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‘EQUINOXing it’ out of the Park!

June 04, 2018 09:45am

Steve Herschbach

This blog entry may help give some insight into metal detecting in U.S. parks with lots of modern trash. It also illustrates how somebody like me experiments with different discrimination settings. In my view it is this kind of experimentation that best teaches you the ins and outs of any new detector…

I have been hunting local park areas and I wanted to experiment with ‘cherry-picking’ settings that would let me find the most coins, the fastest, without bogging down into overly serious detecting. I normally hunt 50 tones with no items rejected. This works well, but requires me to work slowly analyzing targets sounds. My time is limited at the moment, so I wanted to get out and cover some area. The following settings worked well enough to get a pile of coins out of some trashy modern park areas:

  • Detect Mode: Park 1
  • Frequency: Multi-IQ
  • Target Tones: 50
  • Iron Bias: 0
  • Recovery Speed:  6 (unless in dense trash, then 7)
  • Ground Balance: Auto (Pump)
  • Sensitivity: 21 or 22 (depending on EMI)
  • Discrimination: All items from TID 21 on down rejected, except for 13

For nickels, I was being really picky, just digging good solid 13 readings. I do know nickels can also read 12, but I did not want to recover too many pull tabs, so kept this very narrow. And I have to note - I am still experimenting!!!   There is nothing particularly ‘magic’ about these settings, just something I was trying in modern trash.

The settings worked well and I was able to readily skim coins out of a modern trashy park area with minimal trash, and nearly all that being square tabs that read 13, like the nickels. There was very little ‘high-end’ trash being detected. I was getting quite a bit of ferrous high tone squeaking, but only a couple of signals that tempted me enough to dig them anyway, and I got a couple of nails.

Copper and silver range targets

Now, I wanted to try an area I had ‘cherry-picked’ before, for copper/silver range targets, but my ear is better tuned now, so I wanted to give it another go with more open settings than above, but still not wide open full tones. I employ different levels of intensity in my hunting that varies by location, time constraints, and my mood! Sometimes I want to recover all non-ferrous targets and sometimes just copper/silver and sometimes varying levels in between.

For this next round, I ‘opened up’ the discrimination a little:

  • Detect Mode: Park 1
  • Frequency: Multi-IQ
  • Target Tones: 50
  • Iron Bias: 0
  • Recovery Speed:  6 (unless in dense trash, then 7)
  • Ground Balance: Auto (Pump)
  • Sensitivity 21 or 22 (depending on EMI)
  • Discrimination: All items from TID 16 on down rejected, except for 12 & 13

This time, I rejected everything from 16 on down except 12 & 13. The goal here was zinc pennies read 21, and since I hate them, it makes for my regular cutoff point in areas from around 1930, and newer. However, in older areas there are two things in particular to pay attention to, assuming you still want to reject some stuff. Indian Head pennies overlap the zinc penny range. New zincs come in at 21 but corroded ones will read lower. Indian Head pennies can read in that same ‘high teens / low twenties’ range.

Also, a $5 gold coin will normally read at 18. Ground and age can pull readings lower, so I decided on 17 on up as being a good choice, but 17 is debatable. I will decide on that later after digging enough 17 targets. But 18 on up has to be ‘accepted’ in older areas because I am determined to find a $5 gold coin with EQUINOX! I also wanted to ‘accept’ the full nickel range, as older nickels seem to hit around 12 and newer ones more in the 13 region.

Again, I am just experimenting. I also need to note that I am using Park 1. Target ID can vary slightly, depending on Detect Mode and Frequency. When using particular modes, don’t assume a discrimination pattern from one will be perfect for another. Slightly different numbers may apply to what is ‘rejected’ or ‘accepted’.

I told myself I would skip shallow zinc signals, but I have a real problem passing on clean sounding targets; so dug most of these, since they are shallow and easy to pop out of the ground. I did finally make myself stop though, as it is a time-waster. Zinc pennies were my most common ‘trash’ target, followed again by some square tabs. As I have noted, I had already detected this area before, so once I pulled the 20 odd zincs aside, I ended up with 10 copper pennies, 4 dimes, and 3 nickels, none being all that old.

However, I did get three special signals. The first was as nice a 12 reading as I could hope for, just a nice clean, mellow tone. And, down about 8" appears my first ever Liberty or "V" nickel, a 1909. I have highly mineralized ground where I hunt and 6” coin depths are very good, with 8” being fantastic.

Sometime later, and maybe 100 feet away, another identical mellow 12 reading - I just knew it had to be another nickel... this one was down under a tree root at about 8" and popped out of the ground, dry and green - another V nickel, 1898 this time. My first Liberty nickels and two in one day!

Even later, with time running out, I acquired a messy 19 reading. It was quite ‘trashy’ sounding, but just good enough to get me to dig and- my first Indian Head penny pops up next to some ferrous trash. Later, I was to discover this was a 1908S; a key date that even, in average condition, is worth around $100!

Two indian nickels and an Indian head penny

After 45 years of detecting, why am I only now finding my first old coins of these types? I was born in Anchorage, Alaska and lived there my entire life up until 5 years ago. Anchorage was founded in 1915 and most of that area is paved over core downtown. Most of the town is far newer. I considered 1930's coins to be the great old finds, with only a couple ever from the 20's, and never anything from the teens or earlier. The bottom line is these types of coins just did not exist where I lived. And then I got into nugget detecting...

So anyway, a couple firsts for me, and that alone made it quite fun. Opening up the extra notches did not get me into too much trash, except for the zincs that I did not resist digging. The big lesson is that the deep Liberty nickels, or at least these two, were the most wonderful mellow 12 signals you could imagine. So my current working theory is newer nickels will tend towards 13 and older ones 12 while in Park 1 mode.

Still, I found no silver, so then I went in the exact opposite direction, as far as discrimination for my next hunt. I went to an area where I found a lot of the silvers from my EQUINOX silver report. I had hunted the area halfway well, but I am getting a better hang of EQUINOX every time I use it, and so decided the area needed some gridding to see what I had missed wandering around.

Since I was looking for silver and the area is both really trashy and not all that old (my oldest coins in this spot have been 30's and mostly 40's), I got more aggressive than ever with notching. I even notched out 39 and 40 to reduce noise from high end ferrous falsing, figuring I could use the All Metal horseshoe button to check questionable targets. I stayed at Recovery Speed 7 due to trash density. The machine ran crazy quiet like this, even in this dense modern trash.

  • Detect Mode: Park 1 
  • Frequency: Multi-IQ
  • Target Tones: 50
  • Iron Bias: 0
  • Recovery Speed: 7
  • Ground Balance: Auto (Pump)
  • Sensitivity: 22
  • Discrimination: All items from 21 on down rejected (plus 39 & 40)

I recovered no zincs, no nickels, and almost no trash at all. I gridded away for three hours and detected eight dimes, seven copper memorial cents (no wheatbacks) and a couple quarters. No silver. I was almost ready to quit, but I took one last row on my grid and got a 25ish signal, a little weak but still good. I dug a pretty deep plug, but the lower portion was left in the hole; my pinpointer signaling a coin in the middle of the bottom. I stuck my digging tool down in and pried the hard soil apart and the bottom popped apart as the dirt levered to one side. I spotted a silver dime…

At first, I didn’t know what I was looking at, until my brain finally recognized a Seated Dime! Another first, and at 1887, the oldest coin I have ever found in the U.S. I figure it was right at about 6" deep. This dime has good sharp detail and I am thinking it will grade better than most. Then I turn it over AND SEE THE SCRATCH! I know I did not hit it with my digging tool, and its edges are too worn to make a scratch this sharp and fine. I think when I levered/popped that hard dirt apart a sharp little rock edge must have scraped along the coin. Don't know, but it does look like a fresh scratch so I am ‘owning up’ to it. The good news I guess, is an 1877S is not a super high value coin and so all I did was reduce the value of what might have been a $20-$25 coin. Still, I hate it when that happens. The only mystery to me is what a coin so old was doing in that location, but I am not complaining!

1877 seated dime

A couple of points to note: Even at Recovery Speed 7, EQUINOX gets the depth in bad ground. I also think fast Recovery Speeds, plus 50 tones, does accentuate the tonal difference between nickels and square tabs. Finally, I have no real proof of this, just a gut feeling, but EQUINOX seems to not lose any appreciable depth from aggressive notching. These last settings were super-quiet and would make a good ‘silver program’ for places unlikely to have the oldest coins, e.g. 1930 and newer.

I sure like this detector. My ear just keeps getting better with it. Anyone giving up on EQUINOX with less than 100 hours is not really giving it enough of a chance. There is nuance and power here aplenty that reveals itself, the more you use the machine.


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What a great writeup on the Equinox! Thanks for sharing your research, Steve. Certainly worth a second or third read as there are a lot of interesting details I'll be taking with me on my next outing. Time to start digging into the setings a little deeper than the factory defaults.
Posted By: tedinvt on June 05, 2018 09:28am