Can you make a living treasure hunting?

Many are wondering if they can make a living treasure hunting. So I decided to write this post to answer this question.

Please read carefully. The first paragraph isn’t the whole answer. It only takes a few minutes to read what will save you years, money, and frustration.

The short quick answer, YES you can. Here is a list of real treasure hunters who made millions of dollars. And they are living a comfortable life.

Some of them took it to the next level and they started their own treasure hunting companies.

However, for 99.9999% of you, I don’t think this is a reliable source of income. And here’s why…

It takes time

Finding a treasure takes time. You won’t find it in your expedition’s day one. It can happen, but it is highly unlikely.

The hunt can last for years or decades. The expedition may even consume your entire life without getting any results.

I prefer giving you real-life examples rather than theorizing.

Mel Fisher is considered one of the best full-time treasure hunters in the world. He spent 16 years looking for the shipwreck of a Spanish galleon. Finding a few silver bars here and there convinced him that he is getting closer.

The hunt finally paid off. It was loaded with 40 tons of silver and gold. This is more than enough to make you rich, very rich. But locating it took a very long time.

Jeremy Daw and Martin Fulloway are two metal detectorists. They work as paramedics. They only hunt in their spare time. They spent 10 years before finding a coin hoard.

Paul Coleman found a hoard of 5000 coins in 2014. He has been metal detecting for 50 years before making this discovery. It is the result of some good research and a lot of luck.

Reg Mead and Richard Miles found a record-breaking hoard (nearly 70,000 coins) in 2012. Their hunt started in the 1980s.

And the list goes on and on…

Mostly not going to work

Many of us have a tendency to focus only on the success stories and ignore failures. We have overly optimistic beliefs because we overlooked those who did not succeed.

I think treasure hunting like gambling. Million loose and only one of them wins. Do you know what’s funny about that?

Even everybody knew about it, they’ll keep playing. All of them think that they are the one who is going to win.

In a nutshell, in treasure hunting, success is the exception, not the rule.

It takes money

If you are going to chase shipwrecks, you will need a lot of money. I’m talking millions of dollars.

You have to hire a crew of pros in many fields: scuba divers, archeologists, scientists…

You also need to acquire or rent heavy and advanced machinery. To name a few: remotely operated submarines, scuba diving equipment, a ship equipped with side-scan sonar and a crane…

I don’t think this is available for everyone. And, in my opinion, if I already have all of this money, why would I waste it on hunting treasure.

If I were a millionaire, I already have a treasure. I’ll just relax.

So for me, shipwreck hunting is not an option.

You can instead hunt inland treasures and forget about the underwater world. To do that, you only need a metal detector.

These devices are affordable. You can buy a detector for the same price as a smartphone, or even cheaper.

But there is a problem that you need to solve if you want to go full-time. How will you pay your bills during the expedition?

As you already saw at the beginning of this article, it is going to take years before finding a treasure.

You need to figure out a way to pay your bills during the hunt.

Don’t forget that other expenses are involved as well like fuel and accommodation.

Hard work

If you find a treasure you’ll become rich and retire for the rest of your life, you’ll live in the fanciest mansions, and drive all the exotic cars you’ve dreamed about, you can travel wherever you want…

But, getting there isn’t an easy job, you need to work hard, really hard. You have to be persistent and patient.

You have to be optimistic and never lose hope. In the Mel Fisher’s example, he found some goodies scattered here ane there. This certainly helped keep him motivated. Imagine if you find nothing; will you lose hope?

You need to study a lot of historical documents to know more about the ship’s cargo, where was it heading and where it likely sank…

You also have to examine aerial photos to locate the remnants of historical settlements, and study the history of the region…

All of this work is needed to locate the goodies. However, this is only the first step. You still have to recover it, which can be even harder.

Treasure hunting isn’t the dreamy world that you see on TV. You have to work hard in order to achieve your goals.

In a nutshell, It is a tough way to make an easy living.

Knowledge and experience

Treasure hunting isn’t for everyone. You need to learn many skills. There is a learning curve even for simple devices like metal detectors. Experience also plays an important role.

For shipwreck hunting, things get more complicated by stages. You need to have deep knowledge in many fields like archeology.

Mathematics is also important. For example, the shipwreck of the SS Central America was located using the Bayesian search theory.

Luck is a big factor but don’t base your plans on it. Keep in mind that your chances of finding a treasure increase with your knowledge and your hard work.

My recommendations

I think by now, you understand that treasure hunting isn’t a reliable source of income. But, I have a few recommendations that will help get the most out of it.

Pick what’s affordable

best metal detectorUnderwater treasure hunting isn’t an option for most of us. It requires you to invest millions of dollars. So forget about it.

You should, instead, get an affordable entry-level metal detector and use it to locate buried goodies.

This is a better alternative for two reasons: It is within your means. Anybody can do it even he has a limited budget.

Second, you will lose nothing even if you didn’t find the treasure you were looking for.

Part-time only

In the first paragraph, I’ve talked about the example of two paramedics who found a coin hoard. They always go metal detecting only during the weekends.

You can do just like them. Keep your full- time job and go metal detecting whenever you have free time.

If you find something precious, then cool. If you didn’t, you still have your full-time income. It is a hobby, not a job. It is a nice fun outdoor activity.

It would be great if you strike it rich while doing something you‘re passionate about. But please lower your expectations.

After retirement

Metal detecting is one of the favorite activities for retirees. Most of the valuable finds are discovered by retired people.

So if you are a senior, you could join them. You have all the time you need. You can turn into a full-time treasure hunter. You have nothing to lose anyway.

You don’t need a lot of effort. Simply walk and swing your device. Only digging hard soil is difficult for the elderly.

Start a business around it

You can start a metal detecting shop or help people recover their lost items.

You can also start a school that teaches people metal detecting and other alternative technics for gold hunting, like panning dredging…

Join them

Finally, you can apply for a job in a treasure hunting company. I don’t how each company works, but you’ll get your safe paycheck even nothing is found.

And you’ll work in something you are passionate about. It would be great if one could work as a test driver for Lamborghini. He’ll be paid for driving cars that he always dreamed about.


You can strike it rich if you find a treasure. But I don’t think treasure hunting is a reliable source of income.

In my opinion, get a basic metal detector (more details here). Use it to hunt precious metals only during your pastime.

You won’t be losing anything even if you didn’t find gold. You are always going to have a good time.

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