What Types of Metal Can a Metal Detector Find?

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Cory Haasnoot

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We know metal detectors detect metal but what’s not usually explained is what types of metal can a metal detector find? In the following article, I will explain each type of metal that can be detected by metal detectors and the different types of metal detectors that detects these metals.

What types of metal can a metal detector find? The following is a list of metals that can be detected by a metal detector:

  • Aluminum
  • Brass
  • Bronze
  • Copper
  • Gold
  • Iron
  • Lead
  • Nickel
  • Silver
  • Tin
  • Zinc

Not All Metal Detectors Are Created Equal

There are 3 different types of metal detectors. You have beat-frequency oscillation, very low frequency, and pulse induction metal detectors.

These three detect metal in different ways. 

Beat Frequency Oscillation

The beat frequency oscillation or (BFO) type metal detectors send out signals and when they hit a metal object the signal is interrupted telling you that you have located metal. The oscillator creates an audio signal from Morse Code (CW) transmissions that makes them audible and understandable.

Very Low Frequency

The very-low-frequency (VLF) detectors are more precise in their detection of metal. These types of detectors can help you tell the difference between metals. You can also tune them so they only detect for certain types of metals. 

For example, let’s say you only want to look for gold or silver then you can adjust the tuner to just search for gold or silver and the detector will disregard and not detect all the other metals.

Pulse Induction

The third type of metal detector would be your pulse induction. These are industrial metal detectors that can get rather expensive. The novice detectorist would not need this type of metal detector.

Metal Detecting For Non-Ferrous Metals Metal Detecting For Non-Ferrous Metals

There are two types of metals – ferrous and non-ferrous metals that metal detectors can find. In this section, I will explain how metal detectors detect non-ferrous metals.

Non-Ferrous Metals:

  • Aluminum
  • Brass
  • Bronze
  • Copper
  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Zinc
  • Lead
  • Nickel 
  • Tin 

All non-ferrous metals contain little to no iron. They are categorized as having non-magnetic properties and are corrosion resistant. Most of these metals have high electrical conductivity which is how they are detected by metal detectors. 

The search coil on a metal detector produces an electromagnetic field that will detect the electrical conductivity in these metals.


Most of the time when you are metal detecting for aluminum you will come across aluminum cans or aluminum foil. Not what you really would call a valuable find! When I metal detected at my parent’s farmstead I found a lot of aluminum foil because of the that was buried on the property in the past.

If you are very lucky you will find aluminum trade tokens from the 1890s to the early 20th century. This is the time period that aluminum tokens were introduced to the world. These trade tokens stayed popular well into the 20th century.

One of the things you can do is recycle the aluminum that you find such as cans, foil or other objects that were made from aluminum. Then you could make a bit of money and clean up the planet at the same time.

Copper, Brass, and Bronze

Copper and its alloys brass and bronze are non-ferrous metals that can be found metal detecting.

Copper is one of the earliest metals discovered. The Romans and Greeks used it for making tools and ornaments. Brass and bronze are alloys of copper and many things have been made throughout the centuries using these metals.

Suffice it to say that when you are metal detecting for these types of metals you might find some valuable hidden treasures.

Some objects you could find while metal detecting for copper, brass or bronze would be:

  • Old Copper Pots, utensils and storage containers
  • Copper coins like Indian head, wheat cent, and large cent pennies
  • Bronze and brass medallions and coins or tokens
  • Brass or bronze musical instruments

These metals have been around a long time and millions of products have been produced from them so chances are you will come across one of these metals on your treasure hunting adventures!


Most metal detectors will detect the most common metals like silver, tin, lead, iron, etc. But if your looking to detect natural gold you will want higher frequency metal detectors

Lower frequency detectors will detect gold but when it’s accompanied with other metals such as in jewelry or gold coins.

Gold is probably the ultimate find when you are metal detecting. I personally have never found gold on my outings but that is a lifelong goal for me.

If you can come across gold coins or ancient gold objects you will make a killing financially. Chances are if you find one gold coin there are probably more strewn about so you would want to really go over the area that you found that first gold coin with a fine-tooth comb.

This is when you want to get out the pinpointer and do some big-time detecting!


Silver is one of those metals that are highly sought-after when metal detecting. You can find all types of items that have been made of silver. Finding silver coins is a big thrill. Some other silver items you might find are:

  • Pots, pans, and utensils
  • Silver medallions 
  • Silver tokens
  • Silver jewelry
  • Silver Commemorative Spoons
  • Silver Buttons


Zinc is another metal that can be detected by metal detectors because of its electromagnetic conductivity. Some items you can find that have zinc in them are:

  • Metal Roofs
  • Washing Machine Parts
  • Old Coins
  • Heat Exchanger Parts

Zinc was sometimes mixed in with gold to make coins so if you find zinc you might just find yourself a valuable gold coin.


Lead has a low electrical conductivity but it has a high thermal conductivity that metal detectors can detect. As little as 30 years ago lead was not detectable by the average metal detector but with the advanced technology, we all can find lead objects while metal detecting.

High tones usually tell you that you have found a lead item. So listen carefully when detecting for lead. For smaller lead items you will want to use a higher frequency metal detector. But for larger lead items all you need is a low-frequency detector.

Somethings you can find while metal detecting for lead are:

  • Lead Civil War Bullets
  • Lead Revolutionary War Musket Balls
  • Flintlocks from muskets
  • Old lead cups, plates, utensils


Nickel is not as good at conducting electricity like some other metals but metal detectors still can detect nickel.

There are a few valuable nickel items that you could find on your treasure hunting outings. They are:

  • Coins – You can find Buffalo, Liberty and proof shield coins that can be very valuable depending on what type of condition you find them in. My first find was a 1936 buffalo nickel on my parent’s farmstead.
  • Meteorites – A much sought after find is meteorites made of nickel. Meteorites can be a very valuable find, especially in larger sizes. There are whole communities of people who just metal detect for meteorites. Anywhere there is land there is a chance of finding meteorites.


Tin is a non-ferrous metal that can be detected by metal detectors. I personally have never found any use in detecting for tin but it is possible.

Some things you could find are old tin cups and plates or maybe flasks made out of tin. But mostly you will probably find a lot of tin junk.

Ferrous Metals

The other type of metal is called ferrous. Metals that have iron in them are ferrous metals. So, of course, you have iron and steel are ferrous metals. Ferrous metals are highly magnetic so a metal detector has an easy time detecting these types of metals

You can find a ton of objects made out of ferrous metal like building beams, cast iron pots and pans the list could go indefinitely.

Finding old iron relics could be very valuable. Watch this video on how to clean iron relics:

What Type of Metal Will You Be Looking For?

Now that you know what types of metal that metal detectors can detect. What type of metal will you go searching for next?

Finding anything while metal detecting can be fun and exciting but even more when you come across valuable items like gold or silver coins. Get to know the distinct sounds that metal detectors make for each type of metal and you will make many great finds.

If you have any questions or comments please leave them in the comments section below and I will be happy to answer them to the best of my ability. And I would like to ask. What is your favorite type of metal to search for when you are out treasure hunting?

Thanks for reading and 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.

6 thoughts on “What Types of Metal Can a Metal Detector Find?”

  1. what type of metal detector do I need to find an Anvil buried in the desert primarily in dry sand about 2 feet deep ?

    • Hi Jay,

      Yes, rhodium is in the platinum group of metals and can be detected with a metal detector. I would recommend the Garrett AT Pro for the detection of any platinum group of metals. I wrote an article about metal detecting for platinum – Will Metal Detectors Find Platinum? (Find Out Here) If you go to that article I give 3 recommendations on good metal detectors for platinum that will also detect rhodium. Keep in mind that there is no indicator on the metal detector that specifically tells you that you are detecting rhodium but it will indicate if you have found a ring-shaped object. You would need to dig up the object and test it to know if you have found a rhodium-plated object.

      Hope this helps. Thanks for the question and Happy Treasure Hunting!


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