Treasure Enterprises of Australia

Australia's Oldest & Largest Supplier of Gold Prospecting and Treasure Hunting Equipment   (Established 1976)

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This page contains various tips, techniques and other information that relates to all aspects of treasure hunting which includes coin hunting, relic hunting and beachcombing.



So you want to go Treasure Hunting

Treasure Hunting Areas

A 'Field' Coin Cleaner

Coin Cleaning Methods

Coins - Which are the most valuable?

Do you know how many Australian coins have been circulated?

What's your ring worth?

What are your coins worth ?  ...... in today's prices (as at: March 2011)


For more information please check out the following pages:


Australian Treasure Stories:


Beachcombing Tips:




By: David Cooper © 2013

Treasure Hunting is fast becoming one of the world’s most popular hobbies and relates to the searching for, and recovering of, an endless list of valuable items. This can be on land, on the beach or even under the water. However, this particular article will only relate to treasure hunting on land. Beachcombing and Underwater detecting is dealt with in a separate article.

Probably the most important benefit derived for the treasure hunter is the health benefit of getting out of doors into the fresh air and sunshine. Treasure Hunting is relatively simple and can also be quite profitable. The majority of people begin their new hobby by coin hunting and this can lead to bigger and better things later on as you will learn in the course of reading this article.


The main piece of equipment that you will need is a metal detector. There are many brands and models on the market today but to start off there is no need to pay a fortune unless you really want to!   The main accessories that you will need are: a good set of headphones, a coin trowel, a small spade (and a sand scoop if you intend going to the beach).


This is one of the main important activities that the treasure hunter should engage in. It is not much point buying a metal detector if you don’t know where you are going to use it! For your first outing I suggest that you pick an area to search close to your home. Have a look at some of early maps to glean some information of what the area looked like in times past. The ideal place to look for this information would be at your local library, council or historical society. These will show where the old houses, shops and other buildings used to (or may still) stand. Old railway stations, schools, scout and guide huts, churches, parks, racecourses, picnic spots, playgrounds and even the local swimming hole. Some of the historical publications that have been published by clubs, schools and churches of the area can provide some important information.

         A children's playground / park at Chinchilla, Queensland

If you have access to a state historical library, some of which are located in the major towns or cities. These can be a gold mine for this type of information. You can spend months and months on a single subject but it can be worth it in the end. Here in Brisbane, we have the John Oxley Library; the amount of material held in the archives is phenomenal. They have many books, journals, reports and newspapers plus lots of other historical data available for you to peruse.

Once you have obtained as much information as possible, it is time to go on your ‘treasure hunt’ providing of course, that you know how to use your detector properly. It is not my intention to go into ‘how to use’ metal detectors in this particular article, but goes into where treasure has been found and where you may still find it.


The answer to this question is ‘Anywhere!’ In essence, anywhere that people have been you could find treasure of some description. It could be in the form of lost coins, jewellery, personal items or even items that have been lost around the yard that could now be regarded as relics. So, if you own a house that would be around 35 years old or more, there would be chance in finding pre-decimal coins. That’s a start! Try around where the clothesline is, if you don’t happen to find any coins there, just try and imagine where the clothesline could have been. In the earlier houses, prior to the 1960’s, washing in some cases, was just strung up between two trees or posts. I have literally found dozens and dozens of coins, badges and even some jewellery at these places. Whilst we are talking about old houses, the owners sometimes stashed some of their money in jars and buried it in either the front or backyard, generally in a location where they could keep their eye on it. They even buried it in the back corner where a chook house used to be. By doing that, the ‘occupants’ would really make a racket if someone came near them. The old flowerbeds are ‘hot spots’ and should be checked too. I have found the odd ring or two there that must have been lost when they were gardening. Check under any large trees with large overhanging branches, coins fell out of the pockets of children either climbing trees or jumping off ropes. People often buried valuables using fence posts as markers, and the posts either disappeared or they could not identified them again hence leaving their treasure buried to this day.

Pay particular attention to the pathway from the front door to where the letterbox was, or even out to the footpath this is also a haven for lost coins – remember a lot of tradesmen including the milkman and baker used to travel along this route and in their haste used to drop the odd coin or two. In the early days children (and that included me) had a habit of playing around near the down-pipe, old toy cars can be found here.

Don’t forget to check any retaining walls and would you believe, some people buried their money under their house and even under paths and driveways. As a matter of fact, in the days of the rising gold and silver prices, people contacted us for the use of a metal detector so they could locate their loot that they had buried.

As a treasure hunter myself, I just stop and think of the possibilities where else you can also find treasure. Inside the house is another spot – inside built-in cupboards and drawers, near fireplaces, hidey-holes in walls – the list is endless!

     David Cooper (left) & Brian Sparks (right) detecting at a showground near Brisbane, Queensland.

Within the towns and cities of Australia today, many of the inner city houses are being demolished to make way for new buildings – this is a pity in one way as some of our heritage is being lost. However, for the treasure hunter searching these areas can be very productive. Some of these have either a small front or back garden. Try and detect them (with permission) prior to the building being demolished as it makes hunting easier with less trash. Even so, don’t forget to detect it later on when the block has been levelled because you can still find things that the bulldozer has unearthed. The only problem that you may have to put up with is digging those lead-head nails. Many a small cache has been found in this way. Another recent example of this was that a person who dug up a pickle bottle of gold sovereigns in the backyard of an old house in Petrie Terrace – an older area of Brisbane.

The same method can be used for detecting those old buildings, halls and schools. A tip is to look in the classified section of your local newspaper under ‘Demolition Materials’ or ‘Houses for Removal’ you will generally find that they are listed there.

Another area where you will find a lot of early coins (and you will have to be quick about this one) are roadside rest areas and picnic spots. Unfortunately, these are fast running out in some places due to continual upgrading of our highways. Try and find some of the early road maps (you may be able to have a look at some of these if you contact your local automobile association) as they will often pin-point these types of locations. Line them up with the present day road and you will find that the present road follows the old road and others could be off the track. You will note some old bridges could still be there hidden in the bush – others gone completely. With the maps of the 1930’s some provide a running commentary with mileages and places of interest noted.

At present, (and ... unfortunately in some circumstances) there is a lot of demolishing going on in Brisbane as well in country parts of Southern Queensland, with private housing areas making way for new roadways, under the river tunnel projects as well as houses and farms being reclaimed for new dams and the like.

The drought has also taken its toll with us all. The following photograph taken in January 2007 of Somerset Dam (north - west of Brisbane, Queensland) shows where the boat ramp is now. The dam level has dropped so much, thus allowing the area open to the treasure hunter to find lost rings and other jewellery items ... etc. There are literally hundreds of situations similar this around Australia at the moment.



Wivenhoe Dam   (Near Brisbane, Queensland)   May 2007                 (Picture courtesy of: The Courier Mail, Brisbane)

This tree stump is normally under 8 metres (25 feet +) of water.


All of these are great areas for treasure hunting !!



In the very early 1800’s prior to first bank of New South Wales opening in 1817, there was quite a variety of overseas coinage circulating within the colony. These included English coins, Portuguese johannas, Indian rupees, Ceylon pagodas, Dutch guilders, gold mohurs and ducats. Later on in the goldrush period many other foreign coins were used and lost. Some countries that come to mind are Ireland, Germany, China and the United States of America.


Oh yes! Don’t forget to check out the early Cobb & Co coach routes too. A lot of these routes used to traverse Queensland and other states in the early days. The Cobb & Co Museum in Toowoomba (Queensland) have published a few books and a coach map route on this subject (which are also available from us) and some of these routes are marked. At many of the coach stops there was a pub or an accommodation house. These are most interesting spots to detect – you never know what you will find at these places.

    A Cobb & Co Coach in the museum at Surat, Queensland.


At the time of the latter gold rushes and when Cobb & Co were servicing those areas between the towns, it was the heyday of the bushranger. Some of these characters were gentlemen and some weren’t!

This reminds of an incident that came to light when my wife Elaine, was researching her family history. The Goulburn Post in 1863 gave a very detailed account of two of her ancestors, William and James Marsh being held up by bushrangers (later identified as members of the Kelly Gang which were most likely the Quinn Brothers, the uncles of Ned Kelly) on the Braidwood road near Goulburn (New South Wales). The bushrangers were lying in wait for a stagecoach carrying gold and other valuables and held up anyone who was unfortunate enough to come along. When they held up the Marsh’s they must have felt sorry for them as they gave back their watches and £1 in money! Big deal!

Bushrangers’ hoards are still supposed to await lucky finders in several places. It is believed that somewhere within the Bungonia Caves area (near Goulburn) lies some of the booty buried by Ben Hall.

Meanwhile, Captain Thunderbolt (alias Frederick Ward) is reputed to have left a quantity of coins and jewellery in a cave of the Moonbi Ranges (New South Wales). It is interesting to note that Thunderbolt had a most impressive crime record, having committed between 25 and 30 mail robberies, bailed up dozens of stores, station properties, hotels and travellers, taken 80 well bred horses, and had been involved in four shootings, in two of which he wounded three policemen.

If you ever travel along the New England Highway, look out for Thunderbolt’s Rock. It is situated about 5 km before Uralla heading north. The rock is on a crest of a hill and would have given Thunderbolt a good place to hide as well as a perfect view of the road in both directions. He also had the advantage that the coach horses and wealthy travellers on horseback would have to be travelling slowly up the hill.

Another bushranger (name unknown) offered to show the police where he had buried a hoard of sovereigns on the slopes of Mt. Tennant (A.C.T.) under a dead tree, but it was never recovered according to the records. Which dead tree? There are hundreds of them! Anyway, it probably isn’t there anymore! True or false – who knows?

In Victoria, on 20th July, 1854 the famous McIvor Highway robbery occurred near Mia Mia when four bushrangers made off with 2226 ounces of gold dust and nuggets. It is believed that the proceeds as well as their guns are buried somewhere between McIvor (now called Heathcote) and Melbourne. Now, that would be a great treasure hunting find!

I can remember a recent story told to me by Brisbane treasure hunter and prospector, Mr. Trevor Percival about an old man telling him about a secret cave somewhere in Northern New South Wales. The old man had found it years ago by squeezing through a narrow rock entrance concealed by trees. Lying in the darkness inside was a human skeleton with a bullet hole in the forehead. Littered around it were old bank notes, jewellery and gold sovereigns minted in the 1850's. The old man left it all there untouched. Trevor asked him ‘Why didn’t he take it?’ He said basically, ‘He was frightened’ – I guess I don’t blame him!


Delving back a little more in time, we come to the main gold rush era around the mid 1800’s when miners came to Australia from all parts of the world including England and Europe. Some of the early miners went to Californian gold rush in America and returned with the expertise on how to mine for gold in Australia. The great influx of Chinese miners came from Hong Kong and other parts of China. Many old coins including the Chinese cash coins have been found in some the gold fields. An interesting fact that has come to light is that the Chinese coated their currency with fat and dipped them in gold dust so they could smuggle them out of the country. Many of them converted their gold into gold sovereigns making it easier for them to carry.

Some of you who have detected some of the early goldfield areas may have come across the odd token coin. These were in circulation from the early 1850’s to the early 1870’s. They can be found in most Australian states. You may also be lucky to find similar token coins issued in England, Ireland and New Zealand. These token coins, which were mainly pennies and halfpennies were given as change to spend again at their stores. However, these became illegal and were withdrawn from circulation. You sometimes find that they have a hole in the middle where the miners nailed them up on their doorway as a souvenir. At this point I must make mention of the popular Professor Holloway coins which seem to turn up regularly. A good reference guide to these token coins can be found at all good coin shops. Keep your eye out also for other types of tokens that can be found, these include bread, milk, ferry, communion and Internment Camp tokens.


Apart from coins, there are many other ‘treasures’ to be found like belt buckles, some of which are quite attractive. The main types are those that have referred to cricket teams and other sporting activities. Old bottles are quite prolific and you can generally notice where the old bottle and rubbish dumps were because of a low depression in the ground and the amount of charcoal and debris associated with them. You can in most cases, locate these areas with a metal detector because of the iron junk material that was buried with it. There are many types of bottles and jars to be found – this is a subject by itself.

When you excavate these dumps you will invariably come up with clay pipes, old cask taps, etc.

On the old goldfields keep your eye open for gold crucibles that were often discarded because they were too old, cracked or broken. You will sometimes still find gold adhering to them.

Back in the mid 1980’s a treasure hunter was detecting around the old township of Maytown in the Palmer River goldfield (Queensland) when he came across an old metal cast that was used in the old printing presses. He had it identified and was amazed to find that it was a cast for the label that was used to put on the Professor Holloway’s pill bottles that were widely sold on the Australian goldfields. You never know what you will find!

If any of you are like me, you just can’t help visiting second-hand and antique shops – it is amazing what you can ‘detect’ here. I remember finding two £10 notes in a drawer under the top of an old desk that I bought from a second-hand furniture shop at Norwood in Adelaide.


More than 160,000 convicts were transported to Australia between 1788 and 1868. About 80,000 convicts were sent to New South Wales, including a few to Port Phillip (Melbourne) and Moreton Bay (Brisbane) which were part of New South Wales until 1851. Van Dieman’s Land (Tasmania) received 69,000. The last convicts to land in eastern Australia were in Tasmania in 1852. However, Western Australia only started receiving convicts in 1850 and continued to 1868 receiving a total of 9,700. Convicts were never sent to South Australia.

By researching the early history they were eventually made to work in the towns and many country areas building roads, drains and making bricks for buildings. Evidence can still be seen today. If those early convicts ‘had the opportunity’ of visiting your town, there is always a possibility of finding some of the early convict relics such as leg irons and various implements. Some of these have been found in some parts of Brisbane and the area stretching from Cleveland on the coast to Ipswich to the west. The early intentions were to build a settlement at Cleveland but were unable to land their ships due to the low tides and mud flats in the area, so they eventually found other venues ending up where Brisbane stands today. Convict leg irons have also been found at Jones Creek near Dunolly (Vic). It is impossible to list all the convict sites in this article particularly those in New South Wales and Tasmania. This will be covered in a future article.

For those interested in looking for convict relics (like myself) it is a most exciting experience. Leg irons, balls and chains plus numerous other artefacts from that era can still be unearthed. Even around Brisbane there are still things to be found provided of course you know where to look and that of course relates to ‘Research’ the subject I mentioned earlier.

Back in late 1978, I had the opportunity to assist in an ‘archaeological dig’ here in Brisbane when the Queensland Museum had the chance to excavate the lower floor of the now 175 year old Commissariat Stores situated at North Quay. It is the second oldest building in Brisbane, the oldest being the Observatory (and later a windmill) built in 1828 at Wickham Terrace. Many interesting artefacts were recovered; however, we didn’t find much with a metal detector, as they were pretty basic in those days. It was amazing to note that even a clump of hand-made nails didn’t even give a response, as they were totally corroded with no metal content left whatsoever!


Towards the end of last century a man in Perth (Western Australia) found several gold ingots while digging in his backyard which was believed to have been buried by the previous owner.

Robert Wiseman from Kyneton (Victoria) came across a large number of English coins including token coins while digging in his garden during 1924. His house was previously the site of the St Agnes Hill Hotel and was most probable that the coins had fallen through the floorboards at a point where the patrons gathered.

The next year, Cobden Dam near Camperdown (Victoria) was the scene of much excitement after Fred Buck and his son noticed several sovereigns lying in the mud so he grabbed a shovel and started digging. To his amazement, he unearthed a mustard tin full of sovereigns – then more! Eventually he totalled 91 sovereigns. The news spread fast and before long a large crowd appeared at the scene. A further 150 sovereigns were found some lying loose and others in tins. One boy pulled up a tuft of grass and found 5 sovereigns underneath. It was reported that all the coins bore dates between 1870 and 1906. How they got there still remains a mystery. However, one theory is that the coins were scattered when blasting operations were carried out in the area in 1918.

In 1926, two workmen who were demolishing an old building in High Street, Launceston (Tasmania) previously occupied by Chinese market gardeners, came across a cache of 508 sovereigns bearing dates between 1834 and 1902.

In 1929, a cache of 400 gold sovereigns, dated 1908, were found at Sirius Cove, Sydney (New South Wales), the treasure of a German who feared for his valuables at the outbreak of World War I.

St Marys (Tasmania) - This area yielded 2 hoards being found within the space of 2 years. In 1928, a small hoard of coins and a valuable ring was found in an unoccupied house while in 1930 a local resident, Mrs. M.A. Maney was driving a cow to a milking yard when the animal’s leg sank into a large hole. When the cow’s leg was extracted from the hole she found a tin containing 249 perfect condition Queen Victoria sovereigns. What a stroke of luck!

Sometime during the 1930’s, a bottle of sovereigns were unearthed by a plough on a farm in the Windsor District (New South Wales)

In 1936, workmen found an old can and tin stuffed with £600 ($1200) when they were demolishing an old house in Musgrave Street, Rockhampton, (Queensland).

Whilst inspecting an old hut for white ants and borers at the Quarantine Station, North Head, Sydney (New South Wales) a man by the name of W. Pattison accidentally put his foot into a rabbit warren and dislodged 60 gold sovereigns bearing dates between 1864 and 1894.

Back in 1950, two brothers from Kilmore (Victoria) found a tin containing 83 sovereigns in the wall of an old house. They actually threw the coins away thinking they were old Chinese coins that had no value but happened to keep a couple as souvenirs. They later showed them to their father who recognized them as gold sovereigns.

A few years later in 1958, a youth fossicking around the site of an old Chinese garden on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River near Narrandera (New South Wales) found 34 sovereigns dated between 1887 and 1897. He reported the find to the local police who turned up another half-sovereign and sovereign on the same site. It is believed there could be more to be found at this site.

The following year, another cache was uncovered by council workmen whilst installing a power control box when one of them came across an old tobacco tin buried 18" deep containing a quantity of gold sovereigns as well as others found nearby. These coins dated from 1876 to 1911.

It was reported that back in 1960, that an owner of an old house in the Brisbane suburb of Annerley dug up a container containing £7 ($14) in bank notes. Next day, another search was conducted and a further container was found containing just over £47 ($94) in bank notes and coins plus some letters that were addressed to a Mrs. Jenyns, the previous owner. Ironically, when the house was demolished in 1970, bulldozing operators were preparing the site for a private hospital when they began digging up tins of money. It was confirmed again that the house was in fact, occupied by one of Queensland’s best known business families, the Jenyns, The matriarch of the corset making family and fearing a Japanese invasion, withdrew £3000 ($6000) from a bank and buried it on the property in the early 1940’s.

During 1960 two separate caches of money were found totalling approximately £900 ($1800) on the old Sidney Coulton property at Beecroft (New South Wales). The old chap was known to have won considerable large amounts of money at the races and seeing that he didn’t trust the banks in those days, he buried it. It is presumed that there is still more to be found.

In October, 1962, a building surveyor inspecting the foundations for a new house in May Street, Hampton (Victoria) unearthed a rusty tin from a trench containing 98 sovereigns and 122 half-sovereigns. The latest date on the coins was 1914. A shop had previously been on the site for about 70 years.

During 1964, a local farmer from Singleton (New South Wales) unearthed a quantity of early currency whilst ploughing his paddock.

In the late 1970’s, a Cairns painter, Keith Courtenay was camped at Hells Gate in the Palmer River Goldfield area. He had been commissioned to paint a landscape of the goldfields for Brisbane’s Parliament House. Whilst boiling his billy he was scratching around in the ground when to his amazement he found a half buried urn containing over 23,000 Chinese Cash coins. There are lots of theories surrounding the coins – that the Chinese miners used them as their own currency or that they were used as religious offerings. There was even a suggestion the coins were the buried treasure of a murdered Chinese banker. Whichever is true, the coins symbolize a bond between the rich history of Far North Queensland and China.


In the years when we sold metal detectors, I can recall many finds that have occurred within the Brisbane area and would like to share some of these with you.

One local treasure hunter unearthed a jar of 81 sovereigns under a laundry floor of an old house (circa late 1800’s) at a suburb named Cribb Island. This suburb was completely demolished to make way for an extension to the Brisbane Airport and that meant every house, shop, hall and school – the lot! It was a treasure hunter’s dream and the finds that were unearthed were simply amazing. Another treasure hunter happened to pass three houses at Tennyson that were being pulled down to make way for road alterations. He stopped, pulled out his detector and began to search the yard. Just before he was ready to leave, he crossed a pathway and got a large signal just at the edge of the concrete. Something made him go back to the car and retrieve a shovel and just as well he did – he found a jar of assorted coins both foreign and pre-decimal. That really made his day.

In the early part of June, 1986, workmen found a cache of gemstones and other valuables placed in an old Arnott’s biscuit box plus a smaller tin wrapped up in a 1922 newspaper. It contained 496 jewellery items consisting of ruby and sapphire rings, gold chains, 44 gold bracelets, 180 brooches, 23 pair of cufflinks and 5 collar studs. These were found when removing a stump from St. John’s Uniting Church at Booval near Ipswich (Queensland). Now how did they get there?

Also in that year, workers digging a trench beneath a concrete slab at St. Patrick’s Christian Brothers College in Mackay (Queensland), dug up a bottle containing 400 silver florins dating back 75 years. The oldest minted coin was 1910 and the latest 1940. The cache was found one metre beneath the surface.

Another incident happened in April 1993 when a group of workmen excavating for a swimming pool in the backyard of a house in the Brisbane suburb of The Grange, unearthed a tin containing thousands of pre-decimal coins. Most of the coins were florins dated from the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s.

Closer to the city heart, the wharves along Brisbane River used to be a hive of activity with wool, coal, goods and general cargo being loaded and unloaded for well over 100 years. When some redevelopment took place part of the wharf had to go. When the time was right for me to investigate the situation, I clambered down under the wharf and what did I see? - all these coins lying on the muddy bank and on top of the bearers - what a sight! In a matter of half an hour I had a big pocketful of coins, so the next day I went back with my detector and found heaps more.

In recent times, some of the shakers in the alluvial gold recovery plants operating in the Palmer River Goldfield area have been turning up numerous artefacts such as: rifle bullets, pistol balls, musket balls, buckles, buttons, opium jars, european and chinese coins as well as ‘old human bones’. These have surfaced as the machines scrape the creek beds clean of gold-bearing alluvial sands.

Some years ago, a treasure hunter unearthed a most interesting brass belt buckle with his metal detector. It was found under the ashes of an old campfire near the old Cobb & Co staging place at Dandry, 16 km from Coonabarabran on the old road to Narrabri, a remote spot in the foothills of the Warrumbungle Ranges (New South Wales). This large buckle was embossed with cricket bats and bails with several players’ names and the words ‘The Australian Team’. Research showed that this team came from England touring Australia and New Zealand in 1863. How did that get there?


The treasure hoard of a wealthy farmer named Turvey lies buried on his 1890 property, now known as Turvey Park, Wagga (New South Wales). All attempts to recover this treasure have failed – so it is still out there to be found!

One of Queensland’s most mysterious buried treasures was a bronze coin (minted during the reign of Egyptian Pharoah Ptolemy the Fourth who reigned from 221 BC to 204 BC) found by a farmer who was sinking postholes in the rainforest at Kuranda on the heights overlooking Cairns in 1911. No one was ever able to explain how it got there – perhaps there could be more?

There have many rumors over the years about the hoard of sovereigns that were buried by the Harris brothers on their orchard at Axedale (14 miles from Bendigo, Victoria). Several attempts to find this hoard have been unsuccessful so this still remains somewhere on the property.

Also, on Victorian farm property at Tullaree (which one - don't ask - I don’t know!) there lies a tale of a German carpenter who buried 3000 gold sovereigns which has not yet been found. Now there’s an opportunity for someone who is prepared to do some research!

Scotland Island, out in Pittwater, Sydney (New South Wales) lies a three-legged pot full of holey dollars buried around 1817 by two robbers who drifted down the Hawkesbury River. Thereby hangs a tale – true or false – who knows?

Somewhere near the water’s edge in one of the small bays of the North Shore in Sydney (New South Wales) lies buried several boxes containing a large quantity of Spanish dollars and Georgian silver coins which were transported from the Bank of Australia in George Street. These were part of the proceeds from a robbery that occurred on the 14th September, 1828. According to historical records these have never been recovered.

Some of you who are interested in coins will remember reading about the famous ‘Kiama pennies’. These were minted in Sydney for John Allen, owner of the Kiama general store nearly 140 years ago are estimated to be worth at least $100,000 each! Several hundred were made, but the businessman didn’t like them and they were eventually sold to a tollgate keeper at Annandale. What happened to them is a mystery. So far only two have turned up. A private collector owns the other one is in Sydney’s Museum of Arts and Sciences.

For those of you who love to go to the gem and opal fields – don’t forget to pack your metal detector. Why? you may ask. I know of many instances where people have found precious rough gems and opals in tins buried around the old campsites and even in the mullock dumps – so you never know what you may find including buried cash. I can remember an instance some years ago when a couple of fossickers scraping around old mine workings at Lightning Ridge (New South Wales) found more than £3500 ($7000) worth of old coins in a rusting tin box.


To confirm that people actually bury their loot, I must relate this extract from a newspaper article that I read some years ago that made me chuckle:

A retired couple were sent to Noosa Heads (Queensland) for a break by their devoted family. While the parents were away, the adult brood back home decided they’d surprise them and cement underneath their high-set home to mark a recent wedding anniversary. When the parents arrived home, they were marched downstairs for the big surprise. It turned out quite a surprise for everyone, as they explained to the eager-to-please family members their life’s savings had been buried under the dirt in milk powder tins. Unfortunately, I don’t know the final outcome – but I can guess!

If you ever get the chance to make a visit to the Good Friday diggings near Tibooburra (New South Wales) you may happen to come across a makeshift grave with a sign saying ‘D. Tector, passed away 6/4/1982, Suspected foul play’. It is believed someone placed it there after a 6 day prospecting trip. I wouldn’t bother digging it up if I were you, let it R.I.P.


We have had several instances of people wanting a detector to locate rings and other jewellery items that have been either thrown out of a window or a door into the garden during heated family arguments. In one incident, a metal detector was used to bash someone but the metal detector came off second best. At Palm Cove, near Cairns (Queensland) one chap used his metal detector to defend himself against a saltwater crocodile that came up from the creek and it took a great chunk out of his search coil!


Sometimes you do not need a metal detector to find treasure!

A few years ago, Ron the Recka, a scrap metal merchant in Stanthorpe (Queensland) found an ‘unknown item’ in a sack of scrap metal. It looked like a burner of some description. He showed it to the owner of the local Chinese Restaurant, Mr. William Lau, who deciphered the characters on the base. The ‘item’ turned out to be a 550 year old Chinese incense burner made in the Ming Dynasty (around 1427) when Shin Jung was emperor. This was probably brought out by a Chinese tin miner to Stanthorpe when it was a booming tin town in the mid 1800’s.

If you love detecting for those real old coins, I suggest that you do some serious research. Areas in New South Wales and Tasmania would be the best place to look for these coins or other places that were occupied during 1813 and 1829.


DO YOU WANT TO FIND MORE COINS & RELICS (and even gold nuggets) ??

Most people answer "Yes" to this question.

Do you want to know the secret ?

Go metal detecting   (or gold)  ...  2 hours after sunrise and the 2 hours before sunset.

Please ...  don't ask questions .... just do it .... and you will find out.

It's true !   ..... believe me.

This is a secret many people do not reveal publicly  ..... it works for me and many other friends of mine !



Even though Australia has only been settled for a little over 200 years, there is certainly plenty of places that one can go treasure hunting. As I said in the earlier part of this article, research plays a most important part and provided you know the history of an area and what happened in times past there is always a chance of finding ‘something’ whether it be valuable or not. The 'little ditty' advertising theme for the Northern Territory applies in treasure hunting too – You will never, never know – if you never, never go! ..... Lady Luck plays a part too – but providing you know your metal detector - you will be on the road to success. Good treasure hunting!


Collecting Australian Coins (T. Hanley and B. James) 1966

Lost Treasures in Australia and New Zealand (Kenneth W. Byron) 1964

World Treasure Atlas (Thomas P. Terry) 1978



Treasure Hunting Areas


Where can I go treasure hunting to find some treasure?

This is a very popular question that is asked regularly .... as I mentioned in the previous article - the answer is .....Anywhere !

To get you started ... here are a just a few places where you can try:

Airfields (old wartime areas); Alpine Skiing areas & slopes; Athletic fields; Army camps; Amusement parks; Bathing box areas; Bathing enclosures at the beach; Beach & River Estuaries; Boat ramps; Bridges; Bushranger hideouts; Bus stops; Camping grounds (country & beach); Car parks; Churches (please be respectful); Circus grounds; Clothes lines; Cobb & Co Coach-stops; Construction sites; Convict locations; Dam sites; Dance halls; Demolition sites; Drive-In Theatres; Driveways; Fences; Fishing holes (dams & rivers); Flea Market grounds; Flower beds; Football fields; Foot Bridges; Footpaths; Garages (household); Ghosts Towns; Girl Guide huts; Girl Guide camping areas; Historical marker sites; Home sites; Hotels (past & present); Jetties; Lookouts; Parking meters; Picnic spots; Playgrounds; P.O.W. (Prisoner of War) camps; Racetracks (past & present); Railway Stations; Retaining walls; River & Creek crossings; Road-side rest areas; Road-side stalls; Rotundas; School playgrounds & recreational areas; Scout camping areas; Scout dens; Service stations (Old); Shearing sheds; Shops; Show-grounds; Swimming holes; Swimming pool areas; Taxi ranks; Telephone boxes (outside); Tram stops; Toll Gates (early); Two-Up schools; Wharves .... etc ..... the list could go on and on.

If you have any further areas or ideas that could be added to this list .... please let me know.  Thanks, David.



A 'Field' Coin Cleaner

Many people have asked me as to how they can clean some of their coins.

The following information provides: as to how you can make a simple COIN CLEANER so it can be used off a car/cigarette lighter outlet whilst on extended field trips at the beach.

Firstly, find an old car charging lead that has the cigarette adaptor socket at one end with a length of wire (generally two (2) core) attached – you must one have lying around that you’ve never used. Go to your hardware store or electronics shop and buy two (2) small alligator clips.

Next, cut off the small plug, which is generally used to ‘plug in’ to an appliance. Part the two plastic wires to a length of about 12 inches long. You will notice that one wire is black and the other red. Attach an alligator clip to each of the wires. The red wire is positive and the black wire is negative.

Fill a glass jar to about two-thirds full with salt water. Attach the red (positive) lead to a piece of stainless steel and then connect the coin to be cleaned to the black (negative) lead. Place both of the leads into the jam jar making sure that the objects don’t touch each other.

Plug into the cigarette lighter, and you see bubbles forming on the article being cleaned. Flakes of oxidation will float to the surface. Use a soft brush (nailbrush or an old toothbrush) to clean the coin further with soapy water and dry with a soft cloth.

Repeat the process until the object is clean.

NOTE: Make sure that you only clean one coin at a time and remember to replace the salty water after each cleaning.


Coin Cleaning Methods

There are many methods and "ideas" to clean coins.

  If you think the coin could be valuable such as gold sovereigns, early pre-decimal silver coins and even some rare date copper coins … my advice is to leave it alone! ….  and get some proper advice from either a reputable coin dealer or a numismatic society. Even a small added scratch could devalue it. Leave it to the experts or the person buying it to clean it.

  However, for those other coins which are not as valuable but you would like to clean them for your own collection some of the following methods put forth by other treasure hunters may be of some help.

  If you have any another methods … please contact me and I will be happy to add them to this list



Firstly, please remember DO NOT CLEAN silver coins in with copper coins in any solution !

Secondly, just treat a few coins at a time.

Thirdly, when the solution becomes "Yuckky" dispose of it and make up a new batch.


 Possibly the most popular one is to soak them in a small amount of white vinegar with a teaspoonful of cooking salt.

You can, if you wish, make up a strong mixture, but for goodness sake make sure that you keep an eye on the proceedings.

As the coins become clean, take them out and wash them thoroughly and spread them out on a towel to dry.

This method will generally take only a few minutes unless the coins are badly corroded. It takes slightly less than hour for the worst silver coins to come up like new.

It must be noted that if you leave the copper coins too long in this solution it will start to dissolve the copper.


For cleaning old copper pennies and halfpennies.

If you have some Worcestershire Sauce … even a cheap "Home Brand" will do.

Just immerse the coins in the some of this sauce overnight. Just enough to cover the coins.

In the morning just wash them in soapy water …. and bingo!



I suggest that the Tumbler method as described in the DECIMAL COIN section below is NOT to be used on Pre Decimal coins otherwise you can ruin them.





  Firstly, please remember DO NOT CLEAN the Cupro-nickel coins in with Copper coins together.  In other words, classify the coins into the following three (3) groups:  

(a) 1c & 2c.     (b) 5c; 10c; 20c & 50c.     (c)  $1 & $2

Secondly, just treat a few coins at a time.

Thirdly, when the solution becomes "Yuckky" dispose of it and make up a new batch.



For cleaning a batch of coins (of the same type).

Important! Use a pair of gloves. 

1.  Add 20 mls of swimming pool acid (usually 40% Hydrochloric acid strength) to 300 mls of water. I have been told that a brand R70 is a good one.

2.  Within about 30 seconds to 1 minute they will be clean enough to spend.

3.  Please make sure that you rinse them properly.

4.  Make sure that you don't leave them in too long or else they will be "stuffed"!



1.  Simply put them Coca Cola overnight.

2.  Don't drink the "Coke" afterwards !!!

Result:  Reasonable.



The White Vinegar and Salt method (as described in the Pre Decimal Coin Section – above) works extremely well on $1 and $2 coins.

It takes between 1 to 4 hours to clean them depending on the condition of the coin.



Some treasure hunters even use this simple method for cleaning decimal coins. Don't do this to the valuable ones … Yes … there are valuable decimal coins! Make sure that you check your Coin and Banknote Guide first.

1.  Cut a rectangular piece of MDF board, say, 15" x 12" (approximately 375mm x 300mm).

2.  Place each coin denomination on the board and trace around it. 

3. Then cut out the interior … by the method you would prefer. Make sure that the coin protrudes the surface of the board by a whisker. If you like, you can have numerous holes on the same board.

4. Scrub the coin with a 'steelo' pad or similar. You can even 'knock up' something for your drill or sander and then finally buff the coin. 

5.  Repeat the process on the other side of the coin.

6.  It's now good enough to spend. 



That's if they are not encrusted with sand and dirt etc.

Put them in parking meters or food dispensing machines.

If you just want replacement "new" coins … just feed them into a poker machine and press "Collect" …. Bingo! … unblemished coins!


METHOD No. 6  -   THE TUMBLER METHOD .... For Decimal coins only !


Lortone 3A Tumbler (or similar)

Ingredients:  (No ... this is not a cooking lesson!)


Fine beach sand

Coarse beach sand or river sand




Small plastic granules (available from Lapidary shops)


1.   Fill the barrel about 1/2  to 2/3 full of coins (of the same denomination).

2.   Add a few handfuls of both fine and coarse sand.

3.   Add about a cupful of plastic granules (some people even use uncooked rice instead).

4.   Add water … just enough to cover the coins and material.

5.   Put a squirt of liquid detergent into the barrel (don't put very much in otherwise there's too much froth and bubble).

6.   Add 2 teaspoons of white vinegar.

7.   Add 2 teaspoons of cooking salt.

8.   Start "her" up … and away we go.

9.   After about 5 minutes the tumbling should nice and even … if you find they are "banging' around inside … stop the tumbler and add a little more sand.

10.   Let it all tumble about for about 30 – 45 minutes.

11.   Stop the unit, open the barrel and check the progress.

12.  You will probably find most of them done at this stage.

13.  Tip the contents into a bucket with a sieve on top to catch the coins. You can re-use the sand and plastic granules over and over again … all you have to do is to add some more coarse sand plus the detergent, vinegar and salt for the next batch plus any coins that still need a bit more time.

14.   With the cleaned coins you can put them back into the barrel. Add water, detergent and a dash of baby oil and let it run for no more than 5 minutes …. and … Bingo … it's all done.

15.   Lay them out on an old towel in the sun to dry.

16.   Then either keep them or spend them .... it's up to you now !


IMPORTANT:   Don't use the kitchen sink or the laundry tub otherwise you could block up the works and that would "cost" you in a couple of different (?) ways !!! … not forgetting the expense of a plumber ! or .... someone else (not named) doing a moan about it all !  ......or ...bribe them with $2 coins.




COINS - Which are the most valuable?

Many people whilst coin and treasure hunting find quite a variety of coins whether it be on the old goldfields, in old towns or for that matter – anywhere – as they seem to appear in the most unusual places.

Possibly, the most popular coins found are the ones from Great Britain, which include the penny and two-penny cartwheels. Some of these proclamation coins have some value but in most cases they are fairly common.

However, it is surprising how many different coins were circulating in the very early days. Apart from Great Britain, they included those from Spain, Portugal and India. On the old goldfields, it is even possible to find coins from USA, Germany, Europe and many other countries as well as Chinese Cash coins – those with a square hole in the middle.

There is also a chance of finding a Holey Dollar and / or a dump. The silver Spanish Dollar which, can date from 1757 to 1810 with its centre punched out, was worth five shillings and the ‘punched out’ centre called the ‘dump’ was worth fifteen pence and are dated 1813.

Many individual trade tokens circulated around the 1850’s to 1860’s including many Australian varieties can be found as well as the popular Professor Holloway’s Pills and Ointments halfpenny and penny tokens. Several New Zealand tokens have turned up in Australia too.

It is not my intention to go into detail of these coins here as the information on these is available from any good coin book.

Other valuable coins include the gold - half sovereign and one sovereign, which can date from 1855 to 1931.Some of these, can be quite rare and extremely valuable. If you find any of these coins, make sure that you do not clean them – just simply wash them in soapy water and then take them to a reputable coin dealer for evaluation.

However, as a guide, I have listed below both pre-decimals from 1910 to present-day decimal coins, which are worth ‘looking out for’ as the most collectable with some value. As I said before, just wash them and leave the experts to clean them properly. If you attempt to make them look ‘pretty’ you can ruin them and hence they can lose their real value.


PRE-DECIMAL (Australian)

Halfpenny ( ½ d): 1915; 1916 (Mule); 1918; 1923 (Scarce); 1939 (Kangaroo).

Penny (1d): 1920 (No dots); 1925; 1930 (Scarce); 1937 (Pattern); 1946.

Threepence (3d): 1912; 1915; 1922/21 (Overdate); 1923; 1937 (Pattern); 1942M; 1947.

Sixpence (6d): 1918; 1922; 1924; 1939; 1952; 1953.

Shilling  (1/-): 1911; 1912; 1914; 1915; 1915H; 1921; 1924; 1933; 1937 (Pattern); 1939; 1940.

Two Shillings - 2/-  (Florins): 1911; 1912; 1914H; 1915; 1932; 1933; 1937 (Pattern); 1939.

Two Shillings - 2/- (Florins): (Collectable) 

1927 Parliament House

1934 Melbourne Centenary

1935 Melbourne Centenary

1901-1951 Federation House

1954 Royal Visit

Crown: 1937; 1938.

DECIMAL (Australian)

Note: The symbol MP (in this section) that follows the date signifies that the coin was not ‘circulated’ but issued as special ‘Mint Packs’ … but you never know … you could find one that has been circulated by accident. The rest are those, which have a circulation of less than 20 million. However, there are some dates, which are more valuable because of a far lesser mintage number. If you are able to have a look at the The Pocket Guide to Australian Coins and Banknotes'  book by Greg McDonald, the mintage quantities can be found there. (Copies of this essential reference guide is available from us).

1 Cent: 1968; 1986 MP; 1991 MP.

2 Cent: 1968; 1969; 1986 MP; 1987 MP; 1990 MP; 1991 MP.

5 Cent: 1972; 1985 MP; 1986 MP.

10 Cent: 1972; 1977; 1985; 1986 MP; 1987 MP; 1991; 1995 MP; 1996 MP.

20 Cent: 1969; 1971; 1985; 1986 MP; 1987 MP; 1988 MP; 1989 MP; 1990 MP; 1991 MP; 1992 MP; 1993; 1995.

The (collectable) commemorative 20 cent coins are: 

1995  U.N. 50th Anniversary 

2001  Don Bradman 

2001   9 (nine) Centenary of Federation coins ....  1 (one) each of the following:

Queensland, Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Northern Territory and Norfolk Island

2003  Australia's Volunteers

2005  WW II  1939 - 1945  -  Coming Home

To be completed

50 Cent:

1966 Round (80% silver) 

Kangaroo & Emu (Less than 10 million) 1972; 1973; 1974; 1985; 1986 MP; 1987 MP; 1989 MP; 1990 MP; 1992 MP; 1993; 1997.

The (collectable) commemorative 50 cent coins are: 

1970  Captain Cook Bicentenary

1977  Queen Elizabeth Jubilee

1981  Charles and Di Royal Wedding

1982  XII th Commonwealth Games

1988  First Fleet Bi-Centenary

1991  25 th Anniversary of Decimal Currency (Ram's head)

1994  Year of the Family

1995  End of WW II  Anniversary

1998  Bass and Flinders Anniversary

2000  Millennium Year

2000  Royal Visit

2001  Centenary of Federation (Coat of Arms)

2001  9 (nine) Centenary of Federation coins ..... 1 (one) each of the following:

Queensland, Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Northern Territory and Norfolk Island

2002  Year of the Outback

2003  Australia's Volunteers

2004  Australian Wildlife - Koala, Cockatoo & Wombat

2005  WW II  1939 - 1945

2005  Commonwealth Games - Melbourne - Secondary Student Design

2006  Commonwealth Games series of coins:

There are 16 x 50 cent coins showing the various sports at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne:

Aquatics, Boxing, Lawn Bowls, Squash, Athletics, Triathlon, Netball, Table Tennis, Badminton, Gymnastics, Rugby 7's, Cycling, Basketball, Hockey, Shooting, Weightlifting.

2006  Royal Visit

2006  Queen's Birthday

2007  Year of the Lifesaver

To be completed



(Under construction)


1 Dollar: (Kangaroo series) 1987 M; 1989 M; 1990 M; 1991 M.

The (collectable) commemorative $1 coins are: 

1986  Year of Peace

1988  First Fleet Bi-Centenary

1992  Barcelona Olympics

1993  Landcare 

1994  Decade of the Dollar

1995 Waltzing Matilda

1996  Henry Parkes Centenary

1997  Charles Kingsford Smith ("A" type – Map and Head of Charles Kingsford Smith)

1997  Charles Kingsford Smith ("B" type – Map and Head of Charles Kingsford Smith & Aeroplane)

1998  Howard Florey

1999  The Last Anzacs

1999  Year of Older Persons

2000  HMAS Sydney II

2000  Victoria Cross

2000  Olymphilex

2001  Centenary of Federation 

2001  Centenary of Australian Army

2001  80 thAnniversary of Royal Australian Air Force

2001  90 th Anniversary of Royal Australian Navy

2001  International Year of the Volunteer

2002  Year of the Outback

2003  Australia's Volunteers

2003  Vietnam Veterans.

2003  50th  Anniversary of the End of the Korean War (1953)

2004  Eureka Stockade 1854

2005  WW II   1939 - 1945 Peace

2005  Gallipoli  1915 - 2005

2006  Commonwealth Games

2006  50 Years of Television

2007  The Year of the pig

2007  The Ashes

2007  75th Anniversary of the Sydney Harbour Bridge

2007  International Polar Year - The Territories

2007  APEC

To be completed


(Under construction)


2 Dollar: (Less than 10 million minted) 1990; 1991 M; 1993; 1998, 2000.


5 Dollar: 1988.


Special Note:

Another type of coin, which can be found around the old WWII POW camps, is the Internment Camp Token. These were issued by the Department of Army for use within these camps. They consisted of: One Penny, Three-pence, Sixpence, One Shilling, Two Shillings and Five Shillings. The value of these coins can vary depending on condition, so it’s best to see your coin dealer as to values.

For further information on Australian coins please go to the following web-sites:

(a)              -   Royal Australian Mint.

(b)            -   An interesting site and forum on Australian coins & notes.

(c)    - Another interesting site with lots of information


(Updated February, 2011)




Do you know how many Australian coins have been circulated?

The answer is as follows:




Half Sovereign


One Sovereign


Half Penny


One Penny






One Shilling


Two Shillings (Florin)





One cent


Two cent


Five cent



Ten cent



Twenty cent



Fifty cent



One dollar



Two dollar



Five dollar


Total =




The approximate GRAND TOTAL of Pre-Decimal and decimal coins circulated (up to 1990) is: 15,485,345,594

That figure does not include proof coins, $200 coins, special sets, special coins (or overseas coins, which were used in the early days). Even with the Decimal coins minted and released since 1990 where figures are not yet available, the figure would be close to 15.5 billion coins or more!

Question:   How many have been lost or buried?





Just how much is that old ring worth? This is a common question among treasure hunters.

Have you ever stopped to think how much gold you may have in the rings you have found while beachcombing or coin hunting?

Here is a breakdown showing how you can determine the amount of pure gold computed from the following equation:

Multiply the number of carats (K) by 41.666 and divide by 10.


Let’s say you found a 9 K ring (excluding diamonds and precious stones):

9 x 41.666 = 374.994 divided by 10 = 37.499% pure gold value.

The following will serve as a quick reference guide:

9K = 37.499% pure gold

10K = 41.666% pure gold

12K = 50.000% pure gold

14K = 58.333% pure gold

18K = 75.000% pure gold

24K = 100.000% pure gold

So just weigh those rings in troy ounces, multiply by the percentage (%) rating above, then multiply that value by the current gold price and you will know how rich in gold you are!


NOTE: Please refer to our PROSPECTING TIPS page for further information as to how to calculate your gold into Australian dollars.





With the rising price of gold and silver many people have asked me what I think they are worth these days.

So ..... the following information may be of help to you.

It must be remembered that the prices are based purely on bullion / scrap prices as no consideration is given as to the rarity, special issues, date and condition of the coin.

The approximate prices (to the closest decimal point) is based on the average MARCH 2011 prices.

Note ....  that only the gold or silver weight is expressed within the brackets in grams  ( .... g) not the full weight of the coin.


AUSTRALIAN GOLD COINS  (Gold = 91.67% (22 carat) & 8.33% Silver)

Priced on Gold price only (Excluding Silver content) at $1,400.00 per ounce ($45.00 per gram)

Half Sovereign   (3.994 g) … $180.00

One Sovereign   (7.881 g) … $360.00


AUSTRALIA SILVER COINS    - Pre 1946     (Silver = 92.5 %)

Priced on Silver price of $35.00 per ounce  ($1.13 per gram)

Crown (26.14 g)  … $29.54

Two Shilling:  Florin 2/- (10.46 g)  … $11.82

One Shilling:  1/- … (5.22 g) … $5.90

Sixpence: 6d … (2.61 g) … $2.95

Threepence: 3d  (1.3 g) … $1.47


AUSTRALIA SILVER COINS    -  1946 to 1965     (Silver = 50 %)

Priced on Silver price of $35.00 per ounce  ($1.13 per gram)

Two Shilling:  Florin 2/- (5.655 g)  … $6.39

One Shilling:  1/- … (2.825 g) … $3.19

Sixpence: 6d … (1.415 g) … $1.60

Threepence: 3d  (0.705 g) … $0.80


AUSTRALIA SILVER COIN    -  1966       (Silver = 80 %)

50 cent Round:   (10.62 g)  ...  $12.00


AUSTRALIA COPPER COINS    -  All dates     (Copper = 97 %)

Priced on Copper price of $9,000.00 / tonne ($0.009 cent per gram)

Halfpenny: ½ d:      ( 5.5 g) … $0.0495 cents

One Penny (1d):     (9.16 g) … $0.824 cents


1 cent   (1c)   (2.51 g) …  $0.0226 cents

2 cents  (2c)   (4.92 g) … $0.4428 cents


So .... the old 2 cent coin is now worth 4 cents (plus) 


(If for some reason I've made a drastic error in any of the above calculations ... please email me)

Happy hunting and collecting !