By Dan Kidder
Managing Editor

If you want a fun family activity for all ages, searching for precious metals may be just the thing.

Precious metals abound in areas where mining was prevalent, but can also be found just about anywhere people congregate.

Either panning for gold or using a metal detector to find jewelry, coins and other valuable items can yield a great financial payout, but the memories you will make are the most truly valuable outcome.

81FOM35fXLL._SL1500_Fisher Deluxe Gold Panning Kit
The folks at Fisher Research Labs have created a kit, complete with everything you need to get started in panning for gold. It includes a classifier, for easily separating larger rocks from the smaller concentrate. It also comes with two plastic pans, a small and large one, with ridges to help catch the gold. There is a heavy-duty plastic scoop for moving dirt, a snuffer bottle for sucking up small gold flakes, a top hat magnet for easily removing magnetic black dirt and two small glass vials for collecting the shiny stuff. It all fits into a nylon carrying bag. The included instruction manual walks you, step by step, through the panning process and provides tips on where to go and how to get your gold out of the dirt around it.

By panning in areas where there has been previous gold mining, you know that gold can be found nearby. Additionally, streams that run from a mining area may contain micro gold dust flakes and even nuggets. At the time many of the smaller gold mines were active, the price of gold wasn’t high enough to justify the extra labor to remove all of the fine gold dust from the tailings. But now that gold is around $1,200 an ounce, it suddenly can become profitable to rework those old tailing piles by hand. Besides, who wouldn’t be excited at the prospect of finding raw, untouched gold in a pile of dirt?

Metal Detectors

Another way to get to the precious metals is to find valuables that have already been mined and turned into jewelry. Every year people lose rings, chains, watches and other valuables, as well as loose change at parks, beaches, along jogging trails and even in their own yards. Using a metal detector can help you quickly locate these valuables, but there is some work involved, as you will have to sort out the metal junk from the treasure.

Every year, people with metal detectors find valuable jewelry and even rare antique coins in unlikely places. They are also useful for finding another type of treasure from outer space; meteorites. Because they are made of iron, meteorites show up strongly on metal detectors, but you have to sort through a lot of false signals from nails, pipes, wires and other trash before you locate the tiny bits of asteroids. When you do find meteorites, they sell for a lot of money, depending upon size and weight.

71l2+ggsweL._SL1500_Teknetics Delta 4000
A great entry-level metal detector that is easy to use, but still full of options, is the Teknetics Delta 4000 from Bounty Hunter. It has a multitude of professional-level features, such as the digital target ID system, a running digital depth indicator, pinpoint mode, preset ground balance and three-tone discrimination. The waterproof 8” coil lets you cover ground quickly and the unit can be customized to allow you to search for specific items and block out unwanted metals. That means less digging for junk and more digging for real treasure. The Delta is lightweight and features an easy-to-read digital display and selectable modes. Because it displays various metals numerically, you can place a sample of the metals you are seeking on the ground and find out the number that it gives off, so you will have a better chance of locating that metal again and then being able to identify it quickly. The construction of the Delta is rock solid, with sturdy piping and comfortable rubberized coating on the handgrip with plenty of room for various grips. The arm cup is wide enough for those with larger forearms, but will still accommodate those with smaller arms. There is ample length adjustment as well, providing options for the very tall without the need to stoop over while sweeping.

Alpha_(Detector_-_Front_View)Teknetics Alpha 2000
With the same ergonomic piping as the Delta, the Alpha provides a simplified screen with digital depth reading, sensitivity adjustment and category target ID. This allows you to quickly tell what type of metal you have detected at a glance. Though it doesn’t have the numeric target identification, it does tell you the metallic category of the object found. It also allows you to notch out certain categories of metal or discriminate against entire ranges of metals. Both the Delta and the Alpha feature standard ¼-inch and 1/8-inch headphone jacks for traditional headphones as well as earbuds.

81G3rFafHvL._SL1500_Bounty Hunter Junior
A perfect entry-level detector for the little ones, the Bounty Hunter Junior offers a small, lightweight package, with serious metal detecting power. Featuring an analogue display, the Bounty Hunter Junior has manual sensitivity adjustments and the ability to eliminate certain categories of metal with a rotary dial. It has a built-in speaker that gets louder the closer the object is to the coil. There is no external headphone jack on this unit. The rod has an adjustable spring loaded tension screw and extends up to 2.25 feet, so it can grow with the young user. It is suitable for children 6-years-old and up.

61rO9Ir3UrL._SL1500_Bounty Hunter Pinpointer
To help with locating objects discovered with the metal detector, Bounty Hunter makes their Pinpointer. Featuring a single sensitivity knob, along with audible and vibratory indication, the Pinpointer is a great tool to narrow your search. Often, the object you are searching for gets dug up and it can be difficult to determine if it is still in the hole or in the digging tool or dirt pile. Using the Pinpointer can eliminate the dirt pile or let you know if you need to keep digging. It is small and hand-held for easy use.

While the metal detectors listed here are far from high-end professional units, they are a great way to get into the hobby of searching for valuables. And despite their entry-level pricing, they are robust with features that make it easy to get started without a steep learning curve.

There is no doubt that taking the family hunting for buried treasure is a great activity, gets you and the kids off the couch and into the great outdoors and can be a rewarding and lucrative pastime for all ages. Get into the hunt for buried booty and find the treasure of memories that will last a lifetime.