A Metal Detecting Glossary

18th May 2018 — 56 Comments

What follows are some of the terms often used by detectorists and accompanied by a brief definition. Be aware that the compilation of such a glossary is very subjective and not definitive. It may be viewed as ‘a work in progress’. There are bound to be omissions you think should be included and maybe changes to be made. If so, please let me know.


Air Test – A test performed by moving various sized metal samples beneath the metal detector search coil to check the machine’s features and target response. This test is not an accurate indicator of ground depth penetration capability.

Aglet – Small sheath, often made of metal used on each end of a shoelace (for example) and keeps the fibres or cord from unravelling. Also makes it easier to thread through eyelets etcetera. Wealthy people in Roman or medieval times would have their aglets made out of precious metals such as brass or silver.


All Metal – Setting available on some detectors allowing them to detect any kind of metal. See Ferrous and Non-Ferrous.

Ampulla – These items were purchased by Pilgrims and filled with holy water by monks and then blessed. SEE MORE HERE

Angel – Gold coin equal to one-third of a pound introduced by Edward IV in 1465 and minted regularly until the middle of Charles I’s reign. Its name was derived from the obverse design, showing St Michael slaying a dragon.

Annular – Annular (complete circle) brooches were the most popular style of brooch for most of the Middle Ages. Simple annulars were used to pin shirt openings, and to support hose. Any annular brooch could be used functionally, to hang a purse or a rosary. Decorative annulars also revealed status.

Archaeologist – I was provoked into writing this by one of my subscribers –  Megan Fox Thinks Archaeologists Are Too Narrow Minded to Understand History  SEE HERE

Artefacts – Referring to the finds made by detectorists. We usually refer to buckles, buttons, spindle whorls, etcetera, but not coins as artefacts. (See Partefact)


Barford, Paul – describes himself as a ‘British archaeologist living and working in Warsaw, Poland.’ Keeps a toxic blog that nobody comments on except sycophant Nigel Swift of ‘Heritage Action’. Scourge of metal detectorists … he loves them!

Bawbee – Scottish coin introduced by James V in 1538 and last minted in the reign of William II (III of England). Originally made of billon, an alloy of 25% silver and 75% copper, it was equal to six Scottish pence or one English halfpenny.

Bender – A sixpence was known as a bender because due to its silver content it could be bent in the hands. This was commonly done to create ‘love tokens’, many of which survive in collections to this day. The value of a sixpence was also enough to get thoroughly inebriated as taverns would often allow you to drink all day for tuppence. This gave rise to the expression ‘Going on a bender’. Royal Mint

BOATBit Off A Tractor.

Bosun’s Call – The Bosun’s Call, often found by detectorists, was once the only method other than the human voice of passing orders to men on board ship, and its high-pitched notes could even be heard in gale conditions. Today more sophisticated communications systems exist but the Royal Navy, always believers in tradition, still use the whistle as a mark of respect to pipe the Captain or special visitors on board. Nowadays it’s a badge of office and its use is essentially ceremonial.

Bosun’s Call – Thanks to Darren Tremlett

Black sand – Minerals consisting of magnetic iron oxide. These can be found either inland or on the beach. And will result in a loss of depth for your detector.

Bodle  – Scottish copper coin worth one-sixth of an English penny, minted between 1642 and 1697.

Bob – nickname for a SHILLING. he subject of great debate, as the origins of this nickname are unclear although we do know that usage of bob for shilling dates back to the late 1700s. Brewer’s 1870 Dictionary of Phrase and Fable states that ‘bob’ could be derived from ‘Bawbee’, which was 16-19th century slang for a half-penny. ‘Bob’ was also used to refer to a set of changes rung on church bells, and this may have been the nickname’s origin as the word ‘shilling’ has its origins in the proto-Germanic word ‘skell’ which means ‘ring’. Royal Mint

Bonnet Piece – The Bonnet Piece, a variety of Scottish gold ducat, depicted James V of Scotland wearing a flat bonnet. Bonnet pieces, issued in 1539 and 1540, were the first coins of the British Isles to bear a date.

Broad Band Spectrum (BBS) – Simultaneously transmits, receives and analyses a broad band of multiple frequencies, 1.5kHz through to 25.5 kHz.

Breeches Money
Nickname given to the gold and silver coins minted during the Commonwealth period, 1649-1660. Their reverse design shows the English cross of St George and the Irish harp on two conjoined shields. The resultant shape was similar to that of the baggy breeches worn by men at the time. Broad Term originally used for a hammered gold coin worth 20 shillings, originally called a Unite.

Bronze Disease
This is where the acids and salts combined with moisture attack the bronze coin/item whilst in the ground, once air is introduced after finding the coin/item the problem will worsen and can destroy if not treated. A green/blue powder will show.

Bull Head
Nickname given to the portrait of George III on coins minted in 1816 and 1817. The portrait, by the engraver Benedetto Pistrucci, showed the King’s head from behind his right shoulder, emphasising his heavy features and giving him a thick neck like that of a bull. Halfcrowns with a smaller and more flattering portrait were introduced during 1817.


Bun Head
Nickname given to the portrait of Queen Victoria on the bronze coins issued between 1860 and 1894. These showed the Queen with her hair gathered in a ‘bun’ at the back of her head.


CSS – Countryside Stewardship. Funding for farmers, woodland owners, foresters and land managers to make environmental improvements.

Nickname given to the large penny and twopenny coins minted by Matthew Boulton in 1797 at his ‘manufactory’ at Soho, Birmingham. The pennies contained one ounce of copper and the twopences two ounces, so that their metal content was equivalent to their face value. SEE HERE:  Matthew Boulton and the Cartwheel Penny.

Scabbard Chape courtesy of UKDFD Record number 17

The piece by which an object is attached to something, as the frog of a scabbard … or the metal loop at the back of a buckle by which it is fastened to a strap or the transverse guard of a sword or dagger or the metal plate  … or the metal plate or tip, which protects the end of a scabbard, belt, etceter

Churchill Crown
The 5-shilling (25p) coin issued in 1965 in honour of Sir Winston Churchill. The reverse featured a portrait of the statesman in the siren-suit he wore during the Second World War.

Clipping – The practice of clipping pieces of silver from the edge of hammered coins to be melt down.

COP – Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales (2017) If undertaken responsibly metal-detecting can make an important contribution to archaeological knowledge. This document aims to provide guidance for metal-detectorists who wish to contribute to our understanding of the history of England and Wales. It combines both the requirements of finders under the law, as well as more general voluntary guidance on accepted best practice. SEE HERE

Coil Cover – A non-metallic cover placed over the detector coil to protect it from stones and abrasions.

Communion Token
A token, usually of lead, pewter or white metal, issued in Scotland and in some Scottish communities elsewhere and overseas to indicate that a Presbyterian church-goer was to be admitted to the communion service. The tokens usually bore the name of the church by which they were issued, a Biblical text and sometimes the name of the minister.

Copper Nose
Nickname given to the silver coins issued during the last years of Henry VIII’s reign and for a few years after his death in 1547. The coins were so debased, containing about 75% copper to 25% silver, that when they became worn the copper tinge was clearly visible. As the coins bore a full-face or three-quarter face portrait of the King, the copper showed most plainly on the most prominent feature of the design, his nose.

Copper Nose – UKDFD

Coinshooter – A detectorist who looks mainly for coins – a term used extensively in America.

Crotal Bell
Small spherical bell. 15th-early 19th century. Placed around the necks of stock animals, horses and some pets so they could be easily found (this is for pre-enclosure rough common grazing). They were also used for decoration and for the pleasure of hearing something other than the wind in the trees and birdsong (‘rings on her fingers, bells on her toes, she shall have music wherever she goes’)

Crown Estate SEE HERE for seeking permissions on the Crown Estae owned forshore.

Crown – The first English crown was a gold coin introduced by Henry VIII in 1526 and valued at 4s 6d (22.5p). Gold crowns were last minted during the first few year of Charles II’s reign, but silver crowns had been introduced in 1551, as part of the coinage reforms initiated under Edward VI. Since the introduction of decimal currency in 1971 the 25p commemorative coins have replaced the crown.

Cut Half or Quarter – Hammered coins were often cut in halves or quarters by moneyers, thus producing smaller denominations of coin.


The denarius is a silver coin and the main denomination of the Roman Republic. Under the Empire, Augustus controlled the minting of the gold and silver denominations, and the denarius continued. Under Nero the weight and fineness of the denarius dropped, and this cost-cutting practice was continued under successive emperor. By the reign of Caracalla, the denarius was about 40% silver, and the new Antoninianus was introduced. The denarius continued, but was gradually phased out, first becoming bronze, and then disappearing after serving the Romans for almost 400 years.

Can You ID This Roman Coin?

Nero with Virtus on the Reverse – UKDFD

Dirt Fishing – Metal detecting in a field.

Double Struck – An error that happens when hammered coins are being made, especially when the die is inadvertently moved and hit for a second time.

A silver coin introduced in 1887 as a step towards decimalisation of the currency. Equal to two florins (20p), the coins were easily confused with the crowns (25p), which measured only 2.75mm more. The double-florin was discontinued in 1890.

. . . as used in the term ‘Dump Halfpenny’
The glut of copper coinage was sufficient that there was no need to produce any copper halfpennies during the reign of Queen Anne (1701-1714). Soon after the accession of King George I (1714-1727) the surplus of copper coins was used up, and in 1717 a new contract was signed and a Royal Warrant issued for the production of a new halfpenny. The halfpennies struck in 1717 and 1718 looked slightly odd as they were smaller, thicker and somewhat lighter than the previous issues, weighing 9.4 – 10.3 grams with a diameter of 25-27 millimetres, but they were well-struck with high-relief features of the right-facing head of King George and the inscription GEORGIVS REX on the obverse, and Britannia with the inscription BRITANNIA and the date in the exergue beneath Britannia. The 1717-18 issue is known as the dump halfpenny. For the 1719-1724 issue the size of the coin was increased to 26-29 millimetres, though with the same weight of metal as before.
As was mentioned on a previous thread…the definition from Webster’s 1913 Dictionary seems to explain why the 1717-18 issue is known as the dump halfpenny.

In Anglo-Saxon and Norman times it was common practice to obtain small change by cutting silver pennies into halves or quarters. The latter were known as farthings, from the Anglo-Saxon feorthing, meaning a fourth part. Round silver farthings were introduced in 1279 by Edward I. By the 16th century the rise in the price of silver had made the minting of farthings uneconomic and they were discontinued during Edward VI’s time. Farthings were re-introduced as copper coins, manufactured under licence for James I, and as regal coins for Charles II in 1672. From 1860 farthings were made of bronze and the last were issued in 1956, by which time they had lost virtually all their purchasing power; the coin was demonetised in 1960.

Ferrous – Containing or consisting of iron. Metals that will be attracted to a magnet.

Fibula – is a brooch ( see also La Tene Brooch ) or pin for fastening garments. The fibula developed in a variety of shapes, but all were based on the safety-pin principle. The fibulae I have uncovered are brooches known as La Tène and are simple in form, but quite sturdy in construction. SEE HERE.

© JW

FID – The Federation of Independent Detectorists offers liability insurance for detectorists.

First minted in Florence in 1252 as a gold coin, the Florin derives its name from the Italian fiorino, or lily flower, on its reverse. In 1344 it was introduced in England as a gold coin tariffed at six shillings (30p), but was never re-issued. The first English silver florins (10p) were issued for general circulation in 1849, as a replacement for the halfcrown as a step towards a decimal currency.

FLO – The Portable Antiquities Scheme ( PAS  )employs members of staff to help you record your finds. Contact details can be seen HERE.


Garrett Carrot – Because of its resemblance to the vegetable, the Garrett Pro-Pointer AT is referred to as ‘the carrot’.

Green Waste – is supposed to be biodegradable waste that can be composed of garden or park waste, such as grass or flower cuttings and hedge trimmings, as well as domestic and commercial food waste. But is far from ‘green’ and causes problems for detectorists where it has been spread. The TV programme Countryfile has highlighted the problem.

Godless Florin
The traditional inscription, DEI GRATIA FID DEF (‘by the Grace of God, Defender of the Faith’) was omitted from the design of the silver florins (10p) issued in 1849. Described by many contemporary clergy as ‘Godless’ or ‘Graceless’, the coins were replaced in 1851 by Gothic Florins to a revised design that included the inscription.

Godless Florin

Gothic Crown
Name given to the crowns (25p) minted in 1846, 1847 and 1853, showing a portrait of Queen Victoria wearing a crown and elaborately embroidered dress by William Wyon. The legends used an early English ‘Gothic’ style of lettering, reflecting the Gothic revival in art and architecture.

Grots – Usually refers to worn and corroded Roman bronze coins with hardly discernable inscription.

Roman Grots

A silver coin worth four pence, introduced in 1279 by Edward I. Its name was derived from its French counterpart, the gros tournois, which had been first minted at Tours in the 1250s. Although not popular at first because it represented too large a sum to be convenient for the poorer classes, the groat was re-issued in 1351 by Edward III and minted regularly until 1662. In 1836 the denomination was revived only to be dropped after 1855.

GROATS –  here’s a fourpenny one!

Ground Fishing – see also Dirt Fishing.
A slang term for metal detecting – very descriptive.

Ground Balance – Adjusting the detector to the mineralisation in the soil.

Gold coin introduced in 1663 as a 20-shilling piece (£1) and originally known as a Guinea pound because much of the gold for minting it was brought from the Guinea coast of West Africa. Its value fluctuated with the price of gold until it was finally fixed at 21 shillings (£1.05) in 1717. The guinea was last minted in 1813.

Gun Money
Gun metal (90%copper 10% tin), allegedly obtained from old cannons. The name was given to coins minted in Ireland in 1689 and 1690 during the abortive attempt of James II to regain his throne from William III. Lacking gold and silver with which to pay his troops, James ordered coins to be minted of copper, brass and gun-metal in values of sixpence (2.5p), shilling (5p), halfcrown (12.5p) and crown (25p). They were to be redeemed at face value for gold and silver coins after James had defeated the usurper William. To ensure that the redemption should be organised equitably, the gun money coins were inscribed with the month as well as the year of their issue. After the defeat of James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, William ordered the gun money to be accepted at the value of its metal content, so that the crown was valued at one penny, the halfcrown at three-farthings and the shillings and sixpences at a farthing each.

Gun Money


Introduced as a gold coin by Henry VIII and minted regularly until the reign of James I. The halfcrown (12.5p) was also minted in silver by Edward VI and survived until it was demonetised in 1970, preparatory to the introduction of decimal currency.

Halfpenny – also see DUMP
Minted as a silver coin by a few Viking and Saxon kings, but not a regular feature of the English coinage until the reign of Edward I. As the price of silver rose, the halfpennies became so small as to be a nuisance in circulation, those of Charles I measuring only 10mm. The first regal copper coins were minted in 1672 and the coin survived into the decimal era as a circulating medium until 1983.

Halo Effect – rather complicated to explain. SEE HERE

Hammered – Normally refers to a hand made silver or gold coin struck between dies from a metal blank.

A billon coin first struck under Mary Queen of Scots, it served as small change, with a value of a penny-halfpenny. Sometimes also known as a lion, owing to the reverse design of a lion rampant.

Hawking Ring or Vervel SEE HERE:

Hedge Fodder – A slang expression referring to detecting finds that are not worth keeping

Edward III gold quarter-florin, the obverse of which depicted a helmet surmounted by a lion.

Hoard – A collection of coins or valuable items buried for safekeeping but never retrieved. A ‘scattered hoard’ refers to coins that have been disturbed by ploughing (for example).

Hod Hill type brooch
So named after the Iron age/Roman site in south Somerset where several similar brooches were found.

Honolulu Penny – see Penny

Hod Hill Type Brooch courtesy of UKDFD

Hot Rock
A hot rock is a stone or rock that has a different or higher mineralisation content to its surrounding ground and the balance of your machine. This often ‘confuses’ the detector and causes a signal. Hot rocks are generally non conductive and not to be confused with ‘Coke’ which is conductive.


A counter or token used in games or, during medieval times, as a means of calculating sums of money on the chequered boards used at the Exchequer. Counters or gaming tokens made for export to European countries, particularly from the latter part of the 17th century, often had the titles and portraits of the reigning monarchs. Hanns Krauwinckel II and his contemporaries also produced jetons depicting mythical and biblical scenes, and the inscriptions are many and varied. These are, however, less common than the normal reckoning counters. The vast number of jetons found in this country, particularly those found on the foreshore of the Thames, testify to their widespread use in Britain.

Joey – see Threepence

Jubilee Head
The portrait of Queen Victoria designed by Sir Joseph Boehm for the gold and silver coins issued in 1887 to mark her Golden Jubilee. Although dignified and life-like, the portrait was criticised because the Queen was wearing a disproportionately small crown perched precariously on her head. The Veiled Head replaced the Jubilee Head in 1893.


Keeper – A slang word for a good metal detecting find.


La Tene Brooch
This early Roman brooch is distinct because of its single-piece construction. It is simple in form and sturdy. The brooch consists of a slightly arched bow, flat in section, with decorative rectangular box. The bronze is worked to a narrow foot and turned slightly forward. It is made flat behind in order to serve as the catchplate. At the top of the brooch, this same single piece of wire is coiled around four times to the right, wrapped under the head of the brooch, coiled around four times to the left, and then wrapped straight down. It is sharpened at the end and serves as the pin. La Tene III type brooches are generally small and simple with minimal decoration. They were extremely popular around the 1st Century BC-AD and identified today as what must have been the ‘common man’s’ brooch in antiquity.

James I’s laurel wreath crown gives rise to this term for his third coinage sovereign or unite.

Name given to the gold half-florin of Edward III, whose obverse shows a facing lion, known heraldically as a leopard.

Inscribed below the portrait of George II on gold and silver coins minted in 1745 and 1746 to indicate that the bullion used had been captured from Spanish ships bringing it from the American colonies. The choice of the name Lima is puzzling, as little of the bullion appears to have come from Peru, but it may have been a suitably short word to include in the design of the coins.

Robert Page says: … here’s some more info on the term “LIMA” found on George II coins … a popular misconception is that the silver came from Anson’s voyage, but actually in 1745 a great treasure had been seized in the North Atlantic by two British privateers, the Duke and the Prince Frederick, from two French treasure ships that had come from Peru. This was transported in 45 wagon loads from Bristol to the mint in London. As the booty principally consisted of ‘piece of eight’ bearing the Lima mintmark it was requested that coins made from this silver might bear the name ‘Lima’ to celebrate the exploit.

First struck by Prince Edward, the silver denier of the Anglo-Gallic series earned its name from the lion passant guardant present in the arms of Aquitaine. A Scottish gold coin issued up to 1589 was known as a lion-noble.

Long Cross Penny – To deter unscrupulous people from snipping slivers of metal from the edge of silver pennies, Henry III ordered the arms of the cross on the reverse of the coins to be extended to the edge of the design – hence the long cross penny.


Maundy Money
The small silver coins, 1p, 2p, 3p and 4p, which are specially minted for distribution to elderly men and women at a service on Maundy Thursday, the day before Good Friday, in Easter week. SEE: 2015 Maundy Money

Maundy Money ©  Royal Mint

A colloquial derivation of mark, these were used as money of account in England and their value was fixed at 13s 4d (66.5p), two-thirds of a pound. Merks and double-merks, silver coins emanating from Scotland, eventually also became known as thistle half-dollars and thistle dollars, on account of the thistle in the reverse design.

Milled Coins
The term is used to describe coins which are produced by amachine, rather than by manually hammering coin blanks between two dies. The edges have a “milled” surface to prevent clipping. The earliest milled coins produced in England date from the early 1560s, but milled coinage did not entirely replace hammered coinage until 1662.

Military Guinea
Name given to the guineas minted for George III in 1813. As an economy measure during the Napoleonic Wars, the minting of guineas was discontinued after 1799, the coins being replaced by banknotes. In 1813 gold was needed to pay the British forces serving under Wellington in Spain and Portugal. The 1813 guineas were specially minted for this purpose and were the last issue of this denomination.

The initial, name or device included in the design of a coin to indicate when, where or by whom it had been minted. During the reign of Elizabeth I, for instance, some 30 different mintmarks can be found, including a star, a portcullis, a bell and a woolpack. Between 1871 and 1932 branches of the Royal Mint in British possessions overseas produced gold coins on which the following mint-marks may be found: M (Melbourne) S (Sydney), P (Perth), I (Bombay), C (Ottawa) and SA (Pretoria). Other well-known mint-marks are SOHO, on the copper coins minted by Matthew Boulton; H, on coins minted by Ralph Heaton & Sons at the Birmingham Mint, and KN on coins minted by the Kings Norton Metal Co, Birmingham.

MuleIn numismatics, a mule is a coin or medal minted with obverse and reverse designs not normally seen on the same piece. These can be intentional or produced by error.


National Council for Metal Detecting.
A membership organisation that gives the detectorist valuable insurance, and represents them at local and government level on all matters relating to the hobby.

NICAD – A class of rechargeable battery having a nickel-cadmium composition

Niello is a method of decorating metal objects using engraving techniques. An alloy of silver, copper, lead, and sulphur is rubbed into an engraved pattern on silver or gold and then fired. Darkened areas remain in the crevices after the object is polished. This technique was commonly used in Europe until the Renaissance, but it was rarely utilised afterwards. It was known in Kiev in the tenth to the thirteenth centuries and revived in Russia in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Niello remained in use throughout the imperial period, although silversmiths most often employed it in Moscow or in provincial centres.

7th century Anglo-Saxon gold belt buckle with discreet niello bringing out the interlace, from Sutton Hoo. CC Licence

Night Hawking
A ‘Night Hawk’ is a person who detects farm land, scheduled site or ancient monument – in fact anywhere where he can find coins and artefacts. This is usually done at night WITHOUT PERMISSION, leaving holes unfilled and causing damage to property for profit. These people give metal detectorists bad publicity. The ironic thing is that if these people were to try and obtain permission for land like the rest of us they could find coins and artefacts of the same quality without breaking the law.

Gold coin introduced in 1344 by Edward III. It was valued at 6s 8d (33.5p), one third of a pound, which for many years remained the standard fee for the professional services of a lawyer. The gold angel replaced the noble in 1465.

Not of iron. Metals of the precious class (i.e., gold, silver, copper, etc.)

Nox – The diminutive way of referring to the Minelab Equinox metal detector.


The obverse of a coin is commonly called heads, because it often depicts the head of a prominent person.

One-Way Signal – a detecting signal that works when you sweep in one direction, but not the other. This is often an indicator of a junk target, but not always.


Palstave Axe
A typical axe of the Middle Bronze Age.

Palstave – Image courtesy the PAS

Papal Bulla
A papal bulla was a decorated lead seal used to secure documents (a bull) sent out by the Pope in Rome. Each seal was decorated with a die which gave the information on which pope had issued the ‘bull’ metal mark.
Lead was a metal commonly employed during the medieval period for making the seal dies used for sealing documents with wax impressions. There is however one type of seal that is actually made of a round flan of lead. They are known as Papal Bullae (singular bulla) – so named because they were attached to Papal documents or Bulls. They were sent from the offices of the Pope in Rome and the seal signified that the document was issued with the Pope’s authority.
The bulla was impressed over a coloured silk lace or hemp cord, which was used to attach the seal to the document. The earliest recorded Papal bulla found in England is that of Innocent II (1130-1143AD).

Partefact – Any artefact found that isn’t complete. A term originally termed by Old Yellowbelly of The Searcher magazine. COINING a NEW WORD

PAS – Portable Antiquities Scheme. One of the aims of this national organisation based at the BM is to advance knowledge of the history and archaeology of England and Wales by systematically recording archaeological objects found by detectorists and to oversee the Treasure Act.

Penannular and Zoomorphic
The penannular, or open ring brooch, was a Roman and Celtic type of clothing fastener. Although much older in origin, penannulars begin to appear in significant numbers in Britain around 200 AD and quickly gained widespread popularity. By 800 AD the simple utilitarian Roman style had given way to a uniquely Celtic one, decorated with geometric and zoomorphic (animal form) designs, done in enamel, stones, granulation, and filigree wire work, and anything else the artist could think of. The penannular was the origin of some of the later styles of medieval brooches, including the closed ring brooch and the heart shaped love brooch.

Penny and Vulgar Penny – also SEE HERE
Based on the Roman denarius, the English penny was a silver coin introduced during the 8th century by Heaberht and Ecgberht, two little known Anglo-Saxon Kings of Kent. It was popularised by the powerful King Offa of Mercia. Because of the rising price of silver and the need for a greater number of coins as trade and commerce increased, the silver penny was steadily reduced in size. The pennies of Elizabeth I were only about one-third the weight of those of William the Conqueror, and the metal was much debased. The first regal copper pennies were not issued until 1797; the silver penny survives in Maundy money.

Pilgrim Badge – mementoes that can be considered a record of a pilgrim’s progress and are often found by UK detectorists – the Pilgrim Badge. In the Middle Ages the Church encouraged people to make pilgrimages to special holy places called shrines. SEE HERE

Pin – Pointer – A pin-pointer is simply a handheld metal detector that’s used to laser in ( or ‘pinpoint’ ) your target. Once you’ve detected a target with your regular metal detector and dig your plug, take out your pinpointer to get an exact location of the target in the hole.

Struck from African gold in the reign of William II (III of England), the pistole and half-pistole were worth £12 and £6 respectively in Scotland. Charles I also issued a gold pistole in the Irish money of necessity series. The origin of the name is uncertain, but may have evolved from the Spanish pistola, a metal plate.

A Scottish billon coin debased drastically over the years and left virtually worthless, its name has found its way into a proverbial expression meaning ‘to the last farthing’. The word takes its name from the French plaque, meaning disk or plate.

Potin – How were Celtic Potin coins made?
The cast coins from southeast Britain were produced by pouring molten alloy into a set of moulds, which were broken apart when the metal had cooled. The breaks were not always neat and often parts of the sprue the joining portion between the coins remain attached to the coin.
These coins are traditionally known as potins, from the French term for a bronze alloy with a high (above 25%) tin content; cast bronze is perhaps a better description . . .

Celtic cast bronze (’potin’) coin of the Cantii, dated circa 100 BC … courtesy of UKDFD

Originated as a Troy weight, and was the amount of silver needed to mint 240 pennies. It was introduced as a coin, the gold pound sovereign, during the reign of Henry VII. The present sovereign is the successor of this coin, although a large silver pound was minted as a temporary measure during the Civil War because of a shortage of gold.

A coin minted from specially polished dies which give it a mirror-like finish. Proof coins are not intended for circulation and are sold to collectors at much higher prices than the normal coins. Sets of British proof coins have been minted regularly since 1826.


Quid – an old nickname for the pound that has survived into modern British usage. Originally the name quid referred specifically to bank-notes, but since the introduction of the pound coin that has changed.


Reverse – The reverse is the back or ‘tails’ side of a coin; the opposite of the portra

Issued first under James III, this Scottish gold coin takes its name from the obverse design of the King riding a charger, apparently at some speed. James VI (I of England) also issued riders, but with a modified design showing the horse proceeding at a more leisurely pace.

Ring Pull – Pull Tab
A metal ring, which must be lifted to open a closed metal container, especially of drink. This is a commonly found item by detectorists and is usually welcomed with a few choice words.

Rose Farthing – The introduction of copper coinage in the previous reign of James I saw the striking of this Rose Farthing by public demand for low value coins.

Rose Farthing

First issued as a gold coin worth 10 shillings (50p) by Edward IV in 1465, the ryal or rose-noble, with its design of the monarch in a ship, survived into the reign of James I. It was re-valued at 15 shillings (75p) under Queen Mary, then to 16s 6d (82.5p) in 1612 when it became known as a spur ryal; the short-lived rose ryal of 30 shillings (£1.50), later 33 Shillings (£1.65) appeared alongside it from 1605 to 1617. Silver ryals were issued in Scotland under Mary Queen of Scots and later James VI (I of England).


Sceat  – SKEET or SHAT?
A small silver coin minted in the southern kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England during the late 7th and 8th centuries. In Northumbria the equivalent coin was the styca.
Coins had been used in Britain when it was part of the Roman empire, and even earlier, but after the departure of the Romans early in the 5th century and the invasions of the Anglo-Saxons from across the southern part of the North Sea, coins ceased to be used as money in England for nearly 200 years. Then the Saxons started to produce coins. Most of them were made of silver and they are called ‘sceattas’. The word ‘sceat’ originally meant 
‘treasure’ like the word ‘skat’ in Danish or ‘skatt’ in Norwegian and Swedish.

Although they may recognise the coin, many detectorists seem to be unaware of the correct pronunciation. The version I hear most of all is SKEET, which seems reasonable enough and doesn’t annoy me. I am relieve d– forgive the pun – to be excused the other pronunciation of SHAT.

Seal Matrix – A seal matrix is normally used for making an impression on a wax seal, to authenticate a document or to fix it closed. They have a design and inscription, usually added to the matrix by engraving, which can bear the name, arms or monogram of their owner. SEE HERE

Seal Matrix © JW

Shilling – See Bob
Introduced as a silver coin worth twelve pence late in the reign of Henry VII and revived in the later years of Henry VIII’s reign, the coin was at first known as a testoon, from the Italian testa and the Old French teste, meaning a head, because it bore a portrait of the King. After 1947 the shilling was made of cupro-nickel and it survives today as the 5 pence.

Short Cross Penny
Silver coin whose name derived from the small cross within a beaded circle on the reverse. Introduced in 118n – see Obnsid0 by Henry II, it was replaced by the long cross derivative in 1247.

Soldino – During the early 15th and early 16th centuries the English economy experienced so serious a shortage of English-struck halfpennies that people began using foreign coinage to fill the gap. The coin they used was the Venetian soldino. SEE MORE HERE

A spent and discarded shotgun cartridge.

Shy CockWARNING. You know what to expect if you put these words in a search engine – clicking on my link at the end is safe.

The shy cock was, by modern standards, a barbaric sport particularly associated with Shrove Tuesday, at the beginning of Lent. The bird was either tethered or buried up to its neck. Toy cockerels made are found on archaeological sites from Roman times. These toys suggest that children may have played a similar game, though more gentle or the toy birds would have broken. SEE MORE HERE

Siege Money
Coins minted for the garrison of a besieged town. Refers particularly to those issued during the Civil War for the Royalist forces besieged in Carlisle, Newark, Pontefract and Scarborough. Similar emergency coins were also minted in Ireland, among them James II’s gun money.

Siege Money

Silver Gilt
Silver with a coating of gold applied in leaf form.

Siliqua – The siliqua is the modern name given (without any ancient evidence to confirm the designation) to small, thin, Roman silver coins produced in the 4th century A.D. and later. Wikipedia

Signal – The audio sound given off by the metal detector when it passes over a metal item.

Sixpence – also see Bender and Tanner
One of the new silver coins introduced by Edward VI in 1551 as part of a scheme to improve the coinage after the debasement, which had taken place under his father, Henry VIII. The sixpence continued to be minted regularly in the UK right up to the introduction of decimalisation.

A gold coin introduced by Henry VII and so-called because its obverse had a portrait of the King seated on his throne. Although originally valued at 20 shillings, the sovereign later fluctuated in value, weight and fineness. It was superseded by the guinea in 1663 but was revived in 1817 during the extensive re-coinage of that year.

Spade Guinea The Spade Guinea Advertising Token
Name given to the George III guineas minted between 1787 and 1799 because the shield on the reverse resembled a garden spade or the spade in a pack of cards. Many brass imitations were made in Victorian times for use as counters in card games.

Spade Guinea

Spit and Foil Test
This is where a silver coin is placed in a fold of kitchen foil and human spit is added and a  Electro Chemical reaction takes place when you rub. You will get a smell of rotten eggs whilst this is happening. Beware – you can damage and decrease the coin’s value by doing this.

Spindle Whorl
The spindle whorl is a disc attached to a spindle used for spinning fleece and used to maintain the speed of the spin. The ones found by detectorists are usually made of lead, but they can be made of different materials.

Term used for any standard silver or gold coin of Ancient Greece and is the name given to the gold coins which circulated in southern England before the Roman occupation. The coins were crudely made copies of the gold and silver staters of ancient Greece, some often featuring a portrait of Apollo or a chariot.

Contemporary with the silver sceat, the styca was a small coin of debased silver, later entirely of copper, which circulated in Northumbria. The Archbishops of York minted some.


Tanner – See also BENDER. Why did we call a sixpence a ‘tanner’? SEE HERE

Terret Ring
A terret ring was used to secure the reigns of chariot horses.

From the Italian testa and the Old French teste, meaning head, this term was applied to coins which gave great importance to the head of the monarch. Because of its resemblance to such foreign coins, the shilling of Henry VII became known as a testoon.

A small copper, late bronze, coin minted for use in Malta between 1827 and 1913 to replace the grano, a local coin worth one-third of a British farthing.

Introduced as a seven-shilling (35p) gold coin in 1797 because a shortage of silver made the minting of crowns and halfcrowns uneconomic. The coin was discontinued after 1813.

Toasted – Refers to a badly corroded coin on which most of the detail is lost. See also GROT

A small silver coin issued only during the reign of Elizabeth I.

A small silver coin initially issued by Elizabeth I, then revived from 1834 to 1862 as a silver coin for use in the West Indies and other British colonies.

Threepence or ‘Thrupenny bit’ – Another of the new silver coins introduced by Edward VI in 1551. The silver threepence survives as part of Maundy money but as a circulating coin was superseded after 1944 by the twelve-sided brass threepence which had debuted in 1937. The brass threepence was demonetised in 1971. Often called a JOEY  SEE MORE HERE


© JW

Meaning three, or one-third, thrymsas were of Merovingian and Byzantine origin and their designs were copied onto gold coins by the early Anglo-Saxons. Over time, the inscriptions became illegible and were replaced by runes. The thrymsa was eventually replaced by the silver sceat.

Treasure – Items covered under The Treasure Act.

Trifecta – When three coins of different types are found during a detecting session.

An unofficial coin issued by a private citizen or a company, usually at a time when there was a shortage of legal tender coins. There have been three periods in British history when tokens, mainly of copper or brass, have been issued and circulated widely. The first occasion was from 1649 to 1672, when tokens, mostly halfpence and farthings, were issued by local tradesmen and some municipal corporations; they were declared illegal after the first regal copper halfpence and farthings were minted in 1672. The other two occasions followed the increase of trade and commerce caused by the Industrial Revolution. The Mint produced so little regal coinage that between 1787 and 1797 many tradesmen and manufacturers were forced to issue tokens in order to give change to their customers or pay their workforce. The shortage of regal coins was temporarily alleviated with Matthew Boulton’s Cartwheel coins. By 1811 the shortage was again chronic and private tokens, including some in silver, again began to appear. These were declared illegal in 1817 and within a few years the Mint was providing sufficient low denomination coins to satisfy national need.

A copper variety of the Scottish twopence first issued under James I. The coins were later to become known as bodles.

Treasure Trove – This eventually became become the Treasure Act 1996. TT was the ancient law which states that precious metal objects, hidden with the intention of being retrieved later become the property of the crown.


UKDFD – United Kingdom Detector Finds Database. ‘Recording our heritage for future generations’

Deriving its name from the obverse figure of a unicorn, these Scottish gold coins were initially struck in the reign of James III.

A type of sovereign minted initially for James I and so-called because it was inscribed with a Latin quotation from the Book of Exekial, FACIAM EOS IN GENTEM VNAM (‘I will make them one nation’) referring to the union of the English and Scottish crowns in 1603.


Veiled Head
The portrait of Queen Victoria on the coins minted between 1893 and the end of her reign in 1901. Designed by Sir Thomas Brock, the portrait shows her wearing a coronet over which was draped a long veil.

Vervel – see Hawking Ring

Courtesy of the PAS

Hawking rings or ‘vervels’ are rare detectorist finds. They were once attached to the leg of a bird of prey as a mark of ownership and those made of silver help in illustrating the development of hawking as an aristocratic pastime in the 17th century. A modern analogy would be a pigeon ring that bears details relating to the owner. If a bird was lost whilst hunting, then it could be identified by the vervel and thus returned to the owner. The tags were often inscribed with the owner’s name, residence or coat of arms – the latter was especially useful as not all the locals would be able to read. SEE HERE

Vesica . . . as in ‘Vesica Seal’
a pointed oval shaped seal. The shape of the Vesica Pisces is derived from the intersection of two circles. In Pagan times, this symbol was associated with the Goddess Venus, and represented female genitalia. Not a lot of people know that.

Inscribed below the portrait of Queen Anne on some gold and silver coins minted in 1702 and 1703 to indicate that the bullion used for these had been captured by Admiral Sir George Rooke during a naval raid on treasure ships in the Spanish port of Vigo.

Voided Long Cross
‘Voided’ means the arms of the cross are made using parallel lines creating a cutting void to aid official cutting of coins to create smaller currencies.

Vulgar Penny – see PENNY


Wire Money
Name given to the Maundy coins issued in 1792 because the figures denoting their value were unusually thin. ALSO SEE HERE

Wolsey’s Groat
Name given to the silver groat or four-pence (2p) minted by Cardinal Wolsey while he was Archbishop of York. The ecclesiastical mints at Canterbury, Durham and York were permitted to issue small silver coins in denominations of a halfgroat, or twopence, a penny and a halfpenny. The ambitious Cardinal over-reached himself by having groats struck. These were of similar design to the regal groats of Henry VIII but with the addition of a cardinal’s hat and the initials TW on the reverse. This infringement of the royal prerogative formed part of the case against Wolsey when he was charged with high treason.

Workhouse Token
Similar in scope and purpose to the ordinary token, but issued by local overseers of the poor. Birmingham, Bradford, Halesowen, Keighley and Sheffield were among the town where workhouse tokens were issued. In order to avoid hardship to people who had accepted the tokens, those of Birmingham and Sheffield were granted a six-year extension when other tokens were declared illegal in 1817.


Young Head
The portrait of Queen Victoria by William Wyon which was used on most of the coins minted for her between her accession in 1837 and the introduction of the ‘bun’ head on the bronze coins in 1860 and of the Jubilee head on the gold and silver coins in 1887.



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56 responses to A Metal Detecting Glossary

  1. some familiar terms and some I never heard of, good article John


  2. Joseph from Oregon 18th May 2018 at 1:00 AM

    Not what I was expecting and truly worth a bookmark.
    Joseph from Oregon

    John, Just an old friend checking in. Remember Camo from Treasure Hunter Forum? Can’t forget Detectorist UK ! I was the only Yank on the board. Still here my friend. Regards, Joseph

    • Good to hear from you again Joseph.
      What were you expecting?

      • Joseph from Oregon 18th May 2018 at 1:41 AM

        A glossary with a Barford twist. Words like ”detectorist” or what we might see as it’s true definition or ”archaeologist” to raise the hackles of ones that are ignorant of our contribution to history.
        I can see the glossary is much more serious than a few puns at Paul.
        As you said, ”It’s a work in progress”.

        • There’s still time …
          I have added ‘archaeologist to the list.

        • Joseph from Oregon was expecting “a glossary with a Barford twist. Words like ”detectorist” or what we might see as it’s true definition or ”archaeologist” to raise the hackles of ones that are ignorant of our contribution to history”. Terribly useful, I am sure. But yes indeed, the term “detectorist” is not defined here at all… which is odd. Who or what IS a “detectorist” and who or what are not (serious question – deserves an answer John) also this ‘responsible detecting’,. what does that term mean to a ‘detectorist’?.What is the difference between an ‘archaeologist’ and a ‘detectorist’? Are they the same or not?

          • Paul – Joseph has a sense of humour. I suspect the little you had left was removed in your recent medical procedure.

            This is a list for detectorists and one they might find useful; it’s not designed for archaeologists. Take it or leave it, but don’t use my blog promote your anti-detectorist views.

  3. Some terms I have never heard of before John.. B.O.A.T.. not heard that before.. Bodle, Breeches money, Bonnet Piece.

    And that is only the ‘Bs’.. :lmao: But I do not see the word ‘Bit there.. Not in relation to a horse bridle; [although that is apt for sure]
    but used in relation to coins that are cut into pieces to make change.. The Spanish coins are very well known for this.. And we get the term
    ‘two bits,’ , ‘four bits’, ‘six bits’ etc from this..

    Thank you very much for this dictionary.. New knowledge is always a good thing. plus it shows the difference in our terminology.

    • There are lots of Americanisms being used now, now like Canslaw and Clad … perhaps I should include those – but not Tot-Lot. 🙂

  4. Bruce D Campbell 18th May 2018 at 1:11 AM

    One thing that has always given me pause John is the constant claiming of “hoard found ” when in fact there are a dozen or so coins.
    I am sure that some of the “hoards” were nothing more than what we call a pocket spill today.

  5. John from Ontario (AKA Geobound) 18th May 2018 at 2:20 AM

    I can safely say I don’t know the vast majority of those terms!

    You did miss one however……….Searcher……..the magazine or the person. LOL…

    Now to go back and re-read those terms again.

  6. Useful article John, but here’s some more info on the term “LIMA” found on George II coins.. a popular misconception is that the silver came from Anson’s voyage, but actually in 1745 a great treasure had been seized in the North Atlantic by two British privateers, the Duke & the Prince Frederick, from two French treasure ships that had come from Peru. This was transported in 45 wagon loads from Bristol to the mint in London. As the booty principally consisted of ‘piece of eight’ bearing the Lima mintmark it was requested that coins made from this silver might bear the name ‘Lima’ to celebrate the exploit.

  7. Bloody hell John, you’ve pushed the boat well out today, this is fantastic, and a good reference point for all who choose to us it. Thank you.

  8. Jerry Morris. 18th May 2018 at 8:24 AM

    Thats excellent John thanks, something for all of us whether old or new to our hobby.Jerry.

  9. A lot of good work gone into compiling that list and I am sure it will be put to good use.

  10. Very informative, but I note that the entries however are nearly eighty percent about coins (and involving definitions you’d get from a good entry-level guide to coin collecting). You mention ‘grots’ dismissively, but none of the denominations they – or earlier issues represent, except the denarius. I do not see much evidence of the much vaunted ‘advancing knowledge of the history and archaeology of England and Wales’ that’s cost the taxpayer so much money. Why are coins not artefacts?

  11. Thank you Paul.
    I will certainly look at any suggestions you may have regarding changes and give them full consideration.

  12. great informative piece of writing John as usual .
    ps you missed off Mule

  13. Thank you John… a right rivetin’ read! So many springboards! If I’m honest, though, I’m not entirely sure how to feel about it, since I haven’t found pretty well any of it, no doubt by not being able to afford a BBS machine… If only you’d listed, in its own right,  Lead (Pb) and all the wonderful manifestations in which it awaits the enthusiastic coil, and its subsequent transmogrification into sea-fishing weights! Such joy! Still, I see you very respectfully paid tribute to Nox, lest there be a flash and bang… Talking of which, if you perhaps listed ‘metal detecting’ as being ‘metallurgical archaeology’ and kept your eyes fixed on the western horizon… you know… in the direction of Poland… Cheers John!

    • Goodness, what an omission … but I had to draw a line somewhere!
      Best of luck in your future searches.

    • That should be eastern horizon of course…

      PS: has your blogsite app been updated? I can’t use your search facility (on android). Also when I submitted my reply it was not visible with the usual ‘subject to moderation’ label. And!! My icon has changed!!!

      • Yes, my site was updated today. The only difference I noticed was that you posted the same comment TWICE. I binned one. I can’t remember your other icon, but that is rather frightening. 🙂

  14. You got Pound wrong, a Troy Pound of silver was divided into 240 Pennies there are only 12, ounces to a Troy Pound

  15. Looks good to me John

  16. think you will find i am RAY lol

  17. Nice listing JW

  18. update …update ……. JOEY …heard this said by detectorists many times my friend

  19. Hello John:

    Great stuff mate. I see you’ve got a Mention-in-Dispatches, he, he, he.

    I didn’t see a ‘Nigelswift’ in your definitions. What precisely is a ‘Nigelswift’? I’ve heard reports that it’s something ancient and useless, while others tell me it’s a type of cockroach that hides in metal detecting shops listening-in to Detectorists’ private conversations. Some even think it’s a person who hides in hedgerows adjacent to detecting rallies watching and recording all that’s going on.

    Best wishes

    • You are naughty, John.

      I’ve just checked Barford’s blog and rather than just a ‘mention in dispatches’, he’s written almost 2000 words on my glossary post … and I understand very little of what he says! He appears to be an intelligent man. Why can’t he write in a way plebs like us can understand? He seems to have the proverbial verbal diarrhoea. Maybe he should consult a doctor. What a Wally!

      • Ohhh think you’ve hit a nerve with him. He does love a good rant. Maybe he should stop ranting about how many items are recorded on PAS and instead do something about getting the system more funding.

        Great list by the way

  20. A couple more John
    Venetian Soldino and Roman Siliqua

  21. A great glossary of UK detecting terminology John. If I ever get to detect in the UK you’ll have to provide a condensed version so that I would be able to recognize what was found.


  22. I’d like to thank all of you for the positive comments. As expected, there were two dissidents, Barford and Swift. No change there, then. Barford’s last comment (not published) advises us to go to Swifty’s blog and provided a link.

    First, Mr Swift objected to me using the word ‘sycophant’ to describe him … and this was a simple mistake (he said). I’d confused sycophancy with ‘agreement’. No, I hadn’t. His lone posts on Barford’s blog are often excessive and obsequious.

    Swift also objects to the phrase ‘Hedge Fodder’ and says it’s not a phase used by archaeologists and I got it wrong. What he fails to understand is that this is a list of words that may be of use to detectorists, not arkies. The phrase deserves a place in my glossary.

    Barford and Swift have yet to realise that I am not a detectorist anymore, but write about and defend the hobby when needed. I haven’t detected for years! See the banner at the top of every blog post or the section ‘About Me’.

  23. LATER

    I have received another response from Mr Barford but binned it at once. I am not going to allow him to use my blog as a platform for his malignant comments about me in particular, or detectorists in general. My Dad would have told him to ‘bugger off’, but I’m not as crude. 🙂

    In retrospect, it was a mistake to allow his first two comments anyway. I was warned that it would ‘end in tears.’ It seems that his approach is simply to cause dissent. I’ll never learn …

    • Barford and Swift, epitomise Baron de Montesquieu’s observation that:-

      “What orators lack in depth they make up for in length.”

  24. I’m been inundated with comments from Barford … must investigate ways to delete him as a subscriber …

    • You obviously have him worried; he can’t out-debate you, which must be immensely irritating – you being an ex-Detectorist, and demonstrably, better educated. That he bombards you with twaddle tends to prove the point.

      People like him and his sycophantic pal Swift, will always be with us. They make good sport though!

  25. Great article john .I even learned a thing or 2

  26. You’ve made my day, Les. Thank you.
    Hasn’t gone well recently …

  27. You missed out ‘Twelve’. The number of years Mr. Barford has unsuccessfully attempted to persuade the general public to join his anti-detecting brigade

  28. maybe there should be a name or term for doing a Barford, I can think of a few as I am sure you can
    Once again great article John

  29. Great read yet again John ,one term often heard in the field ..what you got ..answer… another bit of Shite

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