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FAQ: Where Do I Start When Metal Detecting an Old Farmstead or Homestead?

FAQ: Where Do I Start When Metal Detecting an Old Farmstead or Homestead?

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As you may have seen on our YouTube Channel, we really like to metal detect around farmsteads and homesteads that date in the 1800’s to early 1900’s.  This is most likely due to the fact that, besides old ghost towns, this is about the most exciting metal detecting that can be had around here. Regardless of where you are limited to metal detecting, if you are hunting the site correctly, you can increase your odds of recovering a worthwhile item.

Is there a right and wrong way to metal detect?

No, not necessarily.  I have often been out on a hunt with someone who has never even held a metal detector.  They flutter around this way and that digging every signal they hear.  Meantime I methodically hunt what I think should be hot spots, dodging the newbie as they zoom by, analyzing my targets before I dig.  Not 10 minutes into the hunt, the fledgling squeals out, “A silver coin!”  They make the best find of the day on their first day while I go home with a pouch of shredded beer can. There is a great deal of chance involved for sure.  But, by metal detecting a certain way, you can increase your efficiency in the field and raise your trash-to-treasure ratio immensely. 


I am not the type of person to grid out a property and sift through every inch like an archaeologist might.  But, there are certain things you can do to help you score more goodies and less junk.  Here is one method I have been taught that will help you in an old farmstead and homestead situation.

The Triangle of Treasure

Bear in mind that old farmsteads will be LOADED with iron junk.  It will be loaded with all types of junk.  Tin roof pieces, iron implement pieces, nuts, bolts and even the modern day aluminum cans dropped by area high-schoolers who discover the 3-foot rock foundation of the smoke house makes for a great little bonfire pit.  The same reason old properties are the best to hunt is the same reason why they will have so much junk to tend with.  They have been in use for a LONG time.  Remember the equation:


Anywhere people have gathered over time is typically a good place to metal detect.  So, dealing with a little junk is not an issue.  It is only part of the equation.  You have to get rid of some of the junk to find the hidden treasure below.  This is a well known fact.  Since we know this, it makes sense to focus our efforts in potential “hot spots” and then, once fully metal detected move out from there.

So, where are the hotspots on an old farmstead? And what the hell is this Triangle of Treasure? 

Back in the day people were outside a lot more than we are today.  They had to go outside to get water.  They had to go outside to go potty.  They had to go outside to do nearly everything.  You just have to ask yourself, where was the traffic highest?  Where were people most likely to drop valuables?

map of where to metal detect on an old farmstead

The Treasure Triangle Represents a Potential Treasure Hot Spot

The obvious places to metal detect are in and around old stone foundations.  These can be hard to find in tall grass and often all that remains above the surface are a couple rocks.  Wells are another area commonly visited throughout the day.  Metal detect around it thoroughly.  Finally the barn or shed, make sure to detect inside and out of this structure.  The less obvious place is the land in between all of these structures.  An old timer told me to draw an imaginary line from each of these three structures forming a triangle and to focus my metal detecting efforts there.  Since people were traveling between these structures frequently, there was more likely to be coins and other items dropped in this locale.  Also, if you can find the privy, you can draw a square and focus your efforts within it.  I would have mentioned this earlier but Square of Treasure just didn’t sound as good.

Other Treasure Hot Spots on an Old Farmstead.

The “privy” or outhouse is usually located downwind of the main house.  Any given locale has a prevailing wind find the house, know the prevailing wind, and you can find the privy.

If there was a cellar on the property, this is a potential hot spot too.  This is where most of the perishable goods were stored and it was frequented throughout the day.  Also hit the old driveway, an obvious place where things may have been dropped when the occupants and visitors traveled to and from town.  You may have to look at an old plat map to find the drive as they are frequently lost to mother nature and may only be recognized by the sudden appearance of gravel in your hole.

More than likely if there is a stream, this served as a water source during the wet months.  There would have been a well worn path beaten to it then that is now long gone.  Hunting along the creek near an old homestead is always a good idea too.

This is just some information I figured I would pass along after being asked this question the other day.  

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  • Josh Turpin