think about it, it makes sense that people buried their valuables. There were no banks hundreds of years ago, and it was unsafe to leave money or gold lying around. Some cultures buried heirlooms as an "offering." Others, like an Indian tribe that resided in the Rocky Mountains, were uprooted and forced to leave their homeland. They left behind caches of coins and other treasures which they planned to recover later.

Some historians and detectorists say there are treasure caches hidden in every state of the U.S. and throughout the world. These caches come in many forms: iron boxes filled with gold or jewels, jars filled with silver coins, a tobacco tin filled with bills, any type of container stashed with valuables or just a big hole hastily dug to hide loot from a robbery. Remember—anything is possible. There are many reasons people stashed their money and belongings. Rumor has it in Iowa and Missouri: a majority of the farm owners buried valuables right on the farm land for safe-keeping. It was meant to be left for future generations and to preserve the farm. Now some of these farms are being bulldozed for construction or to recultivate. They are ripe for the picking with a metal detector (always be sure to get permission to hunt private property!) Renowned author, metal detector designer and expert detectorist Charles Garrett says, "There are literally millions of dollars stashed in the ground waiting to be found. If you persist, sooner or later you will hit a cache. It may only be a few hundred dollars. Then again, some treasure hunters have become wealthy from pursuing treasure caches."

Steps for Finding Hidden Treasure Caches & Hoards

Hunting for a treasure cache is much different than searching for individual coins, jewelry or relics. Not only will you use different equipment and techniques, you need to know where to look! Finding a deeply buried container doesn’t usually just happen on a leisurely afternoon hunt. Cache hunters conduct extensive research before they decide which equipment to use or where to begin their search. If you’ve ever seen a treasure map before, you’ve noticed landmarks and terrain markers. Even geocachers have GPS coordinates to go by.

So, where do you start when searching for a cache or hoard? By reading as much as you can about a potential treasure and exactly where it’s buried. Check out books and request old maps from the local library associated with the city or town that you’re searching. It may even behoove you to seek out people who know about "said" treasure to find out what they know. Some cache hunters actually pay for information and leads; others offer a percentage of the cache.

Other factors you must consider for the successful recovery of a buried cache or hoard include:

  • Geographical location and ground condition of the treasure site
  • Mineral content of the soil
  • Size of the cache- how large or small
  • Depth of the cache
  • Changes that may have occurred at the site since the cache was buried. (It may not look like the description written long ago. Changes in trees, vegetation, erosion and sedimentation are all possible)
  • Most suitable detector and search coil for locating the cache

Some cache hunters spend years compiling information before they set out in search of the prospective treasure. Others have the means and the knowledge to launch their search within just weeks or months of acquiring a solid lead. Regardless of the inspiration behind your treasure hunt, spend as much time as possible researching and preparing, so that your search will be successful.

Deep-Seeking Metal Detecting Equipment

If you are serious about the pursuit of larger, deep treasures—a general all-purpose metal detector with a regular or small search coil won’t cut it. A deep-seeking metal detector designed for locating veins of gold and deeply buried containers is what you’re looking for. The depth of a treasure cache could be three to four feet down or even deeper. Detectors and search coils made for this purpose will detect only large objects and offer the greatest possible detection depth. Experts recommend using a 2-box metal detector, which penetrates the ground using special search coils that transmit signals. Once the signal reaches the treasure, it bounces back to the metal detector, which pinpoints the location.

Another option is the Depth Multiplier search coil, which is manufactured by Garrett. This is a super deep-seeking search coil attachment that can be used with select Garrett models in the All Metal mode. This all Metal mode is important when seeking out a treasure cache, and any discrimination should be set to ‘zero,’ so your detector doesn’t discriminate out an iron container filled with coins. Some more advanced deep treasure cache metal detectors like those manufactured by Makro Detectors can actually identify the type of treasure on a color display screen. They can identify Gold before you even start to dig!

Ground balance is another important feature for cache hunters. Numerous caches have been found where the soil is heavily mineralized. When you are searching for something like a pot filled with coins, false signals caused by mineralization could impede your success locating the cache. Interested in finding deep treasure caches? Then you will want to be sure to read the My Metal Detector Finds story entitled "Could be a find of a lifetime" by James Gamble.

Below are some of the best metal detectors for finding treasure caches & hoards:

Entry-Level Deep-Seeking Detectors

Mid-Level Deep-Seeking Detectors

High-End Deep-Seeking Detectors

Top Deep Seeking Metal Detectors:

Resources for Cache Hunters at MetalDetector.com

Finding a treasure cache is no small feat. But if you’re one of a special breed of people with extra determination and patience, it might be worth your time and effort. Be sure to read about cache hunting before setting out. There are many helpful books on the topic, like "Treasure Caches Can Be Found." Also, check out another article in our Learning Library: What are the Best Two Box and Deep Metal Detectors? When you do strike it rich, post your story in our My Find section, so you can inspire other metal detecting hobbyists!

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