The Most Valuable Treasures Ever Found With a Metal Detector
Hand of Faith
With a weight of over 27 kilograms (952 ounces), the Hand of Faith is the biggest gold nugget that has ever been found with a metal detector. This remarkable discovery took place near Kingower, a small town in Victoria, Australia, in 1980 and it seems that the record still stands.
The Hand of Faith was found by Kevin Hillier who sold it to the Golden Nugget casino in Las Vegas for $1.1 million (US). This impressive nugget is now on display in the casino.
The Strange Story Behind the Hand of Faith's Discovery
Seeing such a fascinating chunk of pure gold in a Vegas casino must be an overwhelming experience, but the set of circumstances that led to its discovery is even more amazing.
According to the Gold Seekers website, two weeks prior to the discovery, Kevi dreamt about an unusually shaped gold nugget and drew it on a piece of paper. The nugget he found was exactly the same shape. Thus the name — the Hand of Faith.
The Galloway Hoard
The Galloway Hoard is considered to be the most valuable collection of artifacts dating from the Viking age ever discovered in Great Britain. It was found in 2014 by metal detecting amateur Derek McLennan in a field near Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland.
Its material worth was estimated at $2.6 million (US), but its historical and cultural value is priceless. National Museums Scotland is in the process of acquiring the hoard.
What Was Found?
Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, stated to the BBC that “The Vikings were well known for having raided these shores in the past, but today we can appreciate what they have left behind, with this wonderful addition to Scotland’s cultural heritage.”
Over a hundred gold and silver items were collected from the fields of Dumfries and Galloway, including armbands, brooches and a rather unusual cross. Take a closer look at it in this next image.
The Cultural Significance of the Discovery
This is an early Christian cross that likely dates back to the 10th or possibly even the 9th century. Made of solid silver, the cross is also decorated with highly unusual ornaments for that period.
The head of the Treasure Trove Unit at Scotland’s National Museum, Stuart Campbell, explained: “This is a hugely significant find, nothing like this has been found in Scotland before in terms of the range of material this hoard represents.” But, there’s even more.
Another Major Find at Galloway
Another fascinating artifact found among the Galloway Hoard was this pot. According to experts, this may be the biggest and possibly the most significant silver Carolingian pot ever unearthed in Great Britain.
Beautifully preserved, this pot even had its relatively undamaged lid still in place. It is estimated that this silver alloy-lidded vessel was already approximately 100 years old when the treasure was buried in the 9th or 10th century.
Civil War Sword
Lucas Hall was only seven years old when he made this amazing discovery: a cavalry sword from the Civil War that the president of the Kernstown Battlefield Association, Gary Crawford, characterized as “an 1840 or 1860 lightweight saber.”
Little Lucas got hooked up on metal detector treasure hunts by a neighbor who gave him several Civil War–era bullets from his own collection. Only a week after getting a metal detector for his birthday, the young boy hit paydirt himself.
The Frome Hoard
The Frome Hoard is one of the most significant metal detectors finds in the United Kingdom ever, at least when it comes to Roman treasure. This huge collection of coins consists of 52,503 silver and bronze pieces and now belongs to the Museum of Somerset.
The hoard was discovered in 2010 by metal detecting amateur Dave Crisp near Frome in Somerset, England. The museum later purchased it from Mr. Crisp for the sum of $420,000 (US).
The Escrick Ring
The Escrick ring was found in 2009 by metal detectorist Michael Greenhorn near Escrick, North Yorkshire. The ring is 90% pure gold with glass and a polished sapphire and is estimated to date back to the fifth or sixth century.
No one really knows who owned the ring nor what it represented when it was created, but its current owner, the Yorkshire Museum, purchased the ring for $44,132 (US). Still, the Escrick ring is not the only enigmatic discovery featured here. More is yet to come!
Model T Ford
Not all exciting metal detector finds date from the ancient past. This one is less than a century old!
A classic light-green 1913 Model T Ford buried in 1926 was discovered in 1966 by volunteers armed with metal detectors. They were enlisted by a local Detroit radio DJ who came across a story about Perry Andrews, a man who buried his beloved car after his son-in-law wanted to convert it into a hot rod. It turned out to be true.
The Santa Margarita Gold Chalice
It was September 2008 when an experienced diver and a shipwreck salvager, Michael DeMar went on a venture of searching for the remains of the Santa Margarita, a Spanish galleon, near the Florida Keys.
He was using a metal detector to locate the possible treasure, but when the detector beeped, DeMar wasn’t prepared for the discovery he just made: a gold chalice which was lost when the Santa Margarita sank in 1622. Its estimated value is $1.3 million (US).
The Boot of Cortez
The Boot of Cortez is one the most significant metal detector finds in recent history. This gold nugget was discovered by a local prospector in the Sonoran Desert in 1989.
With a weight of 12.38 kilograms (437 ounces), the Boot of Cortez holds the record for the largest gold nugget found in the Western Hemisphere. Named after Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés, the nugget was sold at auction in 2008 for $1.6 million (US). It’s almost as jaw-dropping as the next discovery.
Entire 7th Century Gold Artifact Collection
Terry Herbert is an amateur treasure hunter who literally struck gold when he made his metal detector discovery in the fields of Hammerwich, a village in Staffordshire, England, in 2009.
Herbert managed to fill an incredible 244 bags with antique golden objects before contacting the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity at the University of Birmingham. With over 3,500 pieces, five kilograms (11 pounds) of gold and 1.3 kilograms (2.9 pounds) of silver and a value of $5.4 million (US), it is the largest Anglo-Saxon hoard ever found.
The Mojave Nugget
One of the most famous metal detector finding in California is the Mojave Nugget. This massive chunk of gold was discovered in 1977 by prospector Ty Paulsen in, as the name suggests, the Mojave Desert. It weighs almost five kilograms (156 troy ounces) and is worth $200,000.
After its discovery, the Mojave Nugget was sold to Margie and Robert E. Petersen, who donated it to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County to add to its collection of 132 gold nuggets.
Source: The Mojave Gold Nugget
The Aunslev Cross
Amateur archaeologist Dennis Fabricius Holm found the well-preserved 4.1-centimeter-tall (1.6 inches) Aunslev cross dating from the first half of the 10th century near Eastern Funen in Denmark. This pendant indicates that the Danes might have adopted Christianity a bit earlier than was initially thought.
This fantastic discovery could have remained unknown if the friends of Mr. Holm didn’t encourage him to take the cross to a museum for evaluation. It turned out to be the oldest crucifix ever discovered in this Scandinavian country. The next finding sounds even more exciting.
The Rio Rancho Meteorite
When 13-year-old Jansen Lyons on Albuquerque, New Mexico called the neighborhood meteorite experts to report a discovery he made with his metal detector, no one believed him.
When Lyons showed up with a one-kilogram chunk (2.2 pounds) of space rock, everyone was amazed. The same experts that doubted him earlier at the University of New Mexico’s Institute of Meteoritics confirmed that this “L6 ordinary chondrite” had been around for about 10,000 years.
The Grouville Hoard
The Grouville Hoard. was discovered in 2012 by two metal detectorists, Reg Mead and Richard Miles, in a field on the Channel Island of Jersey between England and France.
The Grouville Hoard consists of tens of thousands of late-Iron Age and Roman coins dating from 50-60 BC. Its total value is estimated to be a fantastic $18.3 million (US), and portions of the Grouville Hoard can be seen in La Hougue Bie Museum.
The Newark Torc
The Newark Torc was found in 2005, in a field near Newark-on-Trent, a town in the district of Newark and Sherwood of the county of Nottinghamshire, in the East Midlands of England.
This astonishing gold torc was discovered by a tree surgeon and antique enthusiast Maurice Richardson with the help of his metal detector. Later tests have shown that this neck ring dates from the Iron Age. It now belongs to the Newark Museum. The next discovery in line originates from the same period.
The Stirling Torcs
David Booth’s idea was to start using a metal detector as an excuse to get some fresh air, but when he took it out for the first time in 2009 he discovered four incredible necklaces near Stirling, Scotland worth an estimated $1.3 million (US).
The necklaces were made between 300 and 100 BC in three different styles, Scottish, French and Mediterranean, suggesting that Scottish tribes were in contact with other Iron Age communities in Europe more than it was previously thought.
The Derrynaflan Hoard
The Derrynaflan Hoard is one of the most valuable archaeological finds ever discovered in Ireland. The collection consists of five liturgical vessels dating from the 9th century that are now exhibited in the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.
The discovery was made in 1980 by the Webb family near Killenaule in County Tipperary, but as the father and son team of metal detector enthusiasts failed to have proper permission to dig, their finding was later confiscated by officials in exchange for $66,000 (US).
The Milton Keynes Hoard
The Milton Keynes Hoard is a metal detector find that now belongs to the British Museum. It was discovered in 2000 by Michael Rutland and Gordon Heritage, two amateur treasure hunters who got lucky in a field near Milton Keynes, England.
The discovery consists of two golden torcs, three bracelets and a fragment of a bronze rod which were found in a pottery vessel and dated back to the Bronze Age. The material value of this hoard is estimated at $290,000 (US).
The Wickham Market Hoard
One of the largest collections of Iron Age coins ever found in England is the Wickham Market hoard. The find consists of 840 gold staters dating from between 20 BC and 20 AD, and it was discovered by Michael Darke and Keith Lewis in 2008.
The two amateur treasure hunters were walking through a field at Dallinghoo near Wickham Market with their metal detectors when they made this incredible discovery, the largest of its kind since 1849, but the next finding is even more impressive.
The Ringlemere Cup
The beautiful Ringlemere Cup was discovered in 2001 in a wheat field on the Ringlemere Farm in England by treasure hunter enthusiast Cliff Bradshaw. Mr. Bradshaw had already made a couple of exciting discoveries in the same area, but none were as valuable as this one.
The Ringlemere Cup, valued at approximately $350,000 (US is dated between 1700 and 1500 BC, and it’s one of five other similar vessels found in Europe’s mainland that were all made from a single nugget of gold.
The Staffordshire Hoard
Discovered by Terry Herbert, the Staffordshire Hoard represents the biggest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver artifacts that has ever been found with a metal detector. The find consisted of over 4,000 seventh-century pieces of various swords and helmets.
After archaeologists pieced the fragments together the total number of identified objects was in the hundreds. Among them were three religious artifacts, including an engraved Bible verse and two crosses. The Staffordshire hoard was jointly purchased by two British museums for $5.3 million (US).
Bronze Statue of the Roman Emperor Hadrian
Besides being a New York-based stockbroker, Morton Leventhal was also an amateur treasure hunter who went to Israel for a holiday in 1975. As a metal detector enthusiast, he took his favorite gadget with him and went searching for ancient coins near the Jordan River.
Mr. Leventhal discovery was an amazingly well-preserved second-century bronze sculpture of the Roman emperor Hadrian. The statue is now kept in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. The following Roman find is just as impressive.
The Crosby Garrett Helmet
The Crosby Garrett helmet is not an ordinary helmet, but one of three of its kind ever found in Great Britain. Unlike other Roman war headpieces, this one was used in ceremonial tournaments and features a face mask.
This fantastic specimen is about 1,800 years old and was found in pieces in an English field by an amateur metal detectorist. When it was auctioned off by Christie’s in 2010, the helmet sold for just over $3 million (US), more than ten times its estimated value.
North Hertfordshire Roman Grave
When treasure hunter Phil Kirk discovered a single Roman coin in an English field, something was telling him to keep looking for more. Further research of the area led to a much greater discovery — a Roman-era grave.
Besides a container with a cremated bone, the find included a piece of lava and a coin, a couple of bottles and cups, an iron lamp and two extraordinary mosaic glass dishes from Alexandria, Egypt. All of the artifacts were dated to the early third century.
The Black Swan Project
Shipwrecks are also incredibly exciting places for treasure hunters. The richest haul ever found in a wreck is known as the Black Swan Project. Its estimated value is $500 million (US), so it’s no wonder why both the company whose metal detector-wielding crew found it and the Spanish government both claimed rights over it.
The Spanish frigate was filled with 17 tons of silver, hundreds of gold coins and other precious artifacts. When the Spanish government learned of the find, they demanded the treasure be returned.
Florida's Treasure Coast
The Treasure Coast stretches along Florida’s Atlantic east coast from south of Fort Pierce all the way to the Sebastian Inlet. The area is very well known among treasure hunters and metal detector enthusiasts who have been finding gold and silver coins on its beaches since the 1950s.
The reason is something that happened more than two centuries ago. In 1715, eleven Spanish ships sailing from Cuba to Spain were destroyed by a hurricane off Florida’s east coast.
The Coast's Seven Ships
Seven of those fully loaded Spanish ships were scattered all over the reefs between Fort Pierce and Sebastian Inlet, and the treasure they carried was lost forever.
That’s what it seemed until another violent storm struck the same coastal region in the 1950s revealing the first clues of much bigger finds waiting to be discovered. The first salvage teams were formed in the 1960s and more than half a century later the search is still ongoing.
What Are They Finding There?
The largest sanctioned shipwreck salvage operation in Florida waters is currently led by 1715 Fleet – Queens Jewels, LLC. One of their recent discoveries can be seen in this image.
Captain Kym Ferrell and his crew salvaged this beautifully preserved ceramic vessel at the Anchor Wreck, a place that certainly has much to offer to those entirely dedicated to their dream of treasure salvage. And this is only one of the many historic pieces the team has raised from the wreckage site.
There's Still Uncertainty About Some of the Treasure Being Found
A closer look on this beautiful jug suggests that this artifact is made of clay and possibly other ceramic materials with what appears to be a lead glaze overcoating.
It’s still not clear if this particular finding is directly linked with the 1715 shipwrecks. The Anchor Wreck site is a bit of an enigma when it comes to its correlation with the famous treasure fleet since there is a chance that this object originated from a sinking of a later date.
The Two-Bird Silver Frame
Another find on 1715 Fleet-Queens Jewels’ Cabin Wreck site is this silver frame decorated with two bird figures. It is thought the frame was either used for a painted canvas or possibly a religious relic.
The discovery was made by the crew of the Bottomline craft led by Captain Jonah Martinez during their excavations in 2018. It’s considered one of the most exciting artifacts ever found on this wreck site, but there are even more spectacular examples yet to come.
A Happy Anniversary
An incredible discovery happened to fall on the 300th anniversary of the 1715 fleet’s unfortunate demise. At the end of July 2015, more than 350 gold coins were collected from the wreckage site off the coast of Vero Beach, Florida.
Among the recovered gold, there were nine special coins known as the Royals. They were made in the early 1700s for the king of Spain, Philip V. The estimated value of this find is approximately $4.5 million (US).
Being a Treasure Hunter Isn't Easy
This beautiful snuff-box is also a part of many of the 1715 fleet discoveries made by Queens Jewels treasure hunters. Their job may seem very exciting, but according to one of the divers, William Bartlett, treasure hunting is not just fun, it’s hard work that requires dedication.
“It’s diving into 72-degree water at 7:30 in the morning. Some days the sun never comes out. Couple that with a stiff breeze and you’re in for a very cold and miserable day,” Bartlett said in a 2015 Florida Today interview.
A Priceless Pyx
The effort of spending days and days of diving into the depths of the ocean or walking through muddy fields carrying a metal detector can reap a great find on occasion, although sometimes it can take years of searching.
This spectacular gold Pyx piece from the late 1600s was completed 25 years after a portion of it was found. The missing piece of the filigree necklace revealed that this artifact was remarkably carrying Eucharist (communion wafer).
Treasure Hunting is Helping Tell the History of Florida
Among the salvaged remains of the 1715 Fleet were also these two astonishing, delicate rings. Beautifully crafted in gold, these treasures truly made the day of the crew of the Capitana, one of several ships which continue exploring the 1715 Fleet wreckage site, collecting pieces of history buried under the ocean for so long.
Every new 1715 Fleet finding has its own story to tell, but together they help form an amazing collage of information that can assist in better understanding the Spanish colonization of the region.
The Gold Pelican in Piety
is one of the most beautiful artifacts ever salvaged from the 1715 Fleet. This spectacular object was retrieved near the Nieves wreck site not too far off of Frederick Douglas beach in Florida.
It was speculated that this artifact could have been some sort of an “ampulla” for holy oil or another type of relic of similar nature, but that theory is still a source of debate among scholars.
Teaming Up to Help the Cause
Not all of the findings are made of silver and gold, but that doesn’t make them any less significant. This particular example was recovered in August 2018 by Captain John Brandon and Captain Dan Porter.
The two joined forces with members of the Seatrepid crew and marine biologist Peter Barile in an effort to further explore the famous Treasure Coast. This iron cannon was discovered at the Sandy Point wreck site, north of Fort Pierce, Florida.
Educating the Public About the History Surrounding Them
According to 1715 Fleet-Queens Jewels’ post about this thrilling discovery, the city of Fort Pierce is going to put the cannon on display along its downtown waterfront once the artifact is adequately preserved and protected.
It is going to take about the three years of conservation work before the cannon will be ready for public display. The city plans to install information booths to help educate visitors about the history of the 1715 Fleet wrecks and the cannon itself.