How to Find Treasure in Your Own Backyard

Updated on May 4, 2020
Richard-Bivins profile image

Richard is a professional writer and author. When he's not creating, he's actively pursuing his goal of becoming a handsome billionaire.

There could be material of both financial and intellectual value lurking right around the corner.
There could be material of both financial and intellectual value lurking right around the corner. | Source

Following the Rules

In the United States, you can go treasure hunting on your own property. If you get permission from the owner, you can also hunt on any privately owned land. You cannot do any treasure hunting on federally owned or indigenous land. Nor can you treasure hunt on any State-owned land unless you get permission from the land manager. Usually, permits are only granted for scientific research and not for hobby treasure hunters.

In the United States, we are bound by several Federal acts of legislation that pertain to treasure hunting:

  • American Antiquities Act of 1906
  • National Historic Preservation Act of 1966
  • Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979

Additionally, each state has rules of legislation to protect and preserve archaeological, cultural, and historical sites on state-owned lands.

"Rusty gold" refers to old objects that appear to be in dire condition but are actually worth something due to their historical or cultural significance.
"Rusty gold" refers to old objects that appear to be in dire condition but are actually worth something due to their historical or cultural significance. | Source

Metal Detecting for Lost Loot

The simple fact is people misplace things. Sometimes those things are very important to them, such as wedding bands, engagement rings, or some other type of heirloom jewelry. My own grandmother lost her wedding ring when she moved into her new home in the suburbs of Chicago. It went missing for almost 20 years until I found it while digging up her front yard to plant a new tree.

The point is, almost nothing stays lost forever—especially if you are equipped to do some treasure hunting. In my case, all I had was a spade shovel and a keen eye. I wasn’t looking for my grandmother’s ring, but I sure knew to investigate that sparkling object I was digging up.

If you are actively going to do some treasure hunting, then It will probably be a good idea to use a metal detector and at least have a small garden shovel. Plus, you might want to have a bag of some kind to store your loot.

Some common items you may find include coins of varying dates and metal content; jewelry, buttons, and other heirlooms. If you’re lucky, you might find lost artifacts and weapons of war, such as guns, rifles, swords, knives, and spent rounds; If you’re unlucky, you’ll probably find a trove of old bottle caps and nails.

Picking: One Man’s Junk Is Another Man’s Treasure

All across America, people are hunting for what is known as “rusty gold.” American Pickers is a TV show produced and aired on the History Channel that showcases a pair of guys that travel the American countryside in search of anything of historical and cultural value.

They call this type of treasure hunting “picking.” They call it that because you are picking through other people’s collections, automotive graveyards, and sometimes junk piles. Pickers have a great understanding of historical value. Well, at least the good ones do.

Picking isn’t necessarily a “finders keepers” activity. Normally you will have to negotiate a fair price with the current owner. But if you do your homework, you will more than likely come out on top and double your investment.

Storage unit auctions are a great way to acquire potentially valuable forgotten objects for cheap.
Storage unit auctions are a great way to acquire potentially valuable forgotten objects for cheap. | Source

Storage Auctions and Abandoned Treasures

Another great way to go treasure hunting is to attend what are known as storage unit auctions. These auctions are conducted in most states. When someone rents a storage unit and fails to pay the rent per their contractual agreement, the storage facility can lawfully auction off the contents of the storage unit to recoup the lost fees.

When you are attempting to hunt for treasures in this manner, you have to know what has monetary value and what doesn’t. Often times a bidder will win a unit that may or may not yield a profit. So, it is a good idea to have a strategy when investing in these types of units. It’s also a good idea to have connections with antique dealers, consignment shop dealers, and other resale shop owners.

I’ve won storage units that have yielded me great profits, but I have also lost money when I first started out. I was excited by the TV show Storage Hunters, but nothing is like what you see on TV. I usually keep to storage facilities that are within a 20-mile radius of my home, but I’m sure if I expanded that radius I’d have an even better success rate.

Hunt for Americana.
Hunt for Americana. | Source

Americana and the Hunt for Knowledge

There is only one type of treasure hunting that I enjoy more than any of the above-mentioned hunts, and that is the hunt for knowledge. Having majored in history with an emphasis on American history, I particularly enjoy hunting down topics of Americana.

While also being a photographer, I have developed a fascination for hunting down and photographing relics and landmarks that represent the American struggle. If you live in the United States, you know exactly the types of relics I’m talking about because you probably drive by many of them every single day without a second thought as to why they are there and who placed them there.

For instance, you probably drive by a VFW post and see an old army tank, which was probably purchased and then donated by a WWII veteran, parked in front of it. You might live out in the country and see a rusted old tractor in the farm field which is now a landmark that “old-timers” use when giving directions. It could be that drive-in theater screen where many teenage hearts were broken.

Americana remains because it has significance to the American way of life, and there is no better treasure than the kind you keep in your heart.

The Treasure in Your Heart

Treasure hunting isn’t reserved for the archeologist or the deep-sea diver searching for sunken ships full of gold bullion. The majority of treasure hunters are hobbyists like me. We do it because it brings us pleasure. For some of us, it brings a bit of financial satisfaction as well.

The easiest kind of treasure hunting is the kind done with the metal detector, but by easy, I don’t mean financially rewarding. I mean easy because you have a great tool that helps you locate lost treasures. Plus, many metal detectors have a setting that can determine the type of metal that is buried.

Nearly as easy is the hunting for Americana and the historical knowledge you gain from it. For me, it is also a bit financially rewarding because I blog about it and I often sell photographs of the relics I find.

Just remember—treasure isn’t just in the eye of the beholder; it’s also in the heart, and I have a heart of gold.

What kind of treasure hunting do you prefer?

See results


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      5 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      What an intriguing hub, Richard. I wish I had a backyard, since I live in an new apartment. But clever ideas for home owners to do that and maybe strike it rich. I've heard of those History Channel shows and never watched them though. Voted up!

    • Richard-Bivins profile imageAUTHOR

      Richard Bivins 

      5 years ago from Charleston, SC

      Thank you aesta1... There really is some truth to the old saying, "one man's junk is another man's treasure." Recently, I have been relic hunting around some abandoned homes and cabins and finding tons of old marbles and vintage toys.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      This is really interesting and I am learning from your other hubs as well. Some friends dive for treasures and they often come out with old logs, bottles and more fun.

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image

      Melody Lassalle 

      5 years ago from California

      Congrats on HOTD! This is an interesting hobby, though I've never done it myself. It seems like an interesting way to pick up interesting object and to learn a bit of local history.

    • MJ Martin profile image

      MJ Martin aka Ruby H Rose 

      5 years ago from Washington State

      It is a big deal around here for people to go on treasure hunts. We use our metal detector while walking in the woods. Many new little shops have opened selling lost treasures found in storage units. Congrats on HOTD, great photos too, by the way.

    • Hankscita profile image


      5 years ago from Florida

      Interesting Hub, makes me want to invest in a metal detector. Not sure I'd be that good at it though. And congrats on the HOTD!

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 

      5 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Congratulations on HOTD!

      I love watching American Pickers! The Storage Wars show, not so much. Those guys are just too dramatic, and several of them are outright jerks. I don't know if it's being done just for TV ratings, but it really irritates me to see one of them admitting up front that he's not interested in a given unit, but that he's going to bid it up, just to cost one of the other bidders extra money. That's dirty pool, IMO.

      We have a metal detector, but never had much luck with it. Took it to the beach one day, and it 'hit' on the gold setting...what we dug up was a hunk of gold foil from a champagne bottle. Who knew that was real gold?

      Used it in our own yard to find the remains of the keys that fell off my husband's belt while he was using the riding mower....

      Haven't had a chance to go anywhere else with it... and shoot--the beach is a state beach... doggone it anyway!

      Voted up, interesting and useful.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 

      5 years ago from USA

      Your suggestions are fascinating. Whenever I go to the beach I see people with metal detectors. One guy I spoke to in Hawaii said he amasses a significant style of living just going to the beach each day. He said Saturday afternoon is the best time because it is the transition period when vacationers are at the airport leaving to go home. He said, no one wants to miss their plane to go back for lost jewelry. It makes sense.

    • Seasons Greetings profile image

      Laura Brown 

      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I'm an urban explorer. I like to explore but I don't bring home salvage or souvenirs.

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 

      5 years ago from Germany and Philippines

      Very interesting and informative hub. I think I should hunt tresure in my cellar. I might find something valuable. Congrats on the HOTD! Well done!

    • nightcats profile image

      June Campbell 

      5 years ago from North Vancouver

      Fascinating stuff. I have not heard of this hobby before. I can well imagine how people could get "hooked" on it. I geocache and there are similarities.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I really enjoyed reading this hub. Great job informing us about the joy in treasure hunting. Glad to be following you. keep up the great work.

    • Pawpawwrites profile image


      5 years ago from Kansas

      Enjoyed reading this. You should do a hub on how to sell your photographs. I would like to read that one too.

    • starstream profile image

      Dreamer at heart 

      5 years ago from Northern California

      You just never know what kind of treasure can suddenly appear. I am glad you found your grandmother's wedding ring while planting a tree. That is proof of the goodness of life's rewards for keeping an open mind and heart. Finding lost art is a gift.

    • Robin Marie profile image


      5 years ago from USA

      As a kid we had fun with my Dad's metal detector. I enjoyed reading this. Congrats on HotD.

    • mactavers profile image


      5 years ago

      Great Hub. I love hunting for antiques and collectibles at thrift stores, yard sales and antique shops. This fall, I've had fun hunting for former classmates to tell them about our high school reunion, but most of all I also love hunting for bits of information and history. Congrats on Hub of the Day.

    • firstday profile image

      Rebecca Be 

      5 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

      I would love to treasure hunt with a metal detector. Nice article and of course congratulations on the Hub of the day.

    • indanila profile image

      Inda Blackwell 

      5 years ago from Hampton Roads

      I have just discovered GeoCaching and am hooked so your hub truly sparked my interest. The thrill of the hunt is exhilarating!!!

    • DealForALiving profile image

      Sam Deal 

      5 years ago from Earth

      I loved the end of the bu when you declare that you have a heart of gold! Congrats on HOTD.

    • mySuccess8 profile image


      5 years ago

      Congrats on your HotD! I have never done Treasure Hunt, and did not realize its many different and interesting aspects, until I read your Hub. Thanks!

    • Richard-Bivins profile imageAUTHOR

      Richard Bivins 

      5 years ago from Charleston, SC

      I enjoy those TV shows as well and it is more fun actually doing it myself. I'm not the greatest at it, or even all that good, but I do have fun. And as I mentioned to Bill Holland in one of his posts, part of the fun of being a writer is when I get to experience the things I write about.

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      I love the "concept" of both picking and storage auctions... but, I also KNOW I would "suck" at both. So, I just enjoy the TV shows, and my wife and I comment to each other, on them!! Great way to lose my shirt, I know, if I were to try it!! Thanks for this hub. Great fun! ;-)

    • Richard-Bivins profile imageAUTHOR

      Richard Bivins 

      5 years ago from Charleston, SC

      Susanne, I forgot to mention on this hub how cool it would be to actually bury some of your own treasure and then leave a treasure map in your last Will. I think that would be awesome. Plus your are right about the forgotten treasures we have in our own sheds and attics...

      Jodah, Thank you and I hope you can get your own metal detector some day. Who knows what you may dig up but even if it were just old nails and screws in your yard, at least you clear it out for the next generation.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      5 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Hello Richard, this was quite an interesting hub with handy information and tips about treasure hunting. I like to go to clearance sales and garage sales here in Australia....often you come out empty handed but once in awhile you find a real treasure. I would like to get a metal detected one day and go treasure hunting that way. I think I'd find plenty of stuff in my own back yard, but probably just nails, screws and junk like that...possibly the odd coin. Voted up.

    • Suzanne Day profile image

      Suzanne Day 

      5 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      If you don't have hidden items in your yard, you could always hunt in your shed! I plan to do exactly that in the next few weeks, who knows what treasures I may unearth to sell? Voted interesting and +d.

    • Richard-Bivins profile imageAUTHOR

      Richard Bivins 

      5 years ago from Charleston, SC

      Thank you Rhonda... I don't want anyone to get into trouble because I encouraged them to go treasure hunting... I would much rather we had the treasure hunting laws that they have in the UK but its unlikely we will find the same types of treasures that they have been finding there.

    • Rhonda Lytle profile image

      Rhonda Lytle 

      5 years ago from Deep in the heart of Dixie

      Finding lost treasure, bits of history and even really cool rocks is always such fun. I love how you included relevant law. Most informative and intriguing.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)