The Most Valuable Treasures Ever Found With a Metal Detector
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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 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 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 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 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).
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 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.
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 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 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 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 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.
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).
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).
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.
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.