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Metal Detecting, Gold Prospecting and Treasure Hunting Glossary of Terms

This glossary of terms will be a constant work in progress, when sections become to long I will move them to their own separate page and link them from here.


Antoninianus - An antoninianus is a small silver coin minted by the Roman Empire that replaced the denarius in the third century.

Aureus - A gold coin minted by the Romans. The Aureus was worth 25 denarii.


Battery - Power source for a metal detector, usually of the rechargeable NiCad variety. Always goes flat at the worst possible moment, be sure to carry at least one set of spares.

BFO - Beat-frequency oscillator, a metal detector technology that is largely obsolete. Replaced by VLF (Very Low Frequency) Induction Balance and PI (Pulse Induction) metal detectors.

Black ADA - Manufacturer of popular trowels, diggers and sand scoops specifically designed for metal detecting.


Cartwheel Penny - May refer to either a one pence or two pence coin minted under George III between 1797 and 1798 (although all of them are dated 1797), so called because of their great size and weight, the penny weighed 1oz and the two pence weighed 2oz. The Cartwheel pennies were the first coins made using steam power.

C-Scope - Popular manufacturer of metal detectors. Based in the UK.

Coil - See Search coil.

Crown Estate - The people who manage property owned by Her Majesty, the Queen. Also the people who issue beach metal detecting permits via the Crown Estate website.


Denarius (plural: Denarii) - A denarius is a small silver coin that was minted by the Roman Empire from 211BC until it was replaced by the antoninianus in the third century.

Dredge - A piece of gold prospecting equipment. Used to suck potentially gold bearing materials from the bottoms of rivers and streams. Can reach material caught in crevices and hard to reach areas where placer gold may accumulate. Usually powered by a 4 stroke motor.




Ferrous Metal - A metal alloy composed mostly of iron.

Fieldmaster - UK based metal detector manufacturer.

Mel Fisher - Mel Fisher was an American treasure hunter who worked the wrecks of the 1715 Plate Fleets and discovered the wrecks of the Atocha and Santa Margarita, he was believed to be worth around half a billion dollars when he died in 1998.

Fisher - US metal detector manufacturer.


Charles Garrett - Founder of Garrett metal detectors. A former NASA engineer who worked on the hardware for the Apollo moon landings.

Garrett - Hugely successful manufacturer of metal detectors and gold prospecting equipment. Founded by Charles Garrett. Based in the USA.

Gold Pan - A large shallow dish used to separate small pieces of placer gold from other lighter material like gravel, mud, sand and black sand. The material is placed in the pan with water and agitated. Gold, being of a higher specific gravity than the surrounding material, sinks to the bottom of the pan and the lighter material is washed over the side.

Gold Panning - A hobby and means of finding placer gold or a sampling method used by commercial miners to judge the viability of a gold deposit. See gold pan.

Grot - A term usually applied to small roman bronze coins in very poor condition. Often they are just blank, the design having long since worn away.


Hammered Coin - Usually refers to medieval silver coins specifically rather than the method of manufacturing coins with two dies and a hammer.

High Banker - A piece of gold prospecting equipment. A twist on the sluice box design and works on the principle.






Keene Engineering - USA based manufacturer of industrial and hobbyist gold prospecting equipment. Particularly well known for their dredges.




Minelab - Manufacturers of high end gold prospecting metal detectors (GPX-4500, GPX-5000) and hobbyist metal detectors (E-Trac, Explorer SE Pro). Based in Australia. Viewed by many as the current industry leaders.


Non-Ferrous Metal - A metal that does not contain a significant quantity of iron.


On the way back to the car... (or OTWBTTC) - The way a great many stories of incredible metal detecting finds start. They found nothing of note until they gave up and decided to go home.


PI (Pulse Induction) - Pulse induction metal detectors are best used on beaches or for gold prospecting due to the fact that they do not discriminate between ferrous and non-ferrous metals. However, they are capable of detecting metal at incredible depths. PI machines are largely unaffected by mineralization.




Ring Pull (AKA Pulltab) - The bane of every detectorists existence.


Sceat (Plural: Sceattas) - A small silver coin minted by the Anglo-Saxons in the seventh and eighth centuries. A rare and highly desirable find.

Search Coil - The business end of a metal detector. Usually round, but these days they come in many shapes and sizes.

Sestertius - A sestertius is a type of coin minted by the Romans. Under the Roman Republic it was a small silver coin, like a denarius. Under the Roman Empire it was a large thick brass or bronze coin.

Sluice Box - A piece of gold prospecting equipment. Works on the same principle as a gold pan, but is far less labor intensive and enables a gold prospector to process a lot more material. Sluice boxes come in many designs and sizes.

Stater - An iron age Celtic gold coin. Comes in two different sizes, either a full or quarter. Minted by various tribes in the United Kingdom from the late fourth century BC until the Claudian invasion in 43AD. May also be used in reference to Greek coins.

Suction Dredge - See Dredge.






VLF (Very Low Frequency) -









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