Treasure Hunting: Strange Ways to Make Money

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how you could make some extra money by picking up things that people had dropped. If you want to take this a step further, you can take up treasure hunting. Metal detecting, amateur archaeology, and finding other lost treasures can net you anything from a few dollars to millions (although I wouldn’t quit your day job until you actually find something).

Metal detecting is the most common and accessible form of treasure hunting. A decent metal detector can be had for $100. With a metal detector you can hunt for everything from lost jewelry to buried treasure. You can keep your finds or sell them to collectors or museums. You can sell less valuable items privately. Most of what you’ll find will be trash, but you could get lucky like the guy in England who discovered 52,000 Roman coins. That find was worth about one million dollars. Beaches, private land, battlefields, and parks are good places to start.

If you’d rather dig through the dirt than scan above it, you can take up amateur archaeology. You might find the remains of an old village, or even a dinosaur. Your odds are better if you live in an area that has a history of other civilizations or dinosaur activity. For example, if you live in an area first inhabited by Indians, you might have a good chance of uncovering arrowheads or other valuable objects. You might be paid by a museum or government for your find, or you might get something named after you. While most major settlements have been discovered, there are still plenty of smaller finds out there. Private land, rock quarries, and areas near known major archaeological sites (that have not yet been claimed) are good places to treasure hunt.

You can also hunt for natural resources. In the 1800’s it was the gold rush. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, it was the oil rush. Over the years, people have hunted for all sorts of valuable natural commodities. If you own a lot of land or can get access and permission to hunt on private land, you can look for everything from gold to oil to natural gas. If you find a good source, you can sell the land rights to a company that can extract the resources. You can also hunt for gemstones in many areas. Learn which ones are native to your area and how to recognize them in their pure form for the best chance.

If you’re a scuba diver, you can try your hand at locating shipwrecks. While many shipwrecks have been found and claimed by governments and private salvage companies (meaning they are off limits), there are still many out there that haven’t been claimed or discovered. If you find a wreck that has historic value, you might be paid for your find. If you find some treasure, you might get a cut of that, too. Often it’s not the ship itself you’re looking for at first. The ship itself might be buried in sand. At first, you’ll be looking for things like anchors, plates, fittings, or cannonballs. Once you find those, then you have to trace them back to the ship.

Treasure hunting isn’t easy and you need to have a passion for it. It’s generally a lot of sweaty (or wet) labor that yields very little return. However, one big find could set you up for life. Just be certain that you have permission/rights to hunt in certain areas and that you take proper safety precautions. The find of a lifetime isn’t worth it if you get sued for being on someone else’s land or you die at the bottom of the ocean.

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5 Responses to Treasure Hunting: Strange Ways to Make Money

  1. Kari says:

    This article is lacking in any real information about treasure hunting. One brief mention at the end about making sure one has permission is unbelievably simplistic. People are doing jail time and paying enormous fines for illegal treasure hunting. Three people recently killed themselves over a sting operation that revealed illegal trafficking of artifacts. You better make DARN sure that what and where you’re treasure hunting is legal. Also think about who and what you’re damaging in the process. Oh, and as a museum curator, I guarantee you I will never pay money for objects that have been looted.

  2. A friend of our recently started panning for gold the Rocky Mountains. He is a wealthy daytader so he doesn’t really need the money. But, he had a theory that a lot of the old shut-down mines had not been fully excavated. His guess was that with new technology he might find some gold in mines that had been shut down for over 100 years. Sure enough when I visited last week he had a shoebox full of gold flakes and little nuggets. I’m very jealous. 😉

  3. Michael says:

    Thanks for sharing this entry. The concept can be great especially if more details have been discussed about it. But the expectation set at the last paragraph is quite helpful especially for first-time marketers.

  4. amateur archaeologist says:

    What planet is the author of this illinformed garbage living on?

    In most of Europe there is no such thing as land where anyone can use a metal detector without permission of the landowner and try roaming a Native Indian graveyard picking up loose bits and pieces without considering the need to do a lot of explaining at your peril.

    Responsible amateur archaeologists do not expect any monetary gain from what they may find while professional archaeologists are generally paid at best only a meager living wage. In neither case can they expect to make any money on the side in the way suggested.

  5. Michele says:

    I first need to point out that archaeologists don’t dig dinosaurs. For anyone seeking to learn more about legit ways to “collect”, this should be a huge red flag that this article lacks credibility.
    Second of all, public lands will not let you dig willy-nilly without proper permits from multiple agencies, and they probably won’t let you keep what you find.
    As far as private lands, people don’t mind if you look, but if you find something, you’ll be lucky if they pour you a cup of coffee for your efforts, since they own the objects you find, when it’s found on their property.
    Next, one should research how much artifacts are actually selling for (not what people are asking for pieces they’ll never sell), before making any attempt to invest in this “business” People collect arrowheads over the course of their whole lifetime and compile a collection that might be worth a couple hundred dollars. When you divide that total by the number of hours they spent, you’ll realize artifacts are not money makers.

    Archaeological sites are like rare manuscripts. Imagine an original Shakespeare manuscript is found by an amateur, not knowing what they have, they tear out all the pages, saving the ones with pictures on them, since they’re “pretty”, tossing the written material over their shoulder.
    Archaeological sites are like too. Arrowheads don’t tell us much about culture, about what people did, what they thought, how they supported their families, etc. The context, the soils and other less “pretty” artifacts are the clues archaeologists piece together to tell the larger story of the people who lived there in the past. If that dirt is thrown over the shoulder of an amateur as they dig up and then present a beautiful arrowhead to a professional, they’ll probably be met with a shake of their head, over the valuable information that person wasted.

    Please, collect cans and trash if you want to try to make money “treasure hunting”.

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