Can Metal Detectors Detect Copper?

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Cory Haasnoot

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Many people that are new to metal detecting ask can metal detectors detect copper? This is a natural question because copper has been around for thousands of years and has had many uses in products over that time span. And since copper has been used in many products we know that copper treasure is just waiting to be discovered buried in the earth.

So can metal detectors detect copper? Yes, metal detectors can easily detect copper because copper has one of the highest resistivity and conductivity rates of metal. The higher the conductivity of metal the easier a metal detector can detect that metal.

Best Metal Detector For Detecting Copper

Garrett AT Pro metal detector.

Now that your question is answered you probably would like to know what is the best metal detecting for detecting copper? The answer is two-fold. If you are looking for junk copper in large quantities then most any metal detector will do.

That’s because metal detectors have such an easy time finding copper because of its high conductivity. But let’s say you are planning on digging in your yard and you want to locate copper piping that might be buried there I would opt for a more precise metal detector because you don’t want to be breaking into any pipes while you are digging.

So the best metal detector for that type of situation would be the Garrett AT Pro. The AT Pro can do it all and more. I recommend it for any type of metal detecting.

Three Types of Detectable Metals 

There are three different categories of metals that can be detected by a metal detector. 

They are:

  1. Ferrous
  2. Non-Ferrous
  3. Stainless Steel

Copper is a non-ferrous metal along with gold, silver, and many others. Non-ferrous metals are resistant to corrosion and are highly conductive making these metal popular to use in products.

Non-ferrous metals are all pretty easily detectable by metal detectors and the products that are made from them can be very valuable especially the gold and silver products.

Not only can you detect copper easily because of the high conductivity you can also detect it at great depths fairly easily. Just make sure you know your machine well and what adjustments to make for locating deep-buried objects.

What Are Some Valuable Copper Finds

Old copper coins in the sand.

There are so many products that were made with copper throughout the centuries and are still being made today. Some of the most valuable items are coins made of copper such as:

  • Liberty Cap Half Cent – 1793-1797
  • Draped Bust Half Cent – 1800-1808
  • Classic Half Cent – 1808-1836
  • Braided Half Cent – 1840-1857
  • Flowing Hair Large Cent – 1793-1796
  • Draped Bust Cent – 1796-1807
  • Classic Head Cent – 1808-1814
  • Coronet Head Cent – 1816-1839
  • Braided Hair Cent – 1839-1857
  • Flying Eagle Cent – 1856-1858
  • Indian Cent – 1859-1909
  • Lincoln Wheat Cent – 1909-1958

As a matter of fact, the first circulated coins to be minted at the Philadelphia mint in 1793 were copper cents. Copper in the manufacturing of coins goes all the way back to 600 B.C.  when the ancient Romans used copper in their coinage.

Other valuable items are copper pots, pans, ladles, jewelry, etc. So there are plenty of opportunities to find copper items while metal detecting and some fo those copper coins can be worth a small fortune depending on the coin type and condition it’s found in.

Copper Nuggets

Close up of a copper nugget.

Copper nuggets are a sometimes overlooked naturally occurring treasure you can find with your metal detector. But if you live in an area like Michigan there is much more copper then gold it would be worth your while to metal detect for the copper.

Float copper is another name for copper nuggets. Float copper is the result of glaciers that moved the copper over the surface of the earth for millions of years. This type of copper deposit has a floating, flattened-out look to it.

You can find float copper hundreds of miles from where it originally came from because of the glaciers slowly caring it. So you can find float copper in places you might not expect to find it. 

Gold was also deposited across the midwest in this same fashion. Copper nuggets or float copper can be found in any state that had glacial drifts from Lake Superior. So states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota metal detecting for float copper could be a worthwhile pastime.

Huge Float Copper Finds in Wisconsin

There have been a number of very huge float copper finds in Wisconsin. For instance:

  • A 100-pound copper boulder found in 1885 from Outer Island
  • In Bayfield county in 1885, they found an 1700 pound copper boulder largest copper nugget ever found. It was in the bed of the Sioux River close to lake Superior.
  • In Madison 1885, they found a 30-pound copper nugget at the bottom of a well.
  • 487-pound copper nugget was found in Dodge county in 1882
  • At Newark, they found a 114-pound copper nugget
  • Shawano county they found a 970-pound copper nugget in a gravel pit.

So you can see there is plenty of opportunities to find copper nuggets if you live in the states around Lake Superior.

Places To Detect For Copper

Construction site

If you want to look for scrap copper in large amounts you can try construction sites, old farms and homesteads, and junkyards. Anywhere that old machinery or car parts might have been laying around forgotten about are excellent places to go metal detecting for copper.

Construction sites will have scrap copper wire, pipes and nails laying around in the dirt that you can pick up. Just make sure you get permission before metal detecting at any private property. You don’t want to get yourself in trouble or arrested for trespassing.

You can make some good money and clean up the environment at the same time metal detecting for scrap copper. It’s out there all you need to do is find it!

Locating Copper Pipes In Your Yard

If you are planning on using a metal detector to find where copper piping might be buried in your yard before you start digging then you will want to make sure you know your metal detector well.

You don’t want to make a mistake and accidentally dig into a copper pipe in the ground making a huge plumbing mess. So study your metal detector and it’s settings before detecting for these pipes or get a professional to give you some guidance before digging.

Metal detectors for this purpose can come in handy if you know what you are doing. I recommend you get yourself a good quality metal detector if you are using it to locate copper pipes.


How to Clean Copper Coins

First of all, it’s not advised to clean valuable coins because doing so can diminish the value of the coin. It’s fine to rinse the dirt off gently but don’t take a brush to them just rinse them off with warm water with your hands first and dry them immediately afterward.

But if you have some copper coins that you know aren’t all that valuable and want to clean them up for appearance’s sake then you can use the following process and your copper coins should turn out nice looking barring that they have been worn down due to years of being buried in the ground.

Copper Coin Cleaning Process

  • In a small bowl add in a tablespoon of salt
  • Introduce a little white vinegar to moisten the salt
  • This will make a paste which you soak the coins in for 5 minutes
  • Rinse the copper coins off and let air dry

You can also use anything like tomato paste or ketchup anything that is acidic in nature will do the same thing as the vinegar and salt. This is a pretty simple process that anyone can do and the results can be amazing. Give this process a try the next time you find some regular valued copper coins while metal detecting.

Digging Deeper: How to Clean Metal Detecting Finds – A Comprehensive Guide


So the answer to your question is yes can metal detectors detect copper. And you can find some valuable items detecting for copper such as copper coins, jewelry, pots, pans, scrap copper and even copper nuggets.

I encourage you next time you go out metal detecting to try your hand at detecting for copper. You could be surprised at what copper treasure you could find just waiting for you to dig it up!

If you have any questions or comments please leave them in the comments section below. And until next time Happy Treasure Hunting!

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Author: Cory Haasnoot

Cory Haasnoot is an author, entrepreneur, metal detecting enthusiast, antique, coin collector, and founder of Treasure Seekr.

2 thoughts on “Can Metal Detectors Detect Copper?”

  1. Hi, I am looking for a suitable metal detector to assist me when do doing physical body searches looking for stripped copper cables in luggage or wrapped around a human body


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