Did you know that there are still treasures hidden on land and sea, all around the globe? I’m not just talking about chests full of gold coins or prestigious jewels that belonged to some crown. No, I’m talking about those little treasures that have been lost, hidden and forgotten by all sorts of people and for all sorts of reasons. Maybe you could go looking for them?
- Here's the program
- The Different Types of Treasure Hunts
I don’t know about you, but when I hear about treasure hunting, I immediately think of the adventure novel (or its movie adaptation) written by Robert Louis Stevenson in 1883, “Treasure Island”. However, today there are different forms of this type of hunt, and some are more successful than others.
So, if you have a taste for adventure or just want to go for a walk, I propose you a small description of those among the most known.
The Different Types of Treasure Hunts
From my point of view, I see four of them, but I may forget some others. By the way, if you know of any, don’t hesitate to tell me in the comments.
1Hunting with a metal detector
This is probably the most popular type of hunting since the equipment is relatively inexpensive (under $100 for a basic model), and you don’t need much else to get started. Overall, just patience and luck, really.
The best spot is the beach. Firstly because sand is much easier to dig in than dry land, and secondly because people lose all sorts of valuables during their summer vacations by the sea. That’s why you can sometimes see hunters who, in late summer and early fall, tirelessly walk miles of fine sand while swinging their detector from left to right and from right to left, hoping to hear a “beep” announcing a potential great discovery.
And then there are the marine currents too, which at each tide bring their share of waste of all kinds, but also sometimes some valuable objects that have often spent several tens or even hundreds of years under water. And even if they are usually corroded by the salt, they still have a certain market value. Some hunters have even found objects that are over 2000 years old!
What we generally find is very heterogeneous: There are old coins, sometimes even in gold, jewels and jewelry (rings, necklaces, bracelets…), metallic elements that belonged to a ship that ran aground off the coast, military or religious medals, but also ammunition, lead toys, thimbles, etc.
But it is not only the sea. There are all sorts of other places where this kind of activity can take place, of course. I’m thinking of old battlefields, the surroundings of medieval cities or old houses, other picturesque places full of history… but also outdoor music festivals, etc.
Wherever you practice, always remember to fill in the holes you make and be careful if you are prospecting in an old war zone (even the first and second) as you may find unexploded mines or artillery shells. There have already been some very serious accidents, so be very careful.
And if you find objects of archaeological importance, be aware that you will have to declare them in most cases. Finally, get permission from the landowner before you start your search and get an agreement (in writing!) in case you find a real treasure.
This type of hunting, which I believe appeared quite recently, consists in attaching a strong magnet to the end of a line, and dragging it along a river or a canal, in order to collect the metallic objects which lie on the bottom.
Again, nothing too complicated. You just need to buy a strong enough rope, but not too heavy, and a strong enough magnet, and you are ready to go on a treasure hunt. The condition, of course, is that there is a river not too far from your home.
But what do you find underwater? Every magnet fisherman’s dream is to stumble upon a safe filled with jewelry and other precious items, but in the city, I might as well tell you right now, most of the time you’ll find worthless items such as old bicycles, road signs, scrap metal, etc., and sometimes even firearms and other dangerous objects, so be careful.
In the worst case, if you don’t find anything interesting, you can say that you have helped to clean up the river, which is not bad.
Be careful, though, because this practice is sometimes highly regulated. It is often forbidden on waterways, and in some countries like Belgium you will even have to follow training and pay an annual license. So, make sure you get the right information before doing anything.
I propose watching a small video, so that you can see what it looks like.
3Historical and archaeological treasure hunt
Perhaps you need something a little more exciting? An adventure like the one Indiana Jones had in Steven Spielberg’s famous film series? Not nearly as epic, the historical and archaeological treasure hunt is no less adventurous but is certainly much more difficult than the previous two.
There are all kinds of treasures sunk in the depths of the sea for centuries or buried somewhere in islands with exotic names, but before you start looking for them, you will have to conduct long-term investigations in order to estimate their precise location. This requires a lot of time, a deductive mind and curiosity, knowledge of history and geography, etc.
Then it will be necessary to have the means because one does not excavate a wreck of a Spanish galleon resting at a depth of 100 meters without an adapted and expensive equipment. Even expeditions through the jungle or in the middle of the desert are expensive.
Also be prepared to spend days, weeks, or months working hard only to find nothing at all, or sometimes just a few worthless items. Disappointment is often the order of the day, so you need to have a high level of morale and tenacity.
But, in return, it is true that you will live a completely atypical life, made of adventures, travels, and discoveries. And that alone can make you want to start immediately.
Again, if you are really interested in the subject, here is a link to the testimony and advice of a real treasure hunter.
4Gold and gemstone seekers
I can’t end this article without talking about this category of treasure hunters because gold panning and the search for precious and semi-precious stones are part of it. And here again, I will only be able to skim over the subject as it is so vast.
First of all, depending on whether you are looking for stones or gold, you will need to know the regions of the world where you are most likely to find them. So, don’t bother digging in your backyard or in the downtown park, you won’t find anything. No, the best way is to look on the Web, especially on Wikipedia.
You will then need to budget for travel (unless, of course, you are already living there), equipment (shovels, picks, camping equipment, etc.) and food (for the time you are there). You may also need a guide, manpower, etc.
And then you will need to acquire some knowledge about these trades in order to optimize your chances of success and especially to be able to identify the different types of jewels. It would be a pity if, for example, the vulgar pebble that you just threw back into the river water was in fact a stone of rare purity, right?
And then, as you can imagine, the regulations are often quite strict here too. You can’t just show up and start digging or polluting a river wherever you please. Like all other treasure hunts, make sure you find out about the exploitation rights but also about what you might have to pay (tax, license, percentage of the profits…) before starting anything, therefore.
I must warn you right away, you don’t become a treasure hunter just like that, from one day to the next. People who practice this activity often do it by vocation and by passion. Whatever type of hunting you want to do, only do it if you really want to and really enjoy it. This will increase both the pleasure you feel and your chances of success.
Environmental and climate change issues are more than ever at the heart of the concerns of this 21st century, which is why I am proposing a few ideas that will enable you to limit the negative impact that the implementation of this idea could have.
These solutions that I suggest are sometimes largely insufficient to compensate for these negative impacts, such as carbon offsetting. Unfortunately, there is not always an ideal and 100% efficient solution, far from it. And if you have others, please do not hesitate to share them in the comments below.
Some hunts have a huge negative impact on the environment. I am thinking, for example, of gold panning which requires the use of highly toxic substances such as mercury or cyanide, and which wreak havoc on the fauna and flora, especially in the Amazon basin, but also in China, South Africa, etc.
In general, the first rule is to respect the places you visit. If you have to dig a hole, do it with as little damage as possible and then fill it in again. Regarding gold panning, be aware that there are mining techniques that do not use mercury or cyanide. So, before you start, look at what you are doing or going to do and see what damage you can avoid.
The other black spot is travel. Do you have to fly to a place? Isn’t there an alternative (train, bus, boat…)? And if you really don’t have a choice, is it possible to fly once for a long stay rather than 3 or 4 short ones? The question of travel is important because it can have a significant impact on this activity, so think about it.
- A life of adventure and walking
- Low-stress activity (but watch your heart rate when you find real treasure)
- Very uncertain income
- Requires a significant investment of time and, in some case, money
- Location: All over the world.
- Investment: It depends on the type of hunt, but from a few dozen euros to a few thousand if you have to set up an expedition.
- Earnings perspective: Very random. You will more regularly find small objects of value via magnet fishing or metal detectors, contrary to historical and archaeological treasure hunting where the catches are rarer, of course, but where the loot is often much bigger.
- Required: Be methodical and curious about everything, have patience (a lot of patience), intuition, a good deductive mind, and free time. Some knowledge of history and geology as well. Know how to use tools such as Google Maps/Earth.
- Risk level: Rather high, considering the ratio between the time spent prospecting or searching, and the gains obtained.
- Implementation time: Fairly quick for detector hunting or magnet fishing but longer for the other two.
- Material needed: Varies according to the type of hunting (read the article ;))