Old Homesites – Old Notes

While working on the new book I skimmed through old notes/writings that were part of my older books and decided to share a few tips on hunting homesites.  Nothing new or earthshattering and I’m pretty sure I’ve shared these here over the past 9 years, but if by chance they help one or two of you then they’re worth repeating. Stay safe…


An old homesite is capable of producing not only old coins, but a few relics and who knows, perhaps even a small cache of money. It might consist of one building, many buildings, a cellar hole or nothing at all but a well worn plot of ground. Old home sites are everywhere and if you need help finding them talk to the hunter and the farmer. They spend a lot of time off the main road where foundations and remnants of home sites are hidden.

You can also find these potential hotspots by simply being more observant. Because of your pastime you should already be taking notice of sites that have potential (remember prior to purchasing a metal detector you didn’t have a reason to look or for that matter, care). Look closely at any open field you may pass while driving. If by chance you see a small cluster of trees it might be they’re encircling and camouflaging an old home or foundation.

This cluster of trees surrounded an old foundation

Trees have always provided beautification and shade for dwellings, and are often all that is left to indicate their existence. Other clues? Vegetation that does not blend in with the surrounding area. Foreign or unusual plantings are easy to spot and an indication that someone earlier inhabited the area and made an attempt to beautify it.

Look for plants that are not in sync with the surrounding area

Another clue that often escapes notice is the camouflaged driveway or lane that appears to go nowhere. All roads were constructed for a purpose, and the old, forgotten ones can sometimes lead to treasure. Yes it may be that they are only an access to a field for planting and plowing, but it’s also possible they will lead you to an old homesite. It only takes a few minutes to investigate!

Where did this road lead?


Big or small, fun to find

When searching any homesite always be cognizant of the potential for a cache and proceed accordingly. Search every nook and cranny. Old timers, homesteaders, farmers and plain ole, regular folks often hid their money. Never mind the purpose….just be alert that this was done routinely years ago and it’s to your advantage to slow down just a little.

Where do you look for a hidden cache? Pretty much anywhere and everywhere! Your parameters of course are determined by the existing condition and accessibility of the site. If the house itself is still standing, and if you are able to search the interior, begin scanning the obvious (although probably not the best) hiding places with your sniper coil. Look for loose bricks or stones in hearths or fireplaces. Scan the doors and windows for hollow sills and frames and of course check the floor boards.

Check for hollow door jambs

If there’s a cellar scan the dirt floor, keeping in mind one or two random coins might turn up in addition to the hoped for cache. Check the steps to the upstairs if the home is two story and if they’re still present investigate any appliances….stoves, refrigerators, sinks, etc.. Remember too that many homes from before the turn of the century had root cellars and storm cellars….potential hiding places for someone’s life’s savings.

As you search ask yourself –

“If I lived here where would I hide my money?”

“Where would I put it and feel most comfortable?”

“Would I keep it inside the house so I could reach it quickly, or would I bury it outside somewhere?”

“If I buried it outside would I choose a site that was visible from the house, or would I opt for one out of sight?“

“If I buried it, how deep would I dig? One foot, two feet….five or six feet?”

“Would it be in an open area or a concealed, camouflaged area?”

Money caches have been discovered in outbuildings….barns, outhouses and garages. They have been found under fenceposts, near old dumps and under manure. Occasionally under seats in abandoned autos and in rafters of buildings. In tin cans, in old mattresses, in hollow bed posts, in pipes, drainage systems, and in milk cans. In bales of hay, various pieces of farm equipment and old tree stumps.

A cache might consist of many coins or just a few. What is important is that they are at least worth face value and surely a lot more, and if it seems sacrilegious looking for someone’s stash of money get over it. If you don’t find it who will?  Yes you may search a lifetime and never find one but the fact that they exist and that you have the equipment and abilities to find them is what it’s all about!

Now that I’ve gotten you fired up about finding that hidden hoard, what else does an old homesite have to offer? Well it offers the potential for scattered, old coins, and if by chance it has passed through many generations or families this potential increases. Where people lived, people relaxed, played, picnicked, worked, entertained, farmed, gardened and homesteaded. In doing so they left their mark and hopefully a treasure or two.

Depending upon their age and past use home sites can be difficult and tedious to hunt. Many are littered with small pieces of iron and junk but in-between is a coin or two worth your time and patience. The hard part is knowing just how much discrimination to use or not to use and because of the potential for a cache I would keep it low. As you recover iron and other metallic trash place it in one designated area. Eventually you will open up the area you are searching and hopefully recover the better finds that are present.

If you’re ever tempted to give up on an old homesite don’t! You may not find much the first time or two but persistent searching will almost always produce something of value. Hang in there and have a plan of action.

Finally if you are really ambitious you might try to locate the homesite’s trash pit in quest of old and valuable bottles, which today can bring good premiums when sold to collectors and antique dealers. Trash pits or dumpsites are easily found by locating the area that produces an unusually large audio response, and while it may be hard work, slow and delicate digging with a shovel will usually produce an old bottle or two of value.


No matter how rural and deserted a site might be DO NOT TRESPASS! Locate the land owner and obtain permission. He or she may also be able to add to the story and steer you to other sites.

Trespassing in Texas might result in a butt full of buckshot




Filed under Metal Detecting

15 responses to “Old Homesites – Old Notes

  1. Tony

    Good write up Dick. Now is the time to go to those wooded areas, weeds are down, insects are not out and digging is good because you can still dig around the tree areas.

  2. John

    I love your books! When I bought my MXT back in the early 2000’s I picked up a copy of your book “Where to Find Treasure” It was great, it got me started where I left off 20 years earlier with my Sears detector I bought in 1979 for $39, that detector was a beer can and nickel finder, LOL.

    A few weeks later I went back to buy another coil for my MXT and to buy “Metal Detecting the Hobby and Coin Hunting in Depth. So the guy at the Metal Detecting shop said, save your money, these books will only confuse you. I went back to my car, grabbed my bag and showed him my finds, his response was Oh! I guess they helped. Then he tried to sell me a Minelab, telling me I missed all the deep silver.

  3. Daryl J.R Townley

    The information you’ve given is very accurate and worth the search efforts at these old homesites. The secret is to slow down and not get in too big of a hurry. Some sites will have a lot of trash but patience in your searching can be very rewarding. Some ghost town sites have been very lucrative for me and can also be the same for your readers if they will follow your informational guidelines. Thanks for reprinting this information!

    • Thanks Daryl. Good to hear from you. Patience does indeed play a big part in detecting and I think it’s worth reminding ourselves of it.

      For those of you reading this Daryl Townley is the author of “Researching & Detecting Ghost Towns” (published by White’s Electronics). I highly recommend it. Lot’s of good, useful information.

      Daryl hope all is well in Oklahoma. Don’t be a stranger here….

  4. Yo Ricardo:
    Always an enjoyable read with good advice chucked in for free. What you’ve written is all equally valid over here in the UK.

  5. gurnie

    Hi Dick I think a warning should be given on hunting old home sites, and that is most of the late 1890/ 1960 many had Ring Wells.

    I was on a hunt alone (first mistake) and was hunting a cellar hole from an old farm house. It had a dirt floor and I started finding old table ware, coins and toys. All was going well until I stepped on a piece of plywood covered with dirt. My left foot broke through, I fell to my knees some what stunned at what just happened. I pulled myself out of the hole with wood hanging on me cussing and kicking as I removed it off my leg.

    I got up and looked down a 20 foot hole with pipes looking up to me. A close call to say the least. End of the story I called the state DNR and reported an open well. I took the state guy and showed him the well and a cap and cover was placed over the hole.

    Final thought most times when going to a new site it is better to take a walk around without the detector so that you might find the danger that can hurt you.

    Great advice thanks… Gurnie in delaware

    • Gurnie great advice. I hadn’t thought about that but I have hunted sites that had open wells. Fortunately they were obvious…

      Thanks for sharing and please chime in any time.

      • gurnie

        Thank you. I read all your posts and enjoy them. As I get older I reflect on many things that you have written about and how much the hobby has changed. IE, points of view, dress, equipment, cost and the know nothings that have so much to add. Also so many people that don’t have jobs buying High end detectors in love with themselves on you tube. Well I will jump in I hope at the proper times.

        Thanks. G.

      • Being cynical is part of growing old I suppose, but I is what I is….😊

  6. john taylor

    yeah! apparently! you know yourself better than anyone else, and i’m no “marvin the mind reader!” i’m just sayin’


  7. john taylor

    “and i heard the voice of the lord saying “whom shall i send, and who will go for us?” then i said, “here i am send me! book of isaiah 6:8


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