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Can You Make A Living Metal Detecting, Gold Prospecting, or Treasure Hunting?

YES, you can make a living hunting treasure.  There are people who do it every day.  But, like any job, it involves work.  

The Whales

There are several different levels of treasure hunting to consider.  Take for example the Odyssey Marine , a group out of Florida who are the world leaders in shipwreck exploration and treasure recovery.  These guys travel the globe to recover hoards of deep sunken treasure from historic shipwrecks, modern sunken shipwrecks, and underwater mineral exploration.  They are certainly on one end of the spectrum when it comes to the average treasure hunter. They have investors who have shelled out millions upon millions of dollars to get them going and it has paid off.  The company recovers literally hundreds of tons of treasure for private individuals and international governments for handsome rewards.

Over time, coin and jewelry finds can add up to a substantial value.

The Hobby Prospector

On the other end of the spectrum are the weekend warriors.  The guys that go out and coin shoot for a few hours a couple days per week.  They may be the hobby prospector slowly accumulate a few ounces of gold.  They hit the “tot-lots”, beaches, and old properties and stack up their clad, silver, and occasional gold ring to help justify their constant gear purchases to their wives.  Rarely however to these treasure hunters sell any of their finds though.  Instead they may have a massive collection of “priceless” relics, rolls of dirty coins, and stashed silver coins and jewelry…trophies for all of the sweat and sore joints that went into finding it.

These people get much more value out of showing of their finds and sharing the experiences than any money could provide.  They don’t make a living out of treasure hunting but instead reap the rewards of a hobby that can provide so many other intrinsic values and, sometimes, monetarily offset the cost of participating.

The Big Fish

If you have your sights set on something bigger than just paying for your gear, there is hope.  Although the ability to raise enough money to begin exploring thousands of feet below sea level is a reach for most weekend warriors, another group out of Florida called 1715 Queen’s Treasure Fleet run by Brent Brisben might make the average treasure hunter go, “Hmmmm…that might be possible.”  Not quite as large as Odyssey, this group spends its time researching smaller wrecks, closer to shore, that can still provide a good payout.  Recently the group located and excavated a wreck only 100 feet off shore near a beach in Florida in only 6′ of water!  It was part of a shipwreck where 11 Spanish galleons sank in 1715 after getting caught up in a hurricane.  So far the group has recovered 48 gold coins worth around $250,000 from the site.  The coins will be auctioned and part of the proceeds will be used to further excavate the site.  According to the company’s website they have recovered $1.3-1.4 million dollars from the Atlantic thus far.  The size of this operation and fact that the founders are real estate developers by trade and not necessarily full time treasure hunters make this level of treasure hunting seem more obtainable for us regular folk.

Taking it to Another Level

Not sure you fit in any of the categories above?  There are several other echelons of treasure hunters out there. As the owner of a prospecting and metal detecting supply shop, we see a wide variety of them all.  I can remember an older retired couple stopping by the shop to gear up with gold prospecting equipment.  They purchased a small scale mining operation built by Camel Mining Equipment.  The kit consists of the Mountain Goat Trommel, Desert Fox Spiral Wheel, and a transfer case.  They had just retired members of the GPAA and they were headed out with their new travel trailer to spend their retirement as gold prospectors.  With their retirement, social security, and income from prospecting, they felt they could support themselves as they enter their “golden years”…yes pun intended.

Another gentlemen who recently stopped in to purchase some metal detecting equipment showed us his hoard of gold rings and coins from the past 12-months (which he said he rarely shows to anyone).  He hadn’t been metal detecting but a couple years.  When he opened the back of his vehicle, which had clearly become a prospecting mobile.  The back of the vehicle was full of several bags of rings, jewelry, coins, and relics.  Our guesstimate is that the coin bags alone must have been worth several thousand dollars or more.  The value of the jewelry was anyone’s guess.  When asked about his treasure hunting hobby, he just smiled and eluded to the fact that treasure hunting was now his “real” job.

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