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How to Find Treasure in Your Backyard

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Whether you are looking for a fun activity for the family or a treasure hunter, your backyard is a great place to start looking for treasure. There are several different ways to find treasure in your backyard, even without expensive equipment. 

At a previous house located near a creek, I was digging in my front yard to plant azaleas and my shovel hit something that clanked. I stopped and started digging with my hand in the same place. Lo and behold, it was a shark tooth. I still have that tooth and still excited that I found it in my own yard.

You can treasure hunt on private property with permission from the owner of the property. You cannot treasure hunt on any preserved, federal, state, or indigenous land.  State property is available for scavenging with a permit from the state land manager. Without having to obtain various licenses, the best place to treasure hunt is in your backyard. Here is how to find treasure in your backyard. 

Using a Metal Detector to Hunt in Your Backyard

Start in a corner in your backyard and turn on the metal detector. The metal detector will signal down into the ground and wait for the return wave to bounce off the metal object. The number on display is the depth of the object. You are scanning slowly from left to right while moving in a straight line from end to end. 

When your metal detector notifies you of an object, start to dig up the ground by cutting a plug. The plug is a circle cut around the area that the metal detector alerted you to a find. Lift the plug and flip it over. Use your pin-pointer to locate the small metal object. After discovering your treasure, flip the plug back over so that the ground’s surface is the same as before you flipped over the plug. 

The best time to go treasure hunting in your backyard is directly after a rainstorm in your area. The water will bring up some of the objects that are lost in the soil. You never know what you will find after a rainstorm. 

Some popular objects found in backyards:

  1. Antique construction materials
  2. Tools
  3. Coins
  4. Rare metals
  5. Rusty gold
  6. Old cans
  7. Old Signs
  8. Jewelry 

Treasure Hunt in Historical Places in Your Town

A quick trip to the library may turn out to be a fun adventure as you uncover your next digging spot. While digging for your next treasure hunt, pay attention to events that may have taken place in your town within the last one hundred years. The chances are that there are new metal objects that may have been lost in these public access areas. 

Places where people gather in large crowds, are prime hunting grounds for anything that may have been lost or abandoned. City property available for public use where large crowds gather regularly are prime picking spots for treasure hunters. These could include places where people gathered for about any type of event. 

In developed communities, the small grassy areas and walkthroughs in between buildings are prime hunting grounds. These areas have been sitting undisturbed for some time.  Using construction sites that are up and coming or road work you have access to are excellent spots. The soil is freshly dug up, and a new top layer is in place that was previously buried. 

The most popular areas to treasure hunt locally are: 

  1. Public schoolyards
  2. Public parks
  3. Abandoned property
  4. Private mansions
  5. Fairgrounds
  6. Closed railroads
  7. Construction sites
  8. Hotels 

Always Get Permission When in Doubt

Some places can be fascinating when hunting, such as an abandoned building or old hotels, saloons, privy pits, and other privately owned property. Getting permission from the owner of the property will not only save you from legal trouble, but you may also be able to keep what you find depending on what jurisdiction you reside in. 

Some jurisdictions have what is known as the one-hundred-dollar rule. You may also be subject to other property laws that govern finders’ keeps rules. Before rushing down to that old, abandoned house, check with the owner to see if you can treasure hunt on the property. Make sure you set clear expectations for any finds that happened during your visit. Pre-negotiate any high-value finds to be split before the search begins; keep in mind the local property laws and how they apply to your treasure hunting finds.

Knowing the rules and how they apply will help you keep your newfound treasure and not lose it to the mislaid property rules in your area. Although this is not an issue with small finds most of the time, it does come into play if you happened to stumble upon a pot of gold on someone’s property.  Anything over one hundred dollars in value could be contested by the property owner. 

Some places are blocked off as a safety precaution; some abandoned mines have shafts that drop hundreds of feet below the surface and are subject to collapse. Stay in safe areas to explore, and always get permission if you do not own the property.  There is no treasure more valuable than your own life; if you are unsure of the safety of a situation, it is better not to hunt there. Some places nationwide are available to the public for treasure hunting, such as the diamond mine in southwest Arkansas. 

If I Find Something Expensive, Can I Keep It? 

The first instance in which the one-hundred-dollar rule applies to the found property is from the individual state laws that govern property ownership. In California, if you find something valued over one hundred dollars, you must turn the item over to the police for a period of ninety days. If no one claims the property, then you can be assumed the new owner of the property. Each state will have its laws governing the property. 

Lost versus Mislaid property is somewhat of a fine line within the definition of finders’ keepers’ laws. Lost property is a piece of property that was unintentionally dropped or left behind. Mislaid property is a piece of property that was purposely placed somewhere with intention and forgotten. You can think of mislaid property as misplaced, like misplacing your keys.  With mislaid property, the object is owned by the person who originally mislaid the property or owned the property where it was misplaced until the original owner comes by with their claim to the property. 

The abandoned property is the property that the original owner purposely abandoned. The lost or abandoned property would present more straightforward claims to ownership of your newly found treasure. It is rare for any state to stake their claims to treasure found on state land such as beaches with a value of fewer than one hundred dollars. The exception is anything that has a historical or archeological significance. 

Suppose you discover something that is historical or has some significance. In that case, you must hand it over to the secretary of the interior or a designated party from the state that you found the object. In most cases, the finder will be compensated the fair market value for the find.  Of course, every place has different laws regarding artifacts; ensure you check with the Office of Historic Preservation in your area. 


Treasure hunting can be an enjoyable hobby, exploring historical areas and finding old trinkets and coins. You never know precisely what treasure you will find, whether it be that prized penny for your collection or a trunk full of ancient gold coins. The metal detector is the best way to hunt for treasure in your backyard. When exploring historic areas of town, always check the rule book to see if metal detectors are allowed. Remember to ask permission before entering any property that does not belong to you.

You also could come across crystals in your backyard, so be on the look out for that as well! If you’re needing more storage in your backyard, then checkout our list of storage ideas that our sure to make your backyard more spacious.

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