Terry Herbert is not your typical Hollywood movie poster of a treasure hunter. A lonely Briton in his mid-50s living on disability benefits, he went from hobbyist to multimillionaire in one fell swoop of his metal detector.

It was a warm July day in Staffordshire, England, when Herbert went out for a walk through some fields with his equipment. An amateur treasure hunter, he occasionally found minor historical artifacts like Roman horse harnesses on his metal detecting walks. That summer day in 2009, however, would be life changing…

Treasure—and Treasure Hunting—is Real

As a child, treasure hunting sounds like the ultimate adventure. Traveling the world, finding clues, solving puzzles, beating your competition in the race of a lifetime—every kid wants to be a treasure hunter at some point in their lives.

But, then we grow up to face the real world of jobs, taxes, and bills, leaving us to forget about the fun and thrill of discovering a long lost secret and unveiling life-changing wealth.

The truth, however, is that there are a surprising number of historical myths and artifacts indicating lost treasures scattered around the world that have never been discovered. Some of these stories are on the farfetched side, but others are pretty well documented with both legitimate clues and evidence pointing to the final resting place of valuable history. And, that’s not to mention the modern day millionaires like Forrest Fenn who hide treasure and leave cryptic clues just for The Thrill of the Chase.

Not only is modern day treasure hunting alive and well, it’s something you can get started doing today either as a hobbyist or a professional. If you’re dedicated and clever enough, the payoff could be big and you might make history.

How to Find Lost Treasure

Before you buy your archeologist whip and contact the film producers to buy your movie rights, there’s a few less glamorous things you need to take care of first. Chiefly, you need to know the laws. After that, you’ll need the right equipment.


If you have an idea of what country a treasure might be in that you want to find, the first thing you need to study is the law of the land regarding treasure. For example, some regions of the United States require you to have a permit to dig for treasure—even if it’s on your own property. Other areas may have laws against using metal detectors and some countries have very specific policies on who gets claim over the treasure after it’s found.

The last thing you want is for your adventurous story to end in prison due to inattentiveness of the law, so study up first.


After you know what you can and can’t do, you’ll need some equipment and skills. Understanding how to use a compass, GPS, and map are all basic essentials for anyone venturing out into the wilderness—where a lot of treasure seems to be found. Probably the most common pieces of equipment to get started are a good metal detector and handheld GPS.

Once you think you’ve found the X on the map, you’ll need equipment to get to it as well. A shovel might be the first thing that comes to mind, but pay attention to exactly what it is you’re looking for. Is it a stash of loose coins that you may miss as you dig up heaps of the earth? Or something delicate that could be damaged by the head of your shovel if you aren’t careful? For more technical hunts, you may even want to contact the archeology department of a local university or museum for assistance and special equipment.

And let’s not forget all that treasure at the bottom of the ocean. There are estimated to be over three million shipwrecks in the world’s oceans, courtesy of storms, wars, and other mysteries. Less than one percent of shipwrecks in the world have been found and explored.

Some sunken treasures have been found with as little as SCUBA equipment, determination, and a wealth of diving experience, like the Nuestra Señora de Atocha, whose treasure was found on a diving expedition led by Mel Fisher. The find was worth $450 million.

I should also mention that, according to records, the wealthiest portion of the Nuestra Señora de Atocha treasure is still unaccounted for, so, if you’re serious about treasure hunting, a diving certification should be somewhere on your to do list.

Where to Get Started

If you are looking for a treasure to start searching for, you could do some research on the Forest Fenn treasure mentioned earlier. However, there are dozens of other well documented treasures all over the world that have yet to be found.

Pirate history is one rich source of lost treasure. For example, a Lisbon based ship named the São Vicente was raided by two pirate ships in the 1300s. One pirate vessel was captured. The other, however, escaped with a hefty treasure. If it sounds too much like a high seas tale to be true, you can search the Vatican archives for evidence of this real story because the owner of the treasure was a Bishop.

Or, maybe grave robbing combined with sunken ships are more your thing. The Egyptian Sarcophagus of Menkaure—found in the 1830s by an English military officer—fits both of those categories. When he tried to send the sarcophagus back home, however, it was sunk (whether by Egyptian curse or foul weather, who’s to say…) and the remains—to include the sarcophagus—were never found.

These are just a few stories to get your mind thinking about the possibilities of treasure hunting. You don’t have to start out with grand ambitions and legendary tales, though. Remember, Terry Herbert made his discovery with nothing but a metal detector…

…On that July day in 2009, Herbert noticed a few scraps of gold. Like all of his more uneventful finds, he called it in to the local antiquities officer. The gold seemed to be from the 7th century. Within days, archeologists were pouring over the field, uncovering thousands of artifacts left by an ancient band of raiders from the early Medieval kingdom known as Mercia. The find was ultimately valued at over four million British pounds, a sum that Herbert divided with the landowner.

Who says treasure hunting has to take years of chasing myths and legends when ancient gold could be in your neighbor’s field?

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