Reader Question #2 – Is the Garrett ATX Good For A Beginner?

Today I have another question from a man named Frank. He is considering retirement and wants to get into metal detecting as a hobby – great move if you ask me! His question, and my answer, are below.

Garrett ATX Metal Detector


Hi.  I found your website with a search on Google.  I’ve never owned a metal detector, but I’m considering retirement in the next year in south Florida on the east coast and I’m considering taking up the hobby while walking the beach.

That said, I typically don’t get into anything at a beginner-quality level.  My life motto has been go big or go home.

As a newbie, would I be an idiot to buy the Garrett ATX?

There may be a time that I walk through mountain trails looking for Civil War relics or gold nuggets, but I envision using this device mostly for searching for gold and silver jewelry and coins on the beaches in a saltwater environment.

I’m an engineer, so I’m sort of used to figuring gadgets out with trial and error or videos.

I’d like to hear your thoughts.  The $2k is not an issue.  It’s more about whether the device would be too difficult to learn as a newbie and whether it’s the best tool for finding coins & jewelry.

Thanks a bunch!



Hi Frank,

Thanks for contacting me.

I personally really like the ATX for the price and the ability to find precious metals. Although it is very expensive for a first timer.

The beauty of the Garrett machines is that they are all really user friendly, so even a novice should have no issues picking up the ATX and getting started.

In terms of finding gold, silver, coins and jewelry – the ATX is pretty much second to none within the Garrett range. I’ve recently bought an ATX and it really is a great machine, although to be fair, the Minelab GPX does outperform it on land (not waterproof though).

My only concern would be that you are brand new to treasure hunting and you are going to jump straight into arguably the 2nd best detector on the market today.  You may not like it and will be wasting $2,000+, that’s not small change. If you do change your mind about the money, try looking into the AT Pro, it’s also very good, but a lot cheaper.

If you do end up buying it, I hope you will enjoy it – it really is something special.


Fair Dinkum – Another Gold Nugget in Victoria

There has been plenty of news over the last few days about an 87 ounce gold nugget that was found by Mick Brown. The nugget has been valued at $135,000, but Mick Brown has stated he isn’t interested in selling it for anything under $200,000.

Mick Brown Nuggett

I have had a few people tell me that the Wedderburn area is a hot spot for nuggets. Wedderburn is a couple of hours drive outside of Melbourne (the capital of Victoria). It’s also just north of Ballarat, which as most people will know, hosted a gold rush in the 1850’s and to this day still has active gold mining operations.

Wedderburn Nugget

I know the last time I was in Victoria we went out onto a property just outside of Ballarat looking for gold and came back empty handed. Perhaps next time we might head a little further north to see what else can be found in Wedderburn.

The most interesting thing about this find was that the nugget was found only 6 inches below the surface. Considering the size, it’s surprising that no one else had found it earlier.

In terms of the detector that Mick was using – it was a Minelab GPX 4500. Brand new that would have cost him well over $5,000, so it’s good to see he has made a return on that investment. I would love to know the settings he used as I’ve had only limited success when using the top of the line Minelab devices to find gold, which is why I stick to the Garrett and the Fisher machines.

If you’ve been metal detecting in the area and want some company, send me an email and the next time i’m down that way we can see if there is anything else worth digging out.

Reader Question #1 – What Detector Did I Start Out On?

One of the great things about owning a website is that you get to connect with like minded people. Sometimes they are looking for a chat, other times they want advice. Here is a question I fielded recently from a man named Pete.


Reader Question


Hi John!

Great site. Wondering what detectors you own, which ones you use more than others or use currently and which ones you started out on? I’m looking for a beginner detector and will probably look at the Garrett Ace 350 since it seems to be a good all rounder.



Hi Pete,

Thanks for visiting!

The ACE350 is pretty decent for the price and is a great detector for first timers if you can afford it.

I actually own a heap of different detectors, with my pride and joy being the ATX 2500 (not a beginners detector). I pretty much only use it now, but before I could afford it, I almost exclusively used the Garrett AT PRO. The main reason was because I like to detect in rivers and streams, and it is great in the water.

If you want to look at a detector that isn’t in the Garrett family, I would look at the Fisher range. They are also great for the price, and simple to use.



Further Information

As I told Pete, the Garrett ACE 350 is a great detector no matter if you are a beginner or not. My biggest criticism of going with the ACE 350 is that it is a bit expensive for most first timers. I understand that people want to start off with a metal detector that’s going to last for a while if they enjoy it, but at around $300 it’s more than I would recommend most first timers invest.

The better option (in my opinion) is to either buy a secondhand metal detector to get a feel for it, or go for something like a Garrett ACE 150, which is half the price of the 350, yet offers many of the same features. If you decide you like metal detecting as a hobby, then you can sell the 150 and upgrade to something far more worth your while, but also something that’s going to cost you more money.

Metal Detecting Coin Shooting Tips

Coin Shooting is probably the most common type of activity undertaken by metal detector enthusiasts. While most people start off with dreams of finding gold nuggets, the reality is that most people aren’t going to strike it rich with this hobby. That doesn’t mean that you won’t, just that you are far more likely to enjoy yourself if you start off with realistic expectations.

Metal detecting isn’t just about striking it rich, many people join metal detecting clubs and have plenty of fun digging up the hidden treasures that have been left behind over the years, often in the form of coins.

Coins Penny

Coin shooting can be a heap of fun, but only if you are in a location where there is something to find, and if you have a detector that’s suited for finding coins.


Finding the Right Location

There is a lot to be said for finding the right location when it comes to coin shooting and the best location isn’t going to be the same for everyone. As an example, if you are interested in finding penny’s or other more common coins, you will be best off searching in locations where there used to be a lot of people handling money.

I personally find that the best locations are places like:

  • Showgrounds
  • Churches
  • Schools
  • River beds
  • Beaches
  • Playgrounds
  • Parks
  • Camping Grounds
  • Old towns and stores that have closed

If, however, you are searching for relic style coins, like old roman coins, then you will normally need to look a bit farther afield and use slightly different equipment and settings.

Most people tend to stick with the more common types of coins and locations.


Best Coin Shooting Detectors

So long as you have a metal detector you have a chance of finding some coins, but if you are really serious about finding coins, it’s important to get a tool that is fit for purpose. There are plenty of coin shooting metal detectors on the market today, but you will need to understand to location you are planning on searching in and the type of coins you are hunting, before you will be able to make an informed decision as to the best metal detector to buy


Waterproof Metal Detectors

The first thing you need to consider is if you plan on getting wet when you go looking for coins. If you do, then you need to make sure that you invest in a waterproof metal detector. Note: The vast majority of metal detectors are not water proof, and will be broken if used in the water.

When it comes to waterproof metal detectors, I always go for the Garrett AT PRO. It is a great all round metal detector that is not only capable of finding coins, but is also great for plenty of other targets too – best of all, it’s waterproof.


Land only Metal Detectors

If you decide that you aren’t interested in getting your feet wet (you are missing out on lots of fun) then you have a far wider range of options when it comes to great coin shooting detectors. Your main consideration will likely be budget, as you can pickup great coin shooting detectors anywhere between $150 to $1,000.

For most people starting out, you can’t go past the Garrett ACE 250, it’s really cheap (less than $200), but it outperforms many of the more expensive rigs.

If you have more money to play with, and want to have a little more control/feedback, then your best bet is to look into the Fisher F5 ($500), or the Fisher F-75 ($1,000). Both of these machines are amazing when it comes to coin shooting, however, the F-75 is far superior.


Configuring your Metal Detector to Find Coins

The most important thing before you go racing out and looking for coins is to understanding the feedback your particular metal detector gives for certain types of coins. I recommend that you bench test your detector at home with some coins (and some junk) so you can get used to the feedback signals. This is important if you want to avoid digging up bottle caps and other junk targets. This will also aid you in configuring the settings more accurately.

Once you have a good feel for your detector, the next step is to ensure that it is configured correctly. The settings will depend on the make and model of the device, as well as the location in which you are hunting.


Coin Depth Indicator

Any coin shooting metal detector that’s worth it’s money will have some form of coin depth indicator. It’s pretty much become a standard feature on most detectors and it’s important to understand how to read and operate them.

If we checkout the interface for the Garrett ACE 250, you can see on the right side of the unit there are 4 depth levels that the ACE 250 can give you when searching for coins. Remember, the depth indicator isn’t going to be 100% accurate, but it should be pretty close.Garrett ACE 250 DisplayIt should be noted that most of the cheaper machines will not go much more than about 6-8 inches (that’s in good conditions). If you are looking to go hunting deeper than that, you will need to pay more for the privileged.


Audio Feedback

As you get more familiar with your device and the different types of coins you can unearth, you will eventually be able to have an educated guess as to what type of coin you’ve found just through the tone it produces. Some metal detectors like the AT PRO, which has the PRO Audio, have amazing audio feedback, which when coupled with decent headphones, can tell you plenty about what you’ve found.

Understanding the varying audio tones can take a fair bit of time to get used to, so don’t be too concerned if you are unable to pick targets straight away just through the sound alone.



When it comes to tuning the sensitivity, you’ll want to make sure it is setup for the optimal settings for the ground that you are searching. The only way to do that is to experiment with different settings until you get it right – every metal detector is different and a lot will have to do with the type and size of coil that you are using.

Generally speaking, if you turn up the sensitivity to high, you will find everything, but that will include plenty of junk that isn’t worth your time digging up. If you turn it down too low, you risk missing targets. So you see, you really are looking for that Goldilocks zone.


Ground Balance

The last thing I want to talk about is the ground balance. Most machines have auto ground balance as standard these days, and to be honest, the auto balance works pretty well. If you are new to coin shooting or metal detecting, just leave the ground balance set to auto. If you don’t have a machine that offers automatic ground balancing, you will want to adjust the ground balance to be neutral, then adjust up or down depending on the soil condition.

    • Negative Ground Balance will get quieter as the coil is lowered to the ground.
    • Neutral Ground Balance will not make any changes as the coil is lowered to the ground.

Positive Ground Balance will get louder as the coil is lowered to the ground.


Good luck with your coin shooting!

I Found a New Favorite Metal Detecting Location

It’s not often that I find a new spot worth raving about, but over the last few weeks I have been going back to this same spot and I keep finding interesting items buried only a few inches or so below the surface.

I’m not going to give the area away, but it is a really old township that used to be famous for having large amounts of gold. Most of the town died off once the gold ran dry and the area started to be used for cattle / dairy farming. The picture below was taken by a friend of mine who likes to explore some of the remote locations that I visit – I reckon this one should be framed and hung on the wall.

Fave Location

Anyway, I started searching in and around a shallow stream about a mile out side of the main town area and so far I have found 3 small nuggets, a heap of old panning equipment and a few coins (nothing all that exciting).

Small Nugget

I’m not sure how the gold prospectors of yesteryear missed the nuggets I found, but i’m glad they left some behind for me. I suspect the stream used to be more of a river and I am now searching in what used to be the deepest part, which may not have been easily accessible. At the moment the stream is only about 2 feet deep, so it’s pretty easy going. Looking at where the river used to flow and you can see that where I have been detecting over the last few weeks would have been far too deep for anyone to prospect with any rigor.

Here’s a picture of the area I have been working.River to Stream

I’ve actually been camping quite a few times out this way looking for treasure, but I never tried the river this far down, I always assumed anything worth finding would be further up stream.

Giving Metal Detectorists a Bad Name

I’m not sure how many of you keep up to date with the latest news and TV shows when it comes to metal detecting, but I am appalled by this latest one. Apparently National Geographic was supposed to show a new series called Nazi War Diggers, however it recently got cancelled due to the way in which the treasure hunters on the show went about their business.

Locked Gate

It seems that the guys were digging old grave sites in Latvia looking for graves of German and Red Army soldiers on the Eastern Front. Now to me digging up graves is just a big no no. Seriously, who would think this is a good idea? Secondly, apparently the guys were completely mishandling the remains that they found and were very cavalier in their approach to excavation.

It is no wonder that so many countries and counties are looking to ban amateur metal detectorists from treasure hunting, when you have these so called “experts” treating human remains like trash and potentially damaging historic relics.

Anyway I am pretty annoyed that these type of activities keep occurring and expect that it is only a matter of time before blanket bans become the norm. It would be a real shame though as some really important discoveries have been found by amateur detectorists and I for one want that to keep happening.

You can read more about this here

Declaring treasure finds

I take part in a number of different hobbies in my spare time and it is possible that one of them may have just paid off. The hobby that I am talking about is metal detecting, which is something that I used to do regularly when I was younger, however nowadays I just never seem to find the time. Recently though I did find the time to go out and do a spot of treasure hunting after I bought a top of the line Garrett ATX Gold Metal Detector as a gift to myself for all the hard work and effort I have been putting into this website.


I had been wanting to buy this particular detector ever since it was released, but never quite had the amount of money saved up to go out and buy one. It turns out I should have done it sooner as I discovered something recently that I’m not 100% sure what to do with. You see I believe the item in question has potentially significant monetary value and so I am hesitant to bring it to the attention of government officials in case they try to take my find away from me, or list the location of my find in their public directory for everyone to see. That would immediately send hundreds of other treasure hunters straight to the area where I made the find. I remember reading about nighthawks (people who move in on other peoples areas where they have found things) on the BBC a while ago and I would hate for this area to become more widely known until I have had a good chance to sweep it for myself first.

So I am in a bind. I know that legally I am supposed to declare the item and have it looked at by officials, however I don’t trust the cronies at the government as far as I can throw them, so at this point I am thinking that my best course of action is to get the item valued by a professional and then try to sell it on eBay.

Interestingly I only bought the ATX because of a great metal detector review site that I saw recently that pretty much said that the ATX was unlike any other machine and that it would find things that you will miss with other detectors. In my younger days I used to travel all over the country in search of precious metals and only ever had minor discoveries. So I thought I would give this new detector a whirl at one of my old stomping grounds where I had the most success in the past whenever I used to travel. It turns out that the guy was right – this thing really does find stuff that other detectors miss. The reason that I am so sure is that this item would have to be a couple of hundred years old at least, so it was definitely there the last time I went treasure hunting.

I now can’t wait to use this thing in even more places to see what else I can uncover. It honestly feels like I have rediscovered this brilliant hobby all over again and I can’t wait to get out each and every weekend to see what other goodies await me.

Man metal detecting pulls pin on grenade thinking it was a ring

More interesting metal detecting news this last week, with a bloke digging up what he thought was a ring, but was in fact actually a hand grenade! The man who’s name is John Hill was out metal detecting with his 3 grandchildren when he found what he thought was an ancient ring. He started pulling the ring out of the ground and luckily realized that it was actually a hand grenade before pulling the pin all the way out.


The big danger in this situation is that his grandchildren all came over to see what he had found. Should John have pulled the pin all the way out they might not all still be around to tell the tail. It is an important reminder for those of use that enjoy treasure hunting that we need to be very careful when digging up finds. You never know what it is that you will be unearthing, so taking your time and doing so with care is the order of the day.

John contacted the local authorities who safely detonated the device. The grenade was found ten inches beneath the ground close to the Grand Western Canal.

For more information and pictures head over to

Another big find! Californian couple finds $10mil in gold coins in their backyard.

Can you believe it – another massive find in a matter of weeks! Last time I wrote a post it was in regards to the Nibelung treasure that a metal detecting enthusiast uncovered in Germany. This time it is a Californian couple that have found a reported $10 million dollars worth of old coins!

Apparently the couple (who wish to remain anonymous) were out for a walk with their dog on their rural property when they stumbled across $10 million worth of rare, mint-condition gold coins. The coins were buried in the shadow of an old tree along a path that the couple walked many times in the past. On this particular day however, the woman decided to examine a rusty old can that was protruding from the ground.

Rusty Can

What she found was that there was in fact more than just 1 rusty can, but a few and all of them contained mint condition gold coins – 1,427 to be exact, none of which have been in circulation. The coins have been dated between 1847 and 1894 and have a face value of $27,000 based on today’s gold price.


The real importance of the coins isn’t their gold value, but the rarity. It has been stated that some of the individual coins could fetch nearly $1 million a piece!

More recently it has been insinuated that the gold coins are actually those stolen by Walter N. Dimmick. Dimmick was accused of embezzling from the San Francisco U.S. Mint in the early 1900’s.

According to the Daily Mail

Dimmick began working at the mint in 1898 and by 1901 was trusted with the keys to the vaults – until an audit revealed a $30,000 shortage in $20 Double Eagle coins, six bags in all. He quickly became the prime suspect as he was the last person to see the missing gold coins and had already been caught practicing how to forge the Superintendent’s name. After a month-long trial, Dimmick was convicted of stealing the coins and sentenced to nine years at the San Quentin prison in California.

The coins that Dimmick stole were never found, leaving some to now wonder if the Saddle Ridge Hoard is the very same set of lost coins. There is certainly compelling evidence to link the two bounties. According to 1901 reports, 1,500 coins were stolen by Dimmick – only 73 coins less than the 1,427 discovered at Saddle Ridge. The dates on the coins fit the time frame and the type and denomination of the coins match too.

The couple are planning on selling the coins on Amazon, but there are some concerns around whether or not they can do so legally or if the coins need to be returned to the state. Regardless of whatever unfolds, the couple do not want to reveal their identities for fear of prospectors with metal detectors scouring their land.

Treasure cache found in Germany possible Nibelung?

I happened across an article last week regarding a big treasure find – apparently it may well be the prized Nibelung treasure. From what I read it looks like someone may well have found it using an electronic metal detector.

The article on the Huffington post says that the find may be worth up to 1 million euros! Apparently the guy that made the find was a little bit naughty and was treasure hunting illegally. He came unstuck when he tried to sell it on the black market where the authorities discovered his bounty and charged him with numerous offenses.

When the experts had a look at the find they initially claimed that it was the Nibelung treasure, but they aren’t 100% sure.



I am in two minds about this find. I like that this stuff has been uncovered and we can all learn about it’s historical significance, but I do not like that unscrupulous people want to hock it off and try to make a quick buck. To me this type of find has to be stored in a museum. The guy that got busted gives all ameter detectorists a bad name and this is exactly why many people want to have detecting outlawed.

I would be interested in hearing what others think about this – you know, make sure I’m not just talking to myself over here :p